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P2P snafu blows lid on secret Congress probes

30+ legislators under investigation

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A confidential memo from one of the most secretive panels in Congress was leaked on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, publicly detailing sensitive probes involving more than 30 lawmakers and aides.

The release of the report was jarring enough that Zoe Lofgren, chairman of the House ethics committee, interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers to the breach. The July document revealed a laundry list of ethics inquiries looking into possible corporate and defense industry influence peddling, according to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy.

The 22-page report was freely available on an unnamed file-sharing network after a junior staff member working from home stored it on a computer equipped with P2P software, according to a statement (PDF) released Thursday night. Lawmakers and staffers are required to protect the confidentiality of all sensitive information. The employee no longer works for the committee.

In July, the same month the confidential memo was prepared, a separate House committee held hearings on whether federal laws were needed to protect federal employees from accidental file sharing. Legislators have grown so worried about inadvertent leaking of documents over P2P networks they've considered draconian bills that could render entire web browsers and operating systems illegal.

The confidential ethics report discussed inquiries into potential wrongdoing by representatives including Charles Rangel, Jane Harman, Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson. ®

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