Hacks, Breaches, and Government Ineptness

While the headlines over the past week have been swamped with coverage over the candidates bidding for the 2016 presidential election and a “trans-racial” NAACP leader “caught” lying about her race, critically important issues that are detrimental to our national security have gone virtually unnoticed. For instance, on a late Friday night news dump it was revealed by the Associated Press that as many as 14 million current and former civilian U.S. government employees had their information compromised in an unprecedented attack by Chinese hackers. The Associated Press announced that the hackers stole, “Social Security numbers, military records and veterans’ status information, addresses, birth dates, job and pay histories; health insurance, life insurance and pension information; and age, gender and race data.”

This was the second hack by China in one week. The first hack occurred last Monday as it was disclosed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that up to 4 million federal employees, including those who had applied for security clearances with the federal government, had their information stolen. On Friday, the AP revealed a second, even deeper intrusion into OPM servers. This hack included personal and security data on millions of past and present Pentagon employees, including intelligence and military personnel. According to Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, the information obtained via these two hacks constitutes a disaster for Washington’s counterintelligence operatives as it “tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has a United States security clearance.”

This warning was echoed Monday by former NSA counterintelligence officer John R. Schindler in his article posted on the Daily Beast warning that China’s hack just wrecked American espionage. “Armed with very private information about the personal lives of millions of security clearance holders, foreign intelligence services can blackmail and coerce vulnerable officials…for American spies abroad, this can be a matter of life or death, and any personnel sent into countries where they could be targeted for kill or capture — which in the age of the Islamic State is a depressingly long list — need to be deeply concerned about how much the OPM breach has complicated, and perhaps threatened, their lives,” Schindler warns.

China has now obtained access to a virtual treasure trove of information on virtually everyone within the federal government, not to mention key information on military and intelligence officials. What the Chinese hackers exposed, besides the information listed, is cause for serious concern not only for past and present government employees, but for ordinary individual American citizens. The sheer magnitude of ineptness within our government to protect its employees and the American people is astounding.

For example, last month, the Internal Revenue Service disclosed that it had been breached by Russian hackers and over 100,000 households had their personal data compromised. In a statement released by the IRS, the agency goes on to note that “in this sophisticated effort, third parties succeeded in clearing a multi-step authentication process that required prior personal knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security information, date of birth, tax filing status and street address before accessing IRS systems.” It gets worse.

According to Alexander Hendrie of the government watchdog group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), “during a subsequent hearing, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that the IRS had failed to implement 44 recommendations to strengthen protections, including ten more than a three years old.” Other reports released by TIGTA continue to demonstrate the government’s ineptness. “A report released last week found that the IRS is failing to properly administer Obamacare tax credits, resulting in millions of individuals receiving a credit they are supposed to be ineligible for,” writes Hendrie. Moreover, Hendrie goes on to note that a “separate report found that the IRS did not test their Obamacare processing system until a week before tax filing season began.” This comes at the heels of the Obamacare CEO admitting that the website, healthcare.gov, will not be completed until Obama leaves office. It gets worse.

In a government privacy assessment released today it was announced that the Obamacare database, known as MIDAS, retains Obamacare enrollees information from the healthcare.gov website permanently. The information the database stores retains, forever, includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, employment status and financial accounts. In addition to the 10 million currently enrolled, reports the AP, MIDAS also keeps information on former customers, on consumers who started applications but never finished them and on people determined eligible for Medicaid.

“Given the continued inability of the federal bureaucracy to safeguard personal information”, writes Hendrie of ATR, “the decision to permanently keep the personal information of Obamacare enrollees seems a disaster waiting to happen.” Its simply a matter of time until hackers, who have shown their ability to compromise much more complex systems such as those used by OPM and the IRS, compromise MIDAS and steal vital information on millions of unsuspecting Americans.

This will happen in time as it coincides with the growth of a federal bureaucracy that is virtually without oversight and accountability to the people they pose to represent. When agencies such as the IRS and OPM are compromised and found to be inept it comes at the cost of taxpayers, intelligence, and vital information. This pales in comparison though to the immediate threat posed to the our national security when agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are found not only to be inept but compromised as well.

Such were the findings in an internal investigation of the TSA by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The report revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives and weapons through checkpoints 95 percent of the time. ABC News announced that according to officials briefed on the results of the report, TSA Agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with undercover DHS members repeatedly able to get potential weapons and explosives through checkpoints. It gets worse.

In a new Inspector General report released on June 4th it was disclosed that the TSA failed to identify 73 employees currently working for major airlines and airport venders with ties to terrorism. The agency acknowledged that individuals in these categories “represented a potential transportation security threat,” according to the report. Knowing this after the fact doesn’t bode well for an agency that not only has a 95 percent failure rate of spotting potential threats posed by terrorists, but openly hires potential terrorists. In an America that actually cared about such issues, this would be cause for alarm, but under the Obama administration and the praetorian guard media its cause for damage control and deflection of responsibility.

If you think anyone within this bureaucracy will be held accountable over these types of compromises vital to our national security, consider the following letter that OPM is currently sending out to millions of individual federal employees impacted by the recent Chinese hacks.

A copy of the letter obtained by Federal News Radio, OPM states the following: “You are receiving this letter because we have determined that the data compromised in this incident may have included your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, date and place of birth, and current or former address.” OPM then notes, Nothing in this letter should be construed as OPM or the U.S. Government accepting liability for any of the matters covered by this letter or for any other purpose.”

If this is how the government treats its own, you can imagine for yourself how they’re going to treat you once your information is compromised.

 

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