Gov. Nathan Deal spoke publicly this morning for the first time about the data breach from the Secretary of State’s office that disclosed the confidential information of more than 6 million voters. And he didn't exactly offer a ringing defense of his fellow Republican Brian Kemp's handling of the situation.
The governor said Kemp is set to soon release a “comprehensive approach” to handle the fallout of the disclosure, which the Secretary chalked up to a “clerical error.” But he said it would be up to Kemp to find the money in his office’s budget to foot the bill for the response.
As for whether his own personal information is secure, Deal responded bluntly: "We don't know the answer to that yet."
“We’ll let the Secretary of State’s office decide whether that’s the policy he advocates,” Deal said when asked whether the state should pony up for credit monitoring services. “I’m not pushing for it. That’s a constitutionally separate office, and I think it’s within his jurisdiction and he’s acting on it.”
Kemp's office said a “clerical error” caused the release of the private information to 12 organizations - including several media outlets and political parties - that included Social Security numbers and birth dates. He fired the IT employee he blamed for the release and called for an outside audit of the agency.
Kemp's office has since refused to release public documents about the breach, citing an ongoing investigation. Kemp's office faces a lawsuit accusing his office of failing to stop the breach, and the League of Women Voters of Georgia urged Deal to open an independent inquiry into the mess.
The governor on Wednesday wouldn't commit to launching an investigation, saying he wants to "wait and see what [Kemp] proposes to do."
It underscores the tepid approach the GOP has taken to the news of the disclosure. There has been no circling of the wagons, no statements of support from Kemp's fellow Republican comrades since word of the breach broke.
But Deal’s most telling response came when he was asked whether he could be sure his credit was secure. As a registered voter, the governor’s personal information was on the file that was disclosed as well.
Here’s what he said:
"We don’t know the answer to that yet. You know, the 12 disks that were distributed, I think people need to start asking those people who received those disks: Did you transmit that information? They should have known, when they saw personal information on the disks, they should have known immediately this was not something appropriately in their hands. …
"I think the answers will be they acted appropriately and they did not disclose. And if that’s the case, to me that’s the end of the story. Because the damage could only have occurred if that information is put in the wrong hands."
A few hours later, Deal took a softer approach toward Kemp. He said he's still confident in the Secretary of State's leadership and said flatly that he would not call for an independent inquiry.
“My situation is the same as other Georgians. Any time your personal information is compromised, that is a matter for concern. The real question that is at issue now is has it in fact be compromised. And that is what his further investigation will reveal.”
He added: “I think what you’ll hear from the Secretary of State is that he’s taking every precaution to keep information safe.”
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