The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Rome President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Rome's airport March 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)  

Captain Obama and the wreck of the Hesperus

Photo of Tom Fitton
Tom Fitton
President, Judicial Watch

Barack Obama’s legacy legislation, the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) – commonly known as “Obamacare” – has clearly become the political equivalent of the wreck of the Hesperus. If there was any doubt remaining about that, it was all but removed by the administration’s recent decision to provide “hardship exemptions” to just about anyone who can work up the energy to apply for one – and its admitted inability to control the security of its own web portal.

In case anyone forgets, Longfellow’s “The Wreck of the Hesperus” is the tragic story of a ship that floundered and sunk as the result of the captain’s inflated hubris. As the doomed vessel descended upon the shoals, the captain went so far as to strap his own daughter to the mast. But, alas, that failed to provide either proper security or a hardship exemption, and she died along with the rest of the crew “on the reef of Norman’s Woe.”

As with so many of the actions taken by the Obama administration, it is difficult to ascertain exactly when and how he and his minions arrived at the convoluted decision to launch an insecure website and gut their own “individual mandate.” After announcing on his first full day in office that his would be the most “transparent administration in history,” Obama has conducted his affairs in such secrecy that Judicial Watch has been forced to file more than 2,500 Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests and nearly 150 FOIA lawsuits in an effort to uncover the secrets guarded by Obama’s Justice Department and other federal agency lawyers.

On March 18, 2014, we filed two new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain government records related to the implementation of Obamacare. The first suit seeks communications regarding the December 19, 2013, decision by the Obama administration to establish its broad new “hardship exemptions” for consumers whose health insurance policies have been canceled. The second seeks records related to the security – or, rather, the insecurity – of the healthcare.gov web portal.

On December 19, when the Obama administration announced it would grant massive “hardship exemptions” to millions of Americans to allow them to avoid paying tax penalties for failing to comply with the individual mandate, most observers agreed that the exemptions were the most significant change the Obama administration had yet made in the controversial government program. The changes granted broad exemptions to anyone who “believes” that Obamacare coverage options “are unaffordable,” essentially opening the door to exemptions for almost anyone who doesn’t like the law.

On March 12, the Daily Caller quoted Fox News’ Charles Krauthammer as saying, “It’s now been redefined so that all you have to do is to claim that going into the exchange would create a hardship. I mean, it’s ironic. It makes Obamacare itself the hardship.” And so, Judicial Watch wants to know what was behind the Obamacare illicit rewrite. So we filed a FOIA request the day after Obama announced he was ignoring his signature law.

The “hardship exemptions” suit was filed after the Obama administration ignored a FOIA request that sought from HHS “any and all records of communications including, but not limited to, electronic communications (e-mails), between any officer or employee of the Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), and any other employee or officer of CMS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and/or the Executive Office of the President” regarding the hardship exemption decision. A simple enough request. In short, we wanted to know exactly what prompted the Obama administration to once again ignore the law without even a tip of the hat to the U.S. Congress or the separation of powers. Was there a substantial discussion of the errancy of the individual mandate itself – or could it all have been politically motivated?

The Judicial Watch web portal security lawsuit was filed after the Obama administration ignored yet another FOIA request that sought from HHS “Any and all records related to, regarding or in connection with the security of the healthcare.gov web portal including, but no limited to, studies, memoranda, correspondence, electronic communications (e-mails), and slide presentations from January 1, 2012 to the present.”

In November 2013, at a House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing, four top technology security experts testified that the Obama administration had failed to secure the Obamacare site before rushing to the marketplace. In a rapid-fire, yes-or-no inquiry, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) asked the four experts, “Do any of you think today that the site is secure?” The answer was unanimously, “No.” The experts agreed that the site needed to be completely rebuilt. And the Obama administration’s deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Henry Chao, admitted under oath that more than half of the Obamacare website’s back-end computer processing systems were still unfinished when the site was launched.