June 9, 2006
Data on Nuclear Agency Workers Hacked
By Chris Baltimore
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A computer hacker got into the U.S. agency that guards the country's nuclear weapons stockpile and stole the personal records of at least 1,500 employees and contractors, a senior U.S. lawmaker said on Friday.
The target of the hacker, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, is the latest agency to reveal that sensitive private information about government workers was stolen.
The incident happened last September but top Energy Department officials were not told about it until this week, prompting the chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee to demand the resignation of the head of the NNSA.
An NNSA spokesman was not available for comment.
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous arm of the Energy Department and also guards some of the U.S. military's nuclear secrets and responds to global nuclear and radiological emergencies.
Committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton said NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks should be "removed from your office as expeditiously as possible" because he did not quickly notify senior Energy Department officials of the breach.
"And I mean like 5 o'clock this afternoon if it's possible," Barton, a Texas Republican, said in a statement.
Earlier this week the Pentagon revealed that personal information on about 2.2 million active-duty, National Guard and Reserve troops was stolen last month from a government employee's house.
That comes on top of the theft of data on 26.5 million U.S. military veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said.
A spokesman for Energy Secretary Sam Bodman declined comment on the call for Brooks' resignation but said the secretary was "deeply disturbed about the way this was handled internally" and would make it a priority to notify workers about the lapse.
The "vast majority" of those workers were contractors, not direct government employees, said the spokesman Craig Stevens.
According to Barton, the NNSA chief knew about the incident soon after it happened in September but did not inform Energy Department officials, including Bodman, until Wednesday.
"I don't see how you could meet with (Bodman) every day the last seven or eight months and not inform him," Barton said.
He said Brooks cited "bureaucratic confusion" to explain the reporting lapse.
"It appears that each side of that organization assumed that the other side had made the appropriate notification," Brooks told the House energy panel's oversight and investigations subcommittee, according to a record provided by Barton's office.
"Just as the secretary just learned about this week, I learned this week that the secretary didn't know," Brooks said. "There are a number of us who in hindsight should have done things differently on informing."