[ISN] Missing: A Laptop of DEA Informants

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Tue Jun 01 2004 - 01:28:23 PDT

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    [Lost or stolen, I can never figure out how this happens so often, I'm
    so protective of my laptop, and while its a $600 refurbished Thinkpad,
    the information on board is worth 100's of times more. You'd have to
    turn me into a bloody pulp before I'd give mine up.  - WK]
    Michael Isikoff
    June 7 2004 issue 
    Federal investigators are frantically trying to determine what
    happened to a missing laptop computer that contains sensitive data on
    as many as 100 Drug Enforcement Administration investigations around
    the country, including a wealth of information about many of the
    agency's confidential informants, NEWSWEEK has learned.
    The computer was first reported stolen three weeks ago by an auditor
    for the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, which was
    conducting a routine review of DEA payments to informants. The auditor
    told police the laptop had been stolen from the trunk of his car while
    he was at a bookstore coffee shop in suburban Washington. But when
    investigators confronted the auditor last week and questioned his
    account, the auditor changed his story, saying he had accidentally
    damaged the computer - then destroyed it and threw it away in a
    Dumpster to avoid embarrassment. Investigators are seeking to verify
    his new account.
    Either way, DEA agents are "livid," said one senior law-enforcement
    official who noted that, although the computer didn't contain
    informants' names, it included more than 4,000 pages of case-file
    data, including enough details about the informants' work that it
    could allow drug traffickers to figure out who they are. "This is a
    sin in our business," the official said. The incident is a particular
    embarrassment for Inspector General Glenn Fine's office, which has
    taken on an expanded watchdog role under Attorney General John
    Ashcroft. Only two years ago, the IG issued a blistering report
    criticizing Justice agencies, including the DEA and the FBI, for
    failure to maintain adequate controls on sensitive items - including
    their laptop computers.
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