Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Loose Archives

Uh, oops:
The National Archives lost a computer hard drive containing massive amounts of sensitive data from the Clinton administration, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and Secret Service and White House operating procedures, congressional officials said Tuesday.
Let the Sandy Berger jokes begin. Actually, upon some quick study the National Archives is more than just an arcane old building in Washington, it's a small network. The facility in question was their records building in College Park, MD. Here's a quip from the website:
One of our primary missions is to promote easy access to records, and we will make every effort to see that these security measures do not unduly interfere with your research or visit. Thank you for your cooperation.
Mission accomplished, apparently. The WaPo has their own version of the AP story and provided a bit more info about who was accessing the data when it was lost:
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.
Interestingly, the WaPo version didn't include the years along with the dates of possible disappearance. My Way News wrote it this way:
The drive was lost between October 2008 and March 2009 and contained 1 terabyte of data - enough material to fill millions of books.
Not sure why the WaPo felt the need to dump the years other than the obvious fact that March 2009 would include the Obama era. But that's ticky-tack in comparison to what happened here, which the FBI and Secret Service are investigating.

As to access, the website clearly states the public has access to materials in the archive, while the story clearly states that 'visitors' had access to the area where the disk was lost (which is fairly incredible):
Besides those with official access to sensitive material, the inspector general said janitors, visitors, interns and others passed through the area, according to Issa.
Sounds like it's time to go to the video tape. Surely a facility like an Archives with presidential records would contain security video, right? Having none would be almost as bizarre as Fort Detrick not having any to catch Dr. Ivins or whomever brewing up the anthrax letter material. We await further review.

As we await, how about some speculation? Aside from somebody inadvertently throwing the disk away or deciding they needed an add-on to their home PC, it's hard to imagine either political side being so foolish as to simply steal a hard drive from the archives. Of course, stuffing documents in socks was hard to believe as well, and Obama did sign an EO on presidential records in January, but even so, it still sounds implausible. A more troubling scenario would be somebody selling the disk to a foreign intelligence service or using it as blackmail.

This doesn't appear to be much of a story right now. It could have been big--just imagine had Keith Olbermann been told of this in October 2008. Oh well, maybe if a Republican becomes a suspect.

No comments: