Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to President Bush, demanding improvements in the incompetent handling of government data security demonstrated by the Bush Administration. This week alone, two federal agencies admitted to losing the personal information of a combined 171,000 individuals, failures that follow similar and still more grievous mistakes at numerous others.
With the five-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, there is simply no excuse for failing to give the American people the real security they deserve, with the tough AND smart policies needed to keep this nation safe. While the President has ignored this and other critical security risks, such as leaving the position of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Cyber Security unfilled, Democrats are fighting to take America in a new direction.
The text of the letter is below.
August 11, 2006
President George W. Bush
The Western White House
Crawford, TX 76638
I write with deep concern over the lack of attention your Administration continues to demonstrate for computer and cyber security in the federal government.
Repeated failures at numerous government agencies have caused the disclosure of the personal or medical information of government employees, members of the military, veterans, and ordinary Americans. Your Administration has not seen fit to respond, however, and for the last year the position of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Cyber Security has remained vacant. In fact, the previous official in charge of cyber security resigned in protest due to your Administration’s persistent failure to attend to this critical security issue. Shockingly, the acting Assistant Secretary has been a lawyer with no background in computer security who has questionable business ties to institutions that do business with the office he is supposed to manage.
Yesterday, the Department of Transportation reported that a laptop containing the personal information of approximately 133,000 drivers and pilots has gone missing. Three days ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that it had lost a computer with the personal information of as many as 38,000 veterans. These disclosures come on the heels of previous failures at the VA that put the information of 26.5 million active duty, reserve, and retired military at risk. Over the course of your Administration, similarly grievous cyber security failures have occurred at the State Department, the FBI, the Energy Department, the Agriculture Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, with our military in Afghanistan, and in the United States Navy.
This level of insecurity is unacceptable, and your Administration’s repeated failure to correct the problem must cease. To that end:
- Why has the position of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Cyber Security not been filled, and what steps are you taking to ensure that it will be appropriately staffed at the soonest possible time?
- What Administration-wide reviews are you undertaking and Administration-wide guidelines are you instituting to ensure these repeated failures do not continue?
- What studies have you directed your Administration to undertake to ensure that all previous data disclosures and security breaches are accounted for, and that the damage caused by each is minimized?
As we approach the fifth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, it is critical that the American people trust that their government is taking every possible step to protect them. Given the continued threat of al Qaeda and international terrorism and the volume of important personal and other information held by the federal government, your Administration’s cavalier attitude toward cyber security cannot continue. The security of the American people demands a new direction.
I hope you will direct your Administration to answer these questions quickly and thoroughly, and will give the security of American people the attention it deserves.
Senate Democratic Leader