By Bill Pan
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has just begun her second term, says she and her immediate family are at a “very high risk” of identity theft after the House’s Jan. 6 committee made the family’s Social Security numbers public.
In what Noem’s attorney described as a “critical breach of confidential data,” the Social Security numbers belonging to Noem, her husband, her three children, and her son-in-law were published without redaction as part of the White House’s visitor logs that became exhibits during hearings by the panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol.
The logs contained “nearly 2,000 Social Security numbers associated with visitors to the White House in December 2020,” according to The Washington Post, which first reported on the leak. The numbers, as required by law, should have been redacted prior to the document’s publication.
“This information was publicly available for days before being removed from the website,” the attorney wrote in a letter to the White House, the Government Publishing Office, the National Archives, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the now-disbanded committee. “Perhaps most troubling and outrageous is the fact that each of you had an opportunity and obligation to prevent the wrongful disclosure.
“Governor Noem and her family are now at a very high risk of identity theft and being personally compromised.”
The letter also notes that failure to protect this information is a violation of federal privacy law.
The attorney further demanded more information about how the breach occurred, who should be held responsible, and what actions are to be taken to remedy the breach.
Also among those whose information was exposed are three members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, as well as prominent Republicans such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
“Whether it was a careless and sloppy handling of records or a deliberate disregard of decorum, either scenario is a perfunctory and callous display of government and a frightening reminder of the current state in Washington,” Carson told the Post. “President [Ronald] Reagan was a savant indeed—the nine most frightening words to hear are, ‘I am from the government and here to help.’”
The exhibits that contained White House visitors’ Social Security numbers were originally published by the Government Publishing Office, according to the Post. They were taken down on Jan. 4, the day after the committee’s scheduled dissolution.
It appeared that those affected weren’t notified about the incident.
“To my knowledge, we were not notified. The governor was not notified,” Noem spokesman Ian Fury told the newspaper.
In February 2022, President Joe Biden ordered the National Archives to release the White House visitor logs to the Jan. 6 panel, denying Trump’s effort to use executive privilege to keep the information private.
“The records in question are entries in visitor logs showing appointment information for individuals who were processed to enter the White House complex, including on January 6, 2021,” then-White House counsel Dana Remus wrote in the letter to the National Archives at that time. “As a matter of policy, and subject to limited exceptions, the Biden Administration voluntarily discloses such visitor logs on a monthly basis.
“The President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified, as to these records and portions of records.”