Rich Galen

  • From the Washington Post:
    "As many as 26.5 MILLION VETERANS were placed at risk of identity theft after an intruder stole an electronic data file this month containing their names, birth dates and Social Security numbers from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, Secretary Jim Nicholson said yesterday."

  • First of all, the burglary took place on May 3. This story was released on May 23 - THREE WEEKS after 26.5 MILLION VETERANS were put at risk - by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • On the side of the VA building in downtown Washington are the words, "is: "… To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan …" which is from Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has fallen somewhat short of that motto with this incident.

  • I happen to know, like, and respect Secretary Nicholson who, in addition to having been Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Ambassador to the Vatican was, according to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia:
    A graduate of the United States Military Academy; a paratrooper and Ranger-qualified Army officer; fought in the Vietnam War, where he earned the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and two Air Medals.

  • What Jim Nicholson is not, is a computer expert.

  • According to the Associated Press, some unnamed dope took home a "government-owned laptop and disks containing the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of veterans discharged since 1975."

  • Hello? Earth to the VA. You mean to tell me that you have the unencrypted files of 26.5 MILLION VETERANS - "who shall have borne the battle" - on a computer which are download-able to a laptop that any moke in the Department can take home?

  • And, just in case you thing this may lead to a modest bit of inconvenience for 26.5 MILLION VETERANS, again, according to the AP:
    Date of birth and Social Security number enable identity thieves to obtain credit reports, bank and credit card accounts and place of residence.

    In other cases, such information could let terrorists use false identities to board planes or allow illegal immigrants to get a job.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs? Let me introduce you to the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Just last week the President announced that military personnel would be helping the Border Patrol. If terrorists and illegal immigrants get their hands on these files, we will need more military personnel to control the situation which was created because the military personnel we have already asked to serve our country had their identities stolen.

  • Ironic, huh?

  • So, just to review the bidding: The VA's employee takes the records of 26.5 MILLION VETERANS to his (or her) house. The house is burglarized. Among the items stolen is a laptop computer and computer disks contain said records.

  • The VA, on its website, specifically declines to involve itself in helping those "who shall have borne the battle" and, instead, lists four steps veterans should take if they find suspicious activity regarding their credit cards or bank accounts, including:
  • Contacting the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus;

  • Closing any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently;

  • Filing a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place;

  • Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • The only thing the 26.5 MILLION VETERANS did to deserve all this was serve their country thus, becoming veterans.

  • For the price of it, the Department of Veterans Affairs is placing all of the burden for its criminal stupidity squarely on the backs of those "who have borne the battle."

  • And what, you may ask, is the VA doing? Well, heroic effort would be something of an overstatement. According to its website the Department "has directed all VA employees complete the 'VA Cyber Security Awareness Training Course.'"

  • Oh. Good. That should fix it.

  • How about putting a sign up next to the elevators. Something like:
    PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE DISKS CONTAINING THE RECORDS OF 26.5 MILLION VETERANS AND THEN ALLOW THEM TO BE STOLEN FROM YOUR HOUSE.

  • Our veterans deserve better.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the WashPost and AP stories, plus the VA's Q&A page; a Mullfoto from New York City, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Rich Galen

    Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.