From an editorial Sunday in the Washington Post:
Despite its good intentions, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (Stock) Act has become the latest case study in petty partisan politics and legislative incompetence.
As its name implies, the act was conceived with the legitimate aim of preventing insider trading in Congress. Four months after it was signed into law, however, its clear that a portion of the act would do far more than that, potentially jeopardizing national security along with the personal safety of more than 28,000 executive-branch employees.
The story goes something like this: In his Jan. 24 State of the Union address, President Obama rightly called for members of Congress to increase their own financial transparency. But when the Stock Act was drafted in the months that followed, a few disgruntled lawmakers insisted that executive-branch employees be made to do the same. That argument led to the inclusion of the acts haphazard and misguided Section 11 originally proposed as an amendment by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. which forces executive-branch employees to disclose their financial holdings on the official websites of their respective agencies not later than 30 days after such forms are filed. In laymans terms, that means that these officials detailed financial information would be available to those who may wish to steal their identities, harm their families or interfere with the work they do.
In a July 19 letter, 14 former high-ranking government officials wrote to members of Congress to complain, highlighting the serious security risks involved. Last Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of four federal employment organizations, and Congress passed a bill that will delay the implementation of Section 11 for 30 days. Congress should use those extra 30 days to determine if theres a legitimate interest in requiring thousands of employees to disclose online assets. As members of the executive branch, the employees are already subject to adequate conflict-of-interest requirements, and their information is already accessible through a process that maintains their safety and security.
Furthermore, the Privacy Act which doesnt apply to Congress protects federal agencies, and if lawmakers decide to keep some version of Section 11 intact, they must find a way to require disclosure without compromising the protection that online disclosure would deny these officials. If they dont, theres a major disincentive for a pool of talented, un-elected employees to continue working for the government. Thats a risk lawmakers shouldnt be willing to take.