Rep. Cooper by Day; Hacker by Night?

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June 26, 2008 6:00 p.m.

A strange thing happened at a House Oversight hearing today, with a witness accusing a congressman of hacking a secure website, and claiming he was currently being investigated by the FBI.

The Committee hearing examined questionable practices at Pedernales Electric Cooperative. During the interrogation Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) cited documents that he said came from “secret, password-protected website” of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, in testimony today in front of the Committee

In response, NRECA President Glenn English, a former Congressmen from Oklahoma, claimed that the NRECA counsel had told him that Cooper was in the process of being investigated by the FBI for taking unauthorized information from their website.

As Roll Call reports, the allegation upset the hearing and unleashed a flurry of denials:

Cooper responded that someone had given him authorization and provided him with a password to download the documents, but English said that only he or a limited number of other officials from the organization could authorize access. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) immediately gaveled the hearing to a close.

An FBI spokesman said the bureau “doesn’t comment on accusations made by others concerning its investigative activity.”

Cooper spokesman John Spragens said, “This is a bogus attempt to intimidate Congress from trying to investigate an industry. The idea that a Congressman would be under investigation for conducting an investigation is laughable. That’s why we have the Constitution.”

Spragens added, “We have no reason to think that Congressman Cooper is under investigation.”

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