Security Breach Results in Potential Theft of Sensitive Clinton Administration Archives

Published: May 19, 2009

Issa Calls for National Archives Acting Archivist to Appear Before Oversight Subcommittee

WASHINGTON. D.C. – House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) today called for National Archives and Administration Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas to appear before an Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Thursday to answer questions regarding the loss of a hard drive containing national security information and other Clinton Administration records.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Inspector General briefed Committee staff today regarding a current investigation into the loss of a hard drive containing national security information from NARA’s College Park facility. The drive contains one terabyte of data derived from records from the Clinton presidency. Data on the drive includes more than 100,000 social security numbers (including Al Gore’s daughter), contact information (including addresses) for various Clinton administration officials, Secret Service and White House operating procedures, event logs, social gathering logs, political records and other highly-sensitive information. The full extent of the contents of the drive is still being investigated. One terabyte of data is the approximate equivalent of millions of books, according to the Inspector General.

“This egregious breach raises significant questions regarding the effectiveness of the security protocols that are in place at the National Archives and Records Administration,” Issa said. “Acting Director Thomas should appear before the committee either voluntarily or via subpoena on Thursday to explain how such an outrageous breach of security happened.”

The hard drive was moved from a “secure” storage area to a workspace while it was in use as part of a process to convert the Clinton Administration. The IG explained that at least 100 “badge-holders” had access to the area where the hard drive was left unsecured. In addition to those with official access to sensitive material, the IG claims that janitors, visitors, interns and others passed through the area where the driver was being kept. The IG describes the workspace as an area that Archives employees pass through on their way to the bathroom. The door is often left open for ventilation.

The loss occurred between October 2008 and March 2009. The IG is investigating the situation as a crime with the assistance of the Department of Justice and the Secret Service but they have not yet determined if the loss was the result of theft or accidental loss.

The IG described a potentially catastrophic lack of internal controls at NARA. Even the “secure” storage spaces for sensitive information are susceptible to breach. In a previous IG report, he described how the Acting Archivist wrote off the loss of $6 million worth of computer equipment (driver, laptops, etc.).

A hearing of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Security Archives is scheduled for Thursday, May 21st at 2:00 p.m. (EST) to examine issues that President Obama’s administration should consider in selecting the next Archivist of the United States.