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Head of hacked U.S. personnel agency to face Senate panel

Posted On: Jun. 22, 2015 12:00 AM CST

(Reuters) — The head of a U.S. agency that fell victim to cyber attacks, in a data breach affecting 4 million current and former federal workers, is poised to face U.S. lawmakers again this week.

Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate's homeland security panel, the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee said in a statement on Monday.

Ms. Archuleta defended the agency last week before a House of Representatives panel, saying that while the agency has thwarted millions of hackers each month, the problems exposed in a recent breach, announced earlier in the month, were decades in the making.

Some lawmakers have called for top OPM officials to resign in the wake of the breach, although the White House last week said President Barack Obama still had confidence in Ms. Archuleta.

U.S. officials have said they suspect China was behind the attack, but the Obama administration has not publicly accused Beijing. China has denied any involvement in the hacking of U.S. databases.

The breach announced earlier in June has potentially compromised the personal data of millions of government workers, while a separate security breach revealed since then could put at risk other personal details for those who applied for security clearances.

U.S. lawmakers, who as federal workers could potentially be affected along with their staff, have expressed outrage over the cyber attack.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, called the breach outrageous and said the Obama administration must do more to protect data.

“Any governmental official who is responsible for failing to do so must be held accountable,” he said in a statement

The panel's ranking member, Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, cited the breach's repercussions not only on employees but also national security, saying “the Administration must respond with a sense of urgency to ensure our federal agencies are taking the steps necessary to bolster their defenses.”

Some lawmakers at last week's hearing expressed frustration at Ms. Archuleta's refusal to answer some questions, even as other members of Congress noted the sensitivity of the investigation and the data involved.

Ms. Archuleta and other officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have given lawmakers a classified briefing on the cyber attacks.