The Secret Service is being investigated for the loss of computer data tapes containing the personal information of all its agency employees, contacts and overseas informants.
The “immense breach” occurred in 2008, when two data tapes were being transported by a young, low-level associate of a private contracting firm hired to transport them, reports Fox News. The employee volunteered to deliver the tapes because he lived near the secure vault in Olney, Md., where government agencies store contingency plans, documents and other backup material.
After picking up the data tapes from the Secret Service’s Investigative Resources Management division at the agency’s headquarters in the Penn Quarter section of Washington, D.C., he took the Red Line on the D.C. Metro. No additional security measures were taken.
Instead of delivering the data tapes to the vault, the employee got off at the Glenmont, Md., Metro stop without the tapes, according to sources.
The data tapes contained all the P.I.I. (Personally Identifiable Information) on all agency employees, contacts and overseas informants, according to officials familiar with the case. The data included a mixture of names, addresses, Social Security numbers, info on family members, birth dates, medical information, bank account numbers, employment information, driver’s license numbers, passport numbers, and any biometric information on file with the Secret Service.
Four years later, the data tapes remain missing.
News of 2008 security breach came out in early December 2012. It is one of 13 probes being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), that were launched in response to the Secret Service Colombian prostitute scandal that broke in April 2012.
DHS-OIG opened the investigation after it was learned that the Secret Service ignored procedures for reporting incidents where sensitive data is compromised.
“They just covered it up so they wouldn’t get in trouble, so they wouldn’t be scrutinized for such a huge breach of security,” one official told Fox News.
The Secret Service acknowledged the breach took place, but denied the allegations.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan downplayed the incident by noting the data tapes were unmarked and were protected by several layers of encryption.
Others said the data tapes only had “very basic encryption. Let’s just say it wouldn’t take a genius to crack it.”
The Secret Service says it has put “protocols” in place since the incident to prevent it from happening again, and no reported fraud has been associated with the case.