Judicial Watch • Sharyl Attkisson, Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Teams Up With Judicial Watch to Sue HHS

Sharyl Attkisson, Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Teams Up With Judicial Watch to Sue HHS

Sharyl Attkisson, Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Teams Up With Judicial Watch to Sue HHS

AUGUST 13, 2014

Suit Could Force Obama Administration to Explain More Missing Emails 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today on August 8, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of journalist Sharyl Attkisson against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain records regarding the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act on Healthcare.gov and other related systems. The FOIA lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Sharyl Attkisson v. U.S. Department of Human Services (No. 1:14-cv-01348)).

As Ms. Attkisson, an Emmy award winning investigative journalist and author, summarized her lawsuit on her Internet site http://sharylattkisson.com/:

From the moment Health and Human Services falsely denied it was tracking enrollment numbers in the early disastrous days of HealthCare.gov, to HHS keeping secret the details of the security risks it discovered prior to–and after–the website’s launch, to HHS excluding journalists from viewing–but inviting favored private interests to view–the repair operations in progress, I’ve been seeking much of this undeniably public information.

She became a Washington-based correspondent for CBS News in January 1995. Prior to that, she co-anchored CBS News “Up to the Minute.” Before joining CBS, Attkisson was an anchor and correspondent for CNN (1990-1993). From 1996-2001, in addition to her CBS News duties, Attkisson hosted a half-hour weekly medical news magazine on PBS entitled “HealthWeek.”

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Attkisson because Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) failed to respond to four FOIA requests sent by Attkisson originally in October 2013 and then again on June 7, 2014, seeking access to:

  • All materials, communications, emails and/or documents in which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and/or CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is copied and/or a party to, which mention and/or refer to, whether directly or indirectly, enrollment figures regarding healthcare.gov, FMM, and/or state exchanges.  This request includes, but is not limited to, actual enrollment data; any decision(s) related to whether to not and/or when to make the information public; the decisions(s) and/or discussions about waiting until November of 2013 to make the information public; and talking points or communications regarding public statements and/or preparation for Congressional testimony.
  • All communications, whether written or otherwise recorded, including but not limited to: emails, memos, report and phone records that mention, pertain to, or otherwise refer to, whether directly or indirectly, tests and/or assessments of any sort surrounding the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, healthcare.gov, the Data Hub, or any other component related to the Affordable Care Act. This includes, but is not limited to, performance tests, security tests and functionality tests.  The scope of this request is limited to the time period from June 1, 2013 to present.
  • All communications, whether written or otherwise recorded, including but not limited to: emails, memos, report and phone records that mention, pertain to, or otherwise refer to, whether directly or indirectly, performance tests and or assessments and/or their results conducted regarding healthcare.gov between September 15, 2013 and September 30, 2013.  This request includes, but is not limited to, tests in which CMS employees took part as mock users trying out the website prior to its launch.
  • All emails, records, documents and other communications, whether written or otherwise recorded, regarding FOI requests made about healthcare.gov, whether by name or implication, in which the following CMS officials are a sender and/or receiver and/or a party to and/or mentioned, whether by name or implication: Janis Nero; Joseph Tripline; Deborah Peters, Vendetta Dutton; and Danean Jones.  Please note the records request is specifically for communications dating from May 12, 2014 to present.

Healthcare.gov, the Affordable Health Care Act website launched on October 1, 2013, immediately encountered substantial problems typical of those reported by theChicago Tribune: “Consumers seeking more information on their new options under the Affordable Care Act were met with long delays, error messages and a largely non-working federal insurance exchange and call center Tuesday morning.” The Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan, investigatory branch of the government, blamed CMS for the disaster, claiming it “undertook the development of Healthcare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices, despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit on behalf of Attkisson seeks to discover records needed to establish accountability for the disastrous rollout, including the internal decision-making procedures used by top HHS officials. On the day of the Healthcare.gov launch, CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, responded to questions from the press regarding enrollment numbers by saying, “We have just decided not to release that yet.” The process for making the decision to withhold those numbers is included in Attkisson’s FOIA request and subsequent suit.

Questions about Tavenner’s missing records have increased in recent weeks due to her claims that she had deleted critical emails concerning the Healthcare.gov rollout. In response to a House Oversight Committee subpoena, HHS revealed in a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa last week that a number of Tavenner’s emails related to the rollout of Healthcare.gov were deleted and are “irretrievable.” Accusing the Obama administration of failing to be “forthright,” Issa commented, “[T]he Obama Administration has lost or destroyed emails for more than 20 witnesses, and in each case, the loss wasn’t disclosed to the National Archives or Congress for months or years, in violation of federal law.”

“We are proud to represent Sharyl Attkisson, an independent journalist, who has a demonstrated track-record of refusing to play the Washington media game that ignores or suppresses public corruption stories such as Benghazi and Fast Furious,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “As Sharyl Attkisson’s new FOIA lawsuit takes on Obamacare, she highlights how the Obama administration is in yet a new cover-up about how it seriously misled the American people about Healthcare.gov’s failures.”

“For years, I’ve watched Judicial Watch’s dogged tenacity produce success in using FOIA lawsuits to obtain documents from a secretive government, whether under President George W. Bush or President Barack Obama, that often had utter contempt for me on other investigative journalists,” added Ms. Attkisson.  Journalists and Americans interested in the truth about Washington under any administration can look to Judicial Watch and its work.”

In May, Judicial Watch released a 106-page document obtained from HHS, revealing that on its first full day of operation, Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov received only one enrollment. The document, obtained in response to a November 25, 2013, FOIA lawsuit against HHS, also revealed that on the second day of Healthcare.gov operation, 48% of registrations failed (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:13-cv-01855)).

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  • http://bajamisdeudas.com/ bajamisdeudas

    As citizens, we should watch and be vigilant to whatever they hand in for us and I salute Sheryl for protecting our rights.

  • CaptainAmerica

    Without Judicial Watch’s efforts, we would all be the – “slow boiling frogs” Where Congress has failed because of this administrations stranglehold on documents and his appointees, Judicial Watch uses the Judicial Branch to perfection – as the people’s check against Government wrong doing.

    Many thanks to all of you who protect us from corruption!

  • vigillance

    Sheryl Attkisson has been with the liberal leaning press since she started her carreer in journalism. Whether she would have stayed there or not had not one of her reports she authored met disapproval by the (Obama) Administration and then with her own employer CBS, is a question up for debate. However, one thing is for sure: she is a damn good journalist and has now showed the world that she cares deeply about her craft! Left or Right! That is called integrity, one thing that is sorely missing in Washington DC as well as other “highflying” places.

    Sheryl Attkisson certainly made CBS management look bad, however that was not her intent. Her focus was on the truth; finding it and rightfully revealing it to the American people. Sadly enough she did not comprehend the dept of corruption that exists within this administration, an administration whose boss just hates it when bad reports that may taint him are circulated, regardless of whether they are true or false.

    I sincerely appreciate Ms Attkisson for standing up for her professional rights, and simultaneously make the statement to the American people that there still are journalists that love their profession simply because they love reporting! With NO biased opinions included!
    What she did, helps all of us, regardless of what political view one may have. It should teach the rest of us that standing up for the truth, even if face of adversity is the right thing to do!
    I do believe that her experience has brought her to change some of her views, and I am sure, to her own benefit. That she joins up with Judicial Watch says more than one thing: FIrstly it is most likely a result of her professional frustration in obtaining information that she has a regal right to access. Secondly, one may conclude that the Administration’s stonewalling drove her to to join forces with an entity that normally is considered “on the right” by most liberals. Perhaps she at one time had a similar opinion?, it would not be so far-fetched in this nation’s generally very liberal media environment. And if my assumption is correct, then that is not as much a statement about Sheryl Attkisson’s political views, but rather a major statement about this administration’s unbelievable lack of grasp on reality. Perhaps her case is another obvious sign that this administration is not interested in truth, but is all about their extreme amoral ideology that steamrolls over people’s rights and concerns – and professions!
    BTW, I am so glad that she joined forces with what I think is the best, most effective government watchdog organization, an organiztion that works along the same principle that are apparently so important to Sheryl Attkisson – integrity!
    I am confident my regular support for JW is money well spent!

  • Bob McMahan

    I have occasionally contributed my pittance
    to Judicial Watch. It is one of only a few
    contributions I have never regretted.

  • Patty Williams

    Watch the computer crash.

  • GentlemanJohn.

    The records will be un-findable. They will have a system melt down. This dirty Administration will not allow the public to see it’s stinking-rotting underside because American Citizenry would be repulsed… If you do find records, they will be sanitized and doctored to reveal nothing malignant… This CANCER will continue to grow unless we amputate all infected appendages that are trying to kill the body of Middle Class America…