Washington, D.C. - Today Committee on Veterans' Affairs Ranking Member, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), released the following statement regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcement of its stolen data recovery:
"This morning, I learned that the authorities recovered the laptop and external hard drive containing personal information on millions of veterans stolen from the home of a VA employee. Apparently, the equipment was sold to someone who in turn realized what they had and returned the items to the government.
"Law enforcement personnel are to be congratulated for the actions they have taken to secure the equipment. My understanding at this point is while it is not yet possible to know for certain if the information on the external drive was compromised between the time of the theft and the recovery of the equipment, the initial indications are that it was not. VA Secretary Nicholson testified today that he was told by the FBI that, based on initial forensic analysis, it appears that the data were not accessed. I sincerely hope this position proves to be true. It will be a tremendous relief to all veterans.
"To be on the safe side, I believe that VA should continue to pursue a contract with an outside organization to provide identity theft detection of the affected records. We must be vigilant to detect if anyone's personal information has been compromised. I am delighted that Secretary Nicholson expressed support for this approach during today's hearing.
Despite this turn of events, many serious problems remain involving VA data security that demand urgent attention. In my leadership role, I pledge to work with all appropriate parties to resolve these concerns and ensure no veteran's identity is compromised due to VA negligence.
"Also, to deter against future losses, in VA and throughout the government, I introduced legislation, S. 3506, the "Data Theft Prevention Act of 2006" to ensure that there is accountability for those who act irresponsibly when handling personal information contained in federal databases."