National Archives Loses Hard Drive

By Larry Margasak
Associated Press
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The National Archives lost a computer hard drive containing a large amount of sensitive data from the Clinton administration, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and Secret Service and White House operating procedures, congressional officials said yesterday.

One of former vice president Al Gore's three daughters is among those whose Social Security numbers were on the drive, but it was not clear yesterday which one. Other information includes logs of events, social gatherings and political records.

The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of the matter, according to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Towns and the committee's senior Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, said they would continue to seek more information about the breach.

The lawmakers said they learned of the loss from the inspector general of the National Archives and Records Administration. The drive is missing from the Archives facility in College Park. The drive was lost between October and March, and it contained one terabyte of data -- enough material to fill millions of books.

A Republican committee aide who was at a briefing held by the inspector general said the Archives had been converting the Clinton administration information to a digital records system when the hard drive vanished.

The aide, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the hard drive was left on a shelf and unused for an uncertain period of time. Later, the drive was found to be missing.

Committee staff members were told that there is a backup copy of all the information but that Archives officials have only just begun to learn what was on the drive.

Towns said he would have the FBI and inspector general brief committee members so they can "begin to understand the magnitude of the security breach and all of the steps being taken to recover the lost information."

Issa called for the Archives' acting director, Adrienne C. Thomas, to appear before a committee panel tomorrow to "explain how such an outrageous breach of security happened."

"This egregious breach raises significant questions regarding the effectiveness of the security protocols that are in place at the National Archives and Records Administration," he said.

Issa said the hard drive was moved from a "secure" storage area to a workspace while it was in use. The inspector general explained that at least 100 badge-holders had access to the area where the drive was left unsecured.

Besides those with official access to sensitive material, the inspector general said janitors, visitors, interns and others passed through the area, according to Issa. Further, the workspace is in an area that Archives workers pass through on their way to the bathroom.

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