Some of the nation's most influential former military and intelligence officials have been informed in recent days that they are at risk of identity theft after a break-in at a major government contractor netted computers containing the Social Security numbers and other personal information about tens of thousands of past and present company employees.
The contractor, employee-owned Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, handles sensitive government contracts, including many in information security. It has a reputation for hiring Washington's most powerful figures when they leave the government, and its payroll has been studded with former secretaries of defense, CIA directors and White House counterterrorism advisers.
Those former officials -- along with the rest of a 45,000-person workforce in which a significant percentage of employees hold government security clearances -- were informed last week that their private information may have been breached and they need to take steps to protect themselves from fraud.
David Kay, who was chief weapons inspector in Iraq after nearly a decade as an executive at SAIC, said he has devoted more than a dozen hours to shutting down accounts and safeguarding his finances. He said the successful theft of personal data, by thieves who smashed windows to gain access, does not speak well of a company that is devoted to keeping the government's secrets secure.
"I just find it unexplainable how anyone could be so casual with such vital information. It's not like we're just now learning that identity theft is a problem," said Kay, who lives in Northern Virginia.
About 16,000 SAIC employees work in the Washington area.
Bobby Ray Inman, former deputy director of the CIA and a former director at SAIC, agreed. "It's worrisome," said Inman, who also received notification of the theft last week. "If the security is sloppy, it raises questions."
Ben Haddad, an SAIC spokesman, said yesterday that the Jan. 25 theft, which the company announced last week, occurred in an administrative building where no sensitive contracting work is performed. Haddad said the company does not know whether the thieves targeted specific computers containing employee information or if they were simply after hardware to sell for cash. In either case, the company is taking no chances.
"We're taking this extremely seriously," Haddad said. "It's certainly not something that would reflect well on any company, let alone a company that's involved in information security. But what can I say? We're doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it."
Gary Hassen of the San Diego Police Department said there were "no leads."