+$26 Billion in Privacy Act Fines for Feds in 2006

The Federal government cannot be trusted to keep your information secure. Period. One by one federal agencies are proving that they are not competent to handle sensitive, private, personal or confidential information. They should not be trusted with any information about anybody, anywhere, for any reason.

The recent wave of security breaches occurring under the Republican government cumulatively represent an attack on the identity and financial security of around 10% of the American population (so far this year). These security lapses and breaches have exposed taxpayers to a statutory minimum $26 billion in liability. Al Qaeda ain’t got nothin’ on that.

The trend-line of security lapses long ago passed from embarrassing thru unacceptable and inexcusable to criminally incompetent in some kind of geometric climb toward a Crime Against God And Humanity. There is considerable reasoned argument that we’ve broken the treason barrier several times and are now traveling at the criminal equivalent of Mach 4.

Whereas 2005 was considered “the year of breaches” (Dan Caprio, the chief privacy officer at the Commerce Department), which included failures by ChoicePoint (a government contractor with billions of records on consumers) and the September hacking of National Nuclear Security Administration (? computers – the extent of that intrusion appears to remain unclear, but at least 1,500 personnel records were copied (no word on nuclear security information).This is a partial list for 2006:

May 2006 * Veterans’ Affairs Department (?) 26,500,000
May 2006 Pentagon health insurance program(?) 14,000
May 2006 Internal Revenue Service (?) 300
May 2006 Social Security Administration (?) 200
June 2006 Air Force Personnel Center (?) 33,000
June 2006 Navy (?) 28,000
June 2006 Government Accountability Office (?) 1,000
July 2006 Transportation Department (?) 133,000
August 2006 Department of Education(?) 21,000
August 2006 * Veterans Affairs Department (?) 38,000
August 2006 Department of Education (?) 43?
September 2006 ** Transportation Security Admin. (?) 1,195
* The VA has been hemorrhaging private records so frequently it’s unclear where one breach ends and the next one begins. There 16,000 records lost by the VA and not accounted for above because nobody has written when they were lost.
** “Making a mistake like this is abominable,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, an advocate for consumer privacy. “You’ve got an agency whose mission is security.” (cite)

Under the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC 552(g)(4)(A)] these breaches represent a statutory minimum taxpayer liability of over $26 billion ($1000 per person). “Business Week says that the average damages for Identity Theft victims are $92,000.00 and up per person,” (cite) which means potential liability equivalent upwards of 20% of US GDP, plus attorney’s fees.

Head roll at AOL when there is a well-meaning and intentional violation of privacy and it is generally understood in the industry that “having a very public security breach is the quickest path to the exit door for any (high)-level tech exec” (Gary Beach, publisher of CIO Magazine) But not so in the Republican government.

The culture of impunity is the bastard child of corruption and incompetence, which both sprang forth from the Gingrich Revolution fully formed with malignant intentions. This is not your father’s Republican Party and there is no end to the abominations sired by this promiscuous mutant Republican philosophy.

From the outing of a CIA Operative from within the highest levels government to the (now routine) loss of laptops containing tens of thousands (or millions) of sensitive records on American citizens, I begin to doubt that this government could keep its hotmail password a secret.

With each successive security breach, to the internet or organized crime, this Administration seeks new and innovative ways to feed its lust for the power and status that knowing secrets brings. Daily we receive new demands for the new powers to use new technologies to spy on the American people. Sometimes it’s the TSA developing consumer dossiers on every airline passenger in the world, or some other reincarnation of Total Information Awareness conjured up by the necromancers in the Old Executive Building. It might be Ashcroft or Ridge or Chertoff claiming that our borders can only be protected by implanting RFID chips in our fingerprints, scanning our iris’ and submitting to colonoscopies (made necessary the arrest of the Butt-Plug Bomber). And occasionally it’s just the discovery that the military has been listening to our phone calls without the inconvenience of a warrant in direct, explicit and unambiguous violation of the three or four different articles of Constitution of the United States of America.

Experience suggests that each new database will be breached and records disclosed into the hands of identify thieves, fraudsters and counterfeiters. Each new breach will undermine the systems of financial credit that lubricate our consumer economy and the systems of trust and identity that make law enforcement possible.

And, inevitably, each outrage will be reduced to a relative misdemeanor as the Republican government pioneers new perversions of the Oath of Office.

UPDATE [8/30/06]: It doesn’t stop. I’ll keep adding to the list.

UPDATE [9/11/06]: TSA: another $1,200,000.