Stolen VA laptop recovered
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government has recovered the stolen laptop computer containing sensitive data for up to 26.5 million veterans and military personnel, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced Thursday.
Nicholson also said there have been no reports of identity theft since the May 3 burglary at the Maryland home of an agency employee.
**does that not strike anyone as odd?**
"There is reason to be optimistic," he told reporters just before the start of another in a series of hearings Congress has had on one of the worst breaches of information security.
"It's a very positive note in this very tragic incident," Nicholson said.
Nicholson offered no immediate details on how the laptop was recovered.
Newly discovered documents show that the VA analyst blamed for losing the laptop had received permission to work from home on data that included millions of Social Security numbers.
"From the start, the VA has acted as if the theft was a PR problem that had to be managed, not fully confronted," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-California.
"They're trying to pin it on this one guy, but I think it's other people we need to be looking at."
According to the documents provided to The Associated Press, the 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 Veterans Affairs 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 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.