Federal Hack Endangered At Least 25 Million People, and Counting

Reuters/Kacper Pempel

The hack into the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management keeps getting worse. This time, it’s courtesy of sources that told ABC News the total number of people affected by Cyber Pearl Harbor – including current and former government employees, and people who never worked for the government at all – is now estimated at some 25 million.

That’s more than six times the 4.2 million initially acknowledged by the Obama Administration, and more than double what early skeptics who knew the Administration was concealing the true extent of the damage suspected.

According to the revised government estimate, some 21.5 million Social Security numbers were stolen by the hackers. The Office of Personnel Management has announced it will pay for credit-monitoring and identity-theft services for all of them. If a significant number of the pilfered identities are used for criminal activity, the financial chaos unleashed will be devastating.

“It is a huge deal,” said FBI Director James Comey to the Senate on Wednesday, becoming a strong contender for the Understatement of the Year award.

As ABC News notes, “some U.S. officials and lawmakers” – by which they mean “Republicans” – have been accusing the Obama Administration of concealing the full scope of the attack with a variety of rhetorical tricks, including treating the majority of the data breach as an entirely separate incident that needed to be investigated for a few weeks, until the news cycle rolled on:

“I’m sure you will probably obfuscate, [but] when will the American people know … the extent of this penetration?” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked OPM Director Katherine Archuleta at a hearing on Capitol Hill two weeks ago.

Despite mounting public pressure and push-back from top FBI officials during closed-door briefings, senior OPM officials continued to say they couldn’t offer even an estimate until they determined exactly how many people were affected by the “separate but related incident.”

As part of a “time-consuming analysis,” investigators had to ensure they weren’t double-counting people whose personal information may have been stored in more than one system breached, Archuleta said two weeks ago.

Investigators ultimately determined that 19.7 million applicants for security clearances had their files stolen, and information related to nearly 2 million relatives and other associates had their personal information taken, sources said. That’s in addition to the 4.2 current and former government employees whose personnel files were compromised, sources said.

Thus ends another foot-dragging, stonewalling exercise in media spin by this hideously inept Administration, which will now proceed to fire no one, hold nobody accountable, and hope the American people are distracted enough by other events to forget about the whole thing.


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