Aug. 4, 2006 -- Our reporting on the massive thefts of personal data resulting from a covert operation of the Bush administration to populate its Total Information Awareness (TIA) system databases has prompted a question from readers. Doesn't the U.S. government already have access to such data? The answer is quite simple. Although the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Homeland Security Department, the two entities that have inherited responsibility for TIA from the Department of Defense after Congress de-funded the original program run by Iran-Contra felon Admiral John Poindexter, the TIA continues to operate covertly and with funding laundered through other budgeted intelligence programs.
Since the Bush administration has not succeeded in politicizing and privatizing the Civil Service, members of which swear an oath to the Constitution similar to that taken by military members, the tens of thousands of system and security administrators in the federal government would be aware of any requests for personal data coming from NSA or Homeland Security. Although the Bush administration is intimidating and threatening to prosecute whistleblowers, requests by intelligence agencies for personal data could quickly become public or be made known to Congress, a situation those in charge of the covert data collection program wish to avoid at all costs. Even the purchase by the government of databases from private entities like ChoicePoint and the credit bureaus leaves a paper and electronic trail. Hence, we have the covert program of stealing personal data to populate the off-the-books TIA surveillance databases.
Meanwhile, the pandemic of data thefts continues with the typical "ho-hum" from the Bush regime. Recently, a US Bank employee had a brief case containing the Social Security Numbers and other personal information of bank customers, stolen from his car in Covington, Kentucky. It is also being reported that hundreds of customers of Dollar Tree stores in northern California and Oregon have had their automatic teller machine (ATM) personal identification numbers purloined in an on-line theft operation. The Secret Service is investigating this case and it calls the security breach "significant" and possibly national in scope. Dollar Tree is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Aug. 3, 2006 -- The plague of massive personal data thefts continues on an almost daily basis. The thefts have been reported to WMR as part of a covert U.S. government plan to populate the databases of Total Information Awareness surveillance databases. Two of the recent thefts were in Mississippi. A laptop computer stolen from Belhaven College contained personal information on 300 college employees. In June, a burglary of the Hattiesburg City Hall resulted in the theft of personal information on 23,000 municipal employees and Hattiesburg residents.
Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, New York also reported the June theft of a laptop computer containing names, dates of birth, and Social Security Numbers of 257,800 patients.
Do nothing GOP Congress seeks to protect data holders, not the public, during data theft epidemic.
The Bush administration is not only dragging its feet on investigating the series of unprecedented thefts of personal data but is actively trying to curtail state laws requiring timely notification of data thefts. Twenty three states have enacted security breach notification laws in the last three years. The Republican-supported Financial Data Protection Act, sponsored by Ohio Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette, would only require notification if fraud could be established as a reason for the theft and would not require credit bureaus to put a "security freeze" on credit files affected by the data thefts. House members supporting this weak legislation represent the banking and credit industries and include Delaware's Rep. Michael Castle, who represents not Delaware but MBNA Bank of Wilmington. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored, not surprisingly, by Delaware's MBNA-owned Senator, Democrat Tom Carper. Other financial industry bought-and-paid for members who are co-sponsoring the federal law to pre-empt stronger state notification and credit freeze laws include Florida's Senator Mel Martinez, Connecticut's Christopher Shays, Minnesota's Mark Kennedy, Ohio's Deborah Pryce, Illinois' Melissa Bean, Virginia's Frank Wolf, and Florida's Mark Foley and Katherine Harris.