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Veterans Very Skeptical of ‘Found’ VA Laptop Story

By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend 

July 27, 2006,

On June 29th of this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed the government had recovered a stolen laptop computer and hard drive with sensitive data on up to 26.5 million veterans and active duty military personnel. The FBI has said there was no evidence that anyone accessed Social Security numbers and other data on the equipment. However, the VA has not said where they found the stolen laptop, if anyone was arrested, or if anyone claimed the reward. 

Many veterans have voiced skepticism over the VA’s story and feel the VA is covering up the facts surrounding the incident.

Before the laptop was ‘found’, the VA had agreed to pay for credit checks for any veteran requesting it. The projected cost for such a ‘service’ would literally cost the American tax payers millions, if not billions of dollars, especially if the stolen information became apart of a massive identity theft fiasco. The cleanup for such a scenario could be extremely expensive.

Veteran’s rights advocate [Name Omitted] of Jefferson Ohio thinks there is a great deal more to this story. “We aren’t hearing the entire story. I would like to know the details of the discovery of the laptop,” [Name Omitted] said in a recent FBN interview. “If $50,000 of taxpayer money was paid out as a reward for the recovery of the stolen laptop, the American taxpayers are entitled to know the details of how this reward was paid,” [Name Omitted] added.

The VA is now saying they will not pay for veterans’ credit checks because the laptop had been ‘found’. “How do we know that the laptop found wasn’t a second laptop planted meant to defuse the loss of the personal information and discourage criminal elements from looking for the missing laptop and its valuable data?” [Name Omitted] questioned.

[Name Omitted] is not alone in his suspicions. Long time veteran’s rights advocate Dale Vanluven has been following the questionable story as well. “It seems mighty convenient for the VA to just ‘find’ this laptop,” Vanluven told the FBN. “I haven’t found one veteran that believes the VA’s story. Over 26.5 million veterans are involved in this story. They are all entitled to a full explanation of how, when, and where the VA laptop was ‘found’,” he added.

Both [Name Omitted] and Vanluven think the VA should keep its promise to provide free credit checks regardless of if the laptop was found. “To say the threat is gone entirely is extremely naive and reckless. It is extremely premature to assume this matter has been resolved,” [Name Omitted] said. “If the FBI’s forensic conclusion is wrong the veterans of this country will end up paying for the VA’s mismanagement and negligence,” [Name Omitted] added.

[Name Omitted] also pointed out that the massive loss of this information was a catastrophic security blunder and involved a great deal more government agencies than just the VA. “Not only was the VA’s security breached, but data banks at the DOD, SSA, and the IRS were compromised as well,” [Name Omitted] said. “The information contained on the VA laptop involved personal information shared by all four of these agencies,” [Name Omitted] said.

[Name Omitted] and Vanluven have a suggestion that may solve this problem in the future. Apparently, there is a software company in the UK that has developed software that will erase all information on a laptop computer’s hard drive if it is tampered with. The company is DataZap and can be found at this web link “If DataZap had been installed on the missing VA laptop, we wouldn’t be facing this problem today,” Vanluven stated. “Another idea is to install GPS or RFID tracking on all government laptops. That way they would always know where their laptops are,” [Name Omitted] added.



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