Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Stunning Incompetence of the Bush Administration

Personal Data on Veterans Is Stolen
Burglary Leaves Millions at Risk Of Identity Theft

As many as 26.5 million veterans were placed at risk of identity theft after an intruder stole an electronic data file this month containing their names, birth dates and Social Security numbers from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, Secretary Jim Nicholson said yesterday.

The burglary occurred May 3 in Aspen Hill, according to a source with knowledge of the incident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.

A career data analyst, who was not authorized to take the information home, has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations by the FBI, local police and the VA inspector general, Nicholson said. He would not identify the employee by name or title.


[A]ffected veterans include anyone discharged after 1975 and some of their spouses, as well as some veterans discharged before then who submitted a claim for VA benefits.

The theft represents the biggest unauthorized disclosure ever of Social Security data, and it could make affected veterans vulnerable to credit card fraud if the burglars realize the value of the data, one expert said.

"In terms of Social Security numbers, it's the biggest breach," said Evan Hendricks, publisher of the Privacy Times newsletter and author of the book "Credit Scores and Credit Reports." "As long as you've got that exact Social, most of the time the credit bureaus will disclose your credit report, and that enables the thief to get credit."

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