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May 23, 2006
Veterans Victimized By Bureaucrats

After risking their lives and health to defend their nation, one would expect that the Department of Veterans Affairs would take care of the records of our fighting men and women. However, one would have to acquire a Pollyanna-ish faith in bureaucracies to be shocked to learn that an analyst had the sensitive indentity information of over 26 million veterans in his home -- and that burglars inadvertently stole it:

The federal government is warning every living veteran discharged since 1975 to watch banking and credit card statements closely after sensitive personal data on all 26.5 million of them was stolen this month.

Monday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson acknowledged the information was stolen from the home of a department analyst who wasn't authorized to remove it from the office.

Privacy experts say the theft is one of the largest breaches of identity security ever. The stolen data include Social Security numbers and birth dates. Information on some veterans' spouses was also compromised. ...

Nicholson said the analyst took the data home to work on a project. He offered few details because of the ongoing investigation. He didn't name the analyst, say where the employee lived or what form the data were in. The analyst has been put on leave.

The data also include information on veterans who filed claims before 1975, said Matthew Burns, a Veterans Affairs spokesman.

I'll need to alert the Admiral Emeritus, who served in Korea in 52-53 and who may have applied for benefits in, oh, the the last thirty years.

People complained about the NSA surveillance programs, especially the database of phone call records they use for datamining and determining potential terrorist patterns. At the time, I said that while I see the reason for the use of such data, that the collection and retention of the information should be understood as a sacrifice and watched carefully for potential abuses. One point I failed to mention was that the abuse might not come in the form of intentional malfeasance but simply bureaucratic idiocy.

This gives a great example of why we do not want sensitive personal information in the hands of civil servants. It's not necessaily any fear of Big Brother, it's the fear of Big Idiot Brother-In-Law.

This release carries the obvious potential risk for all of those whose credit might be exploited by thieves, but that's hardly the only risk. With the information gathered in this database, people can create new identities for other purposes than just a phony credit card. If terrorists wanted to make themselves American, all they would need is this information to build themselves a fairly bullet-proof identity, and they could even pass as American veterans. If they took care not to create a credit trail, they would be almost undetectable -- until it was too late.

If the government needs to create these kinds of databases, then they need to start treating them as classified data. That means the analyst who unilaterally decided to take the information home shouldn't just be placed on leave, but should have been fired immediately and perhaps even placed on trial for violating security protocols. Right now it looks like the only charges he could face are criminal stupidity, which would put half of the federal bureaucracy behind bars ... not necessarily a bad idea at that.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 23, 2006 5:51 AM

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» BOHICA from GroupIntel
Personal data, including Social Security numbers of 26.5 million U.S. veterans, was stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee this month after he took the information home without authorization, the department said Monday. The INFOSEC practitioner in me ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2006 8:17 AM

» Government givith and government taketh away from Digital Shlepnick
It’s hard to get worked up about the NSA surveillance when dickheads like this are giving the information away! (H/T Captain’s Quarters) ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2006 9:03 AM

» First Cup 05.23.06 from bRight & Early
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Tracked on May 23, 2006 9:20 AM


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