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Hard drive with Clinton-era data missing from National Archives

Drive holds Social Security numbers, addresses of White House employees

May 20, 2009 01:19 PM ET

Computerworld - An external hard drive that's believed to contain nearly 1TB of data -- some of it sensitive information -- from the Clinton Administration is missing from the U.S. National Archives and Recording Administration (NARA).

The information on the missing drive includes more than 100,000, Social Security numbers and home addresses of people who visited or worked at the White House. Among those whose information is on the list is one of then-Vice President Al Gore's three daughters. The drive also contained details on the security procedures used by the Secret Service at the White House, as well as event logs, social gathering logs, political records and other information from the Clinton administration.

Bill Clinton was president from January 1993 to January 2001.

The drive was discovered missing in early April and the breach was immediately reported to senior officials at the NARA, the agency's inspector general and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team of the Department of Homeland Security, the NARA said in a statement.

The inspector general's office launched a criminal investigation into the matter, according to the NARA, which has since implemented improved security processes in the wake of the discovery and said it "takes very seriously" the drive's loss.

Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in a statement yesterday said that the loss is believed to have occurred between October 2008 and March 2009. His statement was issued after the committee was briefed on the breach by the NARA inspector general yesterday.

According to Issa, the Archives was in the process of converting information from the drive to a digital records system when it apparently disappeared. The hard drive was apparently removed from a secure storage area to a workplace where at least 100 "badge-holders" had access to it, Issa noted. In addition to those with official access to the area, the IG said that janitors, visitors, interns and others passed through the area, Issa said.

At the moment, it's not clear whether the drive was misplaced or stolen. "This egregious breach raises significant questions regarding the effectiveness of the security protocols that are in place at the National Archives and Records Administration," Issa said. He called on NARA's acting archivist, Adrienne Thomas, to appear before the committee tomorrow for a hearing on the loss of the hard drive.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also expressed concern over the breach and said he would hold briefings on the ongoing probe into the incident by the IG's office and the FBI.

"I am deeply concerned about this serious security breach," Towns said in a statement, adding that his committee would soon hold hearings to "begin to understand the magnitude of the security breach."

Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.

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