Governor Mike Parson again targeted a journalist on Sunday who reported the state of a security breach in one of his websites, questioning the journalist’s motives and noting that he would support lawsuits against any employee state that allegedly helped the journalist.
In a television interview with Scott Faughn, a longtime Parson supporter, the governor said the criminal investigation he ordered the Missouri State Highway Patrol was still ongoing.
When asked if he would support lawsuits against any government employee found to have helped uncover the security breach, Parson was quick to respond: “Most definitely.”
Last month, reporter Josh Renaud, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, alerted state social security numbers of teachers and school administrators to be vulnerable to public exposure due to loopholes on a website maintained by the Missouri Department of Education.
Social Security numbers were contained in the HTML source code of publicly available pages – information that could easily be discovered by anyone knowing how to access the standard web browser function to view the HTML code for a page.
Emails obtained by the independent show Renaud informed of the status of the problem and promised not to publish any articles about it until the problem was resolved and the social security numbers were no longer exposed.
He also explained to state officials in an email the steps he had taken to find and confirm the security breach. This included contacting three teachers to verify that the information in the HTML code was their social security numbers.
Parson responded to the revelation by calling Renaud a “hacker” and swearing to seek criminal prosecution. Soon after, a political action committee supporting Parson began raising money for his attacks.
During his interview on Sunday, Parson said he couldn’t understand why Renaud was even looking for the security hole. And even though the reporter briefed on the state of the problem and refrained from publishing a story about it, Parson asked, “Why wouldn’t you just say, ‘Hey, you got a problem here. You have to fix it.
At one point in the interview, Faughn suggested that the criticism Parson faced of his attacks – from cybersecurity experts, the media, First Amendment advocates, and even some of his fellow Republicans – could be blamed on elitism.
“The people who overwhelmingly elected you about a year ago, I don’t think they elected you for your computer skills. I just feel like there’s a hint of elitism in some of this stuff, “Faughn said, later adding,” It’s just a little clue, in some of those ivory towers from. high quality in St. Louis, a hint of elitism in the way they talk about it. “
Parson said he was “not a computer expert. I’ll be the first to admit it.
But if Renaud and the Post-Dispatch haven’t done anything wrong, Parson said, they shouldn’t be afraid of a criminal investigation.
“Why wouldn’t they want an investigation? Parson said.
He then accused the media of distorting the situation.
“They told the story pretty well from day one that it was right click,” he said. “Well, trust me, it’s more than just a right click. Because you got to talk about set-top boxes and all those kinds of things that have been used.
The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization covering state government and its impact on Missourians.