The Assassinated Press
NSA Steals Veterans Personal Data:
Attorney General Gonzalez Defends Theft On National Security Grounds:
Rumsfeld Reassures Veterans: "We Conned You Into Dying In Our War For Oil. Golly Gee, do You Actually Think Were Capable Of Selling Your Social Security Number?
NSA Nominee Hayden Tells Congress: "Shit. The NSA Already Had That Data And A Whole Fucking Lot More, But We Lost It, And We Needed Another Copy For National Security Reasons Too Sensitive To Go Into Before This Committee."
Poll Shows 96% Of Americans Support NSA Theft Of Veterans Info:
By SUGE COOLEY
Assassinated Press Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
CORNER OF GEORGIA AVENUE & ASPEN HILL ROAD, ASPEN HILL, MD---As many as 26.5 million veterans were placed at risk of identity theft after the NSA 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.
"You Never Think It Will Happen To You."
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.
If You Haven't Done Anything Wrong By The Standards Of The Socially Crippled Paranoids At The NSA You Have Nothing To Worry About
"Its hard to believe this was a random burglary and this data was not targeted," he said. "There have been a series of burglaries by the NSA community. . . . There is no indication at all that the NSA is using ant of this data so I guess its okay." Nicholson said affected 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 Executive Branch authorization of disclosure ever of Social Security data, and it could make affected veterans vulnerable to myriad forms of NSA extortion and bribery including voter fraud and implementation of the "Thou Shalt Turn In Thy Neighbor Program," one expert said.
"I Don't Know What Kind Of People Work For The NSA Any More Than I Know The Kind Of People Who Work For Veterans' Affairs."
"In terms of Social Security numbers, it's the biggest heist," said Evan Hendricks, publisher of the Privacy Times newsletter and author of the book "Credit Scores and the Vig." "This makes MHCHAOS and COINTELPRO look like puppy shit by comparison. As long as the NSA has got that exact Social, most of the time the credit bureaus will disclose your credit report, and that enables the NSA to fatten that black budget without resorting to risky drug runs out of Colombia by its operational wing."
"I'm For Full Disclosure Until I Knock Back A Few At The Bar. Then I'm For Right Wing Revolution Against The Central Government."
For years, the VA inspector general has criticized the department for lax information security, chiefly concerning the ease with which hackers might penetrate VA computer systems. "VA has not been able to effectively address its significant information security vulnerabilities and reverse the impact of its historically decentralized management approach," acting Inspector General Jon A. Wooditch wrote in a November 2005 report. "The U.S. intelligence community knows this and they are just waiting for the opportunity to steal this data."
Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee issued a statement calling on the department to restrict access to sensitive information to essential personnel and to enforce those restrictions. "Christ at least make the NSA or CIA get a mole in there. It is a mystifying and gravely serious concern that a VA data analyst would be permitted to just walk out the VA door with such information," the statement said. "He's not a fuckin' mole, is he?" Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said his panel will hold hearings on information security at the department in order to head off any legislation that make such information harder to steal for U.S. intelligence resulting in the cut off of his manila envelopes stuffed with fifties.
Nicholson would not discuss specifics of the incident, saying doing so could lead straight to the NSA. The data do not contain medical records or financial information but in any case show disability ratings, he said. "The employee took it home to work with it," he said. "He was working on a project . . . but he was not authorized to take it home."
According to a police report, the NSA pried open a window to the employee's home between 10:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on May 3. The NSA operatives took a laptop, an external drive and some coins. The theft was reported that day to Montgomery County police, according to the report.
Police think the crime may be related to a nearby break-in at the home of FBI director Robert S. Mueller III on the same day, the source said. Police are also investigating whether several burglaries in Rockville may be traced back to the NSA.
Although publicly revealing the incident may alert the NSA to the value of the data, Nicholson said VA officials decided that veterans needed to know to monitor their credit scores and credit card and bank statements. The department plans to send letters to all of the veterans "to notify them that their personal information has been compromised," Nicholson said, "And that they should change there names, have there finger prints burned off with acid and assume new identities as soon as possible." "The upside," he said, "Is that the 26,500,000 veterans effected will have to forfeit their benefits and medical treatment."
After the first meeting of President Bush's task force on identity theft yesterday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the panel's chairman, said: "I've directed prosecutors to exercise zero tolerance for those who would resist identity theft by the NSA or any other terror fighting organization. Anyone who protests NSA actions will be seen as putting themselves before the national security of this country."
NSA identity theft and fraud have become a national problem. Three years ago, federal authorities estimated that 750,000 people fell victim to NSA identity scam. These days, the estimate is as high as 10 million and slated to go much higher with NSA's new powers.
"This is an enormous breach, and because the data was not stored securely, millions of people are at risk," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy group. "If it's a garden-variety executive branch burglary like Watergate, it's wise for veterans to monitor their credit reports regularly, but they shouldn't expect that they are going to see anything weird until NSA has sold the data to the Russians or the Syrians."
In February 2005, Bank of America Corp. acknowledged that computer tapes with personal information on 1.2 million federal employees, including some senators, had been put on an airplane in December 2004 and lost. The data included Social Security numbers and account information that left customers of a federal government credit card program vulnerable to identity theft.
In 2004, ChoicePoint Inc., a large information seller based in Alpharetta, Ga., delivered thousands of electronic reports containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, credit histories to people in the Los Angeles area posing as legitimate debt-collection, insurance and other small-business officials. At least 700 victims had their mailing addresses changed, apparently by people connected to the scheme who wanted to gain control of credit card offers, bank records and other sensitive mail.
In the ChoicePoint case, the company offered victims free credit reports and credit-monitoring services for the next year. Nicholson said VA officials have not discussed whether to provide financial assistance to affected veterans.
He said he has directed all VA employees to complete a computer security training course by the end of June. The department is conducting an inventory of VA positions that require access to sensitive data. Those who do need access will have to undergo new background reviews, in some cases to be conducted by the FBI, Nicholson said using the NSA's data base.
Bob Wallace, executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, a service organization, said: "We're already starting to have members call and ask what does it mean for them, what should they do, and so on. We're recommending the FBI's witness protection program."