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Letter to Samuel W. Bodman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy

Letter

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Samuel W. Bodman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy

Kerry to DOE: Americans Need Answers on Premature Release of Petroleum Data

Sen. John Kerry today pressed the Department of Energy for answers as to why sensitive petroleum data in the Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR) was available and accessed before its scheduled release. At a time of soaring energy prices and increasing American skepticism in energy markets, the Senator raised serious concerns over the security breach that allowed premature access to the data.

"We need to know if this breach of government data allowed investors to gain unfair advantage. We need to know whether this was an isolated incident or is one in a series of intentional leaks. At a time of soaring energy prices and declining confidence in the energy markets, the public deserves answers. The Department of Energy must fully investigate, explain what happened, and ensure that past violations have not occurred," said Sen. Kerry.

The data for the week ending May 23rd, scheduled for release at 10:30 AM Eastern Time on May 29th, was available on the public Energy Information Administration website before the scheduled release.

Bellow is the full text of Senator Kerry's letter:

June 3, 2008

Samuel W. Bodman
Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Bodman,

It has come to my attention that petroleum data published in the Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR) for the week ending May 23, scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time on May 29, 2008, was available and accessed on the public Energy Information Administration (EIA) website prior to its scheduled release time.

Such a security breach involving government data raises serious concerns about manipulation of energy markets by unscrupulous investors seeking inappropriate access to government information in order to gain significant and illegal financial advantage. It also undermines public trust and confidence in the integrity of commodity and other financial markets. Finally, it calls into question the security and reliability of EIA's management of sensitive energy data.

While I understand that steps are being taken to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future, it is essential that you ascertain as quickly as possible whether such incidents have occurred in the past. If there is a reasonable possibility that the recent incident was part of a pattern of improper access to market data, I urge you to involve the Justice Department as soon as possible.

I hereby request that the Department of Energy (DOE) undertake a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the unauthorized release of the May 29th WPSR data and whether such premature or other unauthorized access may have occurred prior to that incident. In particular, I ask for your response to the following questions:

* What steps are you taking to ascertain who may have had premature access to EIA information from the May 29th SPSR or other EIA reports and files?
* What was the earliest point in time that the information in question was made available?
* Did the early publication of this information in any manner provide an unfair advantage to an individual or a group of investors?
* Was the compromised information accessed with the intent to provide a financial advantage?
* What is the likelihood that EIA information has been prematurely accessed in the past, for example, through the use of software "robots?"
* What further steps may be required to ensure that improper disclosure of sensitive government energy information does not occur in the future?

At a time of understandable public outrage about soaring energy prices and plummeting consumer confidence in U.S. petroleum markets, illegal access to sensitive energy market data is intolerable. Reports of premature access to EIA data, and the possibility that other data have been similarly compromised, can only contribute to the public's sense that investor speculation is in large part responsible for skyrocketing prices. Accordingly, I trust that you will take every precaution to ensure not only that this recent incident is not repeated, but also that a full report regarding the facts surrounding this particular event, and the possibility of any prior, similar incidents, are provided to Congress and to the public.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Senator John Kerry


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