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House, Senate vote to curb disclosure requirements

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HENRY C. JACKSON | April 12, 2013 07:36 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — Congress is repealing some financial disclosure requirements for highly paid federal officials after an expert panel concluded that publishing details about their personal holdings and transactions online exposes them to identity theft and creates a national security risk.

The House passed a bill Friday doing away with the online filing requirements except for the president, vice president, members of Congress, Cabinet officers, other officials appointed by the president, and candidates for president or Congress. The Senate approved it Thursday evening. Both chambers approved the measure by voice vote.

The bill now goes to President Barack Obama. The White House has not said whether he will sign or reject it.

As part of a law aimed at curbing the perception that lawmakers or members of their families were trading illegally on insider information, Congress voted last year to require themselves, their aides and other federal employees making more than $119,554 a year to disclose their financial dealings more regularly in an online, searchable database.

But Congress has delayed implementing the requirement under the so-called STOCK, or Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, Act. Last month the National Academy of Public Administration recommended Congress "indefinitely suspend the online posting requirements and the unrestricted access to searchable, sortable, downloadable databases."

The academy said publishing the information would create an "unwarranted risk to national security and law enforcement, as well as threaten agency missions, individual safety and privacy."

The online disclosure requirements had been set to go into effect next week.

Open government groups criticized the rollback.

Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group focused on open government, called the change an overreaction to any legitimate concerns. "Security through obscurity as a justification to repeal the transparency provisions of the STOCK Act starts us down a slippery slope where any government action or information could be taken offline in the name of safety," she wrote on her foundation's blog.