House GOP panel launches investigation into Air Force ‘unauthorized’ records disclosures

“In late February 2023, the media highlighted how OSAF improperly disclosed the Official Military Personnel Records (OMPF) of 11 service members without proper authorization or legal consent. The (Office of the Secretary of the Air Force ) reportedly shared the personal records of at least two members of Congress with an opposition research firm that received money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC),” they wrote.

“While the Air Force has rightly taken responsibility for these inappropriate OMPF disclosures, questions remain unanswered about the US Air Force’s collection, maintenance, and dissemination of this sensitive information,” he said. continued their letter to Kendall.

Other panels, including the House Armed Services and Oversight Committees, have sought details from the Pentagon about the disclosures.

POLITICO first reported that the Air Force informed at least two incumbent House Republicans — Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Zach Nunn (R-Iowa) — that it had improperly disclosed their personal military records to a third party.

In Bacon’s case, a letter last month from the Air Force identified Abraham Payton of the Due Diligence Group, a research firm with ties to Democrats, as having requested and successfully obtained those records “inappropriately.” .

Payton, according to the letter, said he was seeking the records for employment and benefits purposes, but the Air Force acknowledged that the records were released without their permission, which is protected. by the Privacy Act of 1974. The letter stated that Payton was already in possession of the Republican of Nebraska’s social security number when he filled out the information request form.

Other GOP candidates from the past cycle have shared that they were also told by the Air Force that Payton, a former research director for the Democratic group American Bridge, was behind such requests for their records. They include Sam Peters, a Republican who challenged Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) in November, and Kevin Dellicker, who fell short in the GOP primary race to face Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.).

These Due Diligence Group efforts included more than one military branch, with Payton attempting to obtain records on Colin Schmitt, who is currently serving in the New York National Guard and who challenged Rep. Pat Ryan (DN.Y.) to the general elections. last cycle for the 18th district of the state, according to a copy of the application form.

The Air Force said last month that an internal investigation it launched after POLITICO reported on former GOP nominee Jennifer-Ruth Green’s military background in October — when she challenged the Representative Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.) in a battleground district – revealed that the private records of 11 people were improperly disclosed to a third party.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said “virtually all” of the 11 unapproved releases were made to the same third party “who posed as a background investigator seeking records of service for employment purposes”.

It is unclear if Payton was behind all 11 Air Force requests. Nunn has not publicly revealed whether Payton was the person who searched his military personnel records, and Green only confirmed that Due Diligence searched his.

Others affected by the Air Force records releases are not publicly known. But the House Armed Services and Oversight committees are also investigating the matter, with Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) pledging last week to continue to seek details of the disclosures.

POLITICO was told by the person who gave it Green’s military records last year that they were obtained through a public records request. POLITICO reviewed the request for the records made by a third party, which requested a “publicly releasable/redacted copy of the OMPF (Official Military Personnel Record) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act statutes.” The requester indicated that the subject matter of the request was “benefits”, “employment” and “other”.

POLITICO also reviewed the letter sent in response to the plaintiff. A military employee responded with a password-protected version of the file with limited redactions. After the release, the Air Force said it erred in releasing the records and launched an investigation.

Bacon said last month that Air Force Secretary Kendall informed him that material from the Air Force’s internal investigation into the release of the records had been turned over to the Justice Department for further investigation. any additional measures. And Schmitt joins the five GOP Air Force veterans in calling for a DOJ investigation into whether political research has turned into criminal activity.

The Justice Department declined to comment on questions related to the existence or status of a possible investigation into the unauthorized disclosures, but in a statement Sunday, a DOJ spokesperson said it was “aware of the concerns raised” and that the department has been “in communication with the US Air Force regarding this matter.”

Stewart and Jordan also asked the Air Force to turn over requests made by DDG from the beginning of January 2021 through today, all notices to affected service members that their information had been affected from inappropriately, documents related to its policies on disclosure policies, records, and records of any internal investigation into this matter.

“My proudest years were spent defending our great nation in the Air Force. It is a shame to see this sacred branch of our government militarized, but we will right that wrong. tweeted Stewarta member of the Republican-led subcommittee, arguing that they “will demand accountability.”


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