Senior Executives Association President Carol Bonosaro said the SEA felt it had to file suit against the STOCK Act. (Tom Brown / Staff)
Congress on Thursday delayed for a month the posting online of financial disclosure forms of 28,000 senior military officers and federal civilian executives.
Under the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, signed into law in April, agencies were supposed to make those annual financial disclosure reports available online by Aug. 31. Congress pushed back that deadline until Sept. 30 to address concerns from former top government officials, including ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, that doing so could threaten national security and the personal safety of executive branch officials, said a spokeswoman for the STOCK Act’s original sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
The “security gap” created by the online disclosure provision “must be closed for the safety of top military officers and others posted in dangerous locales around the globe and for our national security overall,” Lieberman said in a statement. “Because Congress is about to recess, an extension of the effective date will give us the time we need to resolve this problem in September.”
Meanwhile, the Senior Executives Association went to court Thursday to stop agencies from posting the financial disclosure reports on the Internet.
In the lawsuit filed in Maryland federal court, SEA and three other federal employee organizations say the online posting requirement violates employees’ right to privacy; they are asking a judge to declare it unconstitutional. Their attorneys include the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The consequences of that Internet posting provision going into effect are so dire for both government operations and individual executives that we felt that we had no alternative but to file suit,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro said in an interview.
Joining SEA in the suit are the American Foreign Service Association, the Assembly of Scientists and the National Association of Immigration Judges. Plaintiffs also include seven individual federal employees, including a scientist with the National Institutes of Health who said in a news release that the disclosure requirement would make him more vulnerable to financial fraud.
In all, some 28,000 Senior Executive Service members, presidential appointees and general and flag officers must file the financial disclosure forms — called Office of Government Ethics Form 278s — each year. While the reports are already public, they have traditionally been available only in paper form and in response to a written request. Making them available online could expose supervisors to harassment from subordinates, while giving foreign interests, including terrorists, access to federal employees’ personal financial information, according to SEA and other critics.