This was reported last night:
The Veterans Affairs worker faulted for losing veterans' personal information had permission to access millions of Social Security numbers on a laptop from home, agency documents obtained by The Associated Press show.And now today, just as a Congressional hearing on this issue was about to start, the laptop was found:
The documents show that the data analyst, whose name was being withheld, had approval as early as Sept. 5, 2002, to use special software at home that was designed to manipulate large amounts of data.
A separate agreement, dated Feb. 5, 2002, from the office of the assistant secretary for policy and planning, allowed the worker to access Social Security numbers for millions of veterans.
A third document, also issued in 2002, gave the analyst permission to take a laptop computer and accessories for work outside of the VA building.
"These data are protected under the Privacy Act," one document states. The analyst is the "lead programmer within the Policy Analysis Service and as such needs access to real Social Security numbers."
The department said last month it was in the process of firing the data analyst, who is now challenging the dismissal.
VA officials have said the firing was justified because the analyst violated department procedure by taking the data home; they also said he was "grossly negligent" in handling sensitive information.
Lawmakers expressed dismay over the latest disclosure. They noted that the analyst immediately notified his supervisors after the theft from his suburban Maryland home, but supervisors delayed publicizing the crime until May 22. Nicholson was informed on May 16.
"The gross negligence in this case are the people above him," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the acting top Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "They gave him express permission to take the information home. When it was stolen, he reported it right away."
"They're trying to pin it on this one guy, but I think it's other people we need to be looking at," he said.
I mean, seriously? All this time law enforcement and the VA have no idea where the laptop is, and then just as a hearing is about to start on whether senior VA officials are at fault for allowing the conditions that led to the theft, abracadabra, the laptop turns up? And a preliminary review shows that the data hasn't been accessed?
[VA Secretary Jim] Nicholson announced the recovery of the equipment at a House committee hearing today, but provided no details about how law enforcement officials obtained it.
"A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic teams has determined that the data base remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen," said an FBI statement issued today. "A thorough forensic examination is underway, and the results will be shared as soon as possible. The investigation is ongoing."
And they wonder why people don't trust the government?