Search continues for missing NARA hard drive

Friday - 7/31/2009, 7:23am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

In the process of converting Clinton-era White House documents to a new electronic storage system, the National Archives turns to popular portable digital storage devices. Then, one of those portable hard drives disappears. And a House committee gets a progress report on the investigation.

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By Melinda Zosh and Max Cacas

The National Archives and Records Administration is continuing work to solve a mystery: What happened to a missing portable computer hard drive? Yesterday, a House subcommittee got an update on the investigation into the incident.

This all began in March of this year, when a portable computer drive went missing at the National Archives and Records Administration, according to Congressman William Lacy Clay (D.-Mo.), chairman of the House Information Policy, Census, and National Archives subcommittee, a branch of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The missing hard drive, which is a backup copy, contained the entire computer files of 113 White House employees. These files were downloaded and stored on a hard drive and later transferred to a backup hard drive that is now missing. Classified documents, and personally identifiable information of former Clinton administration staff and visitors to the White House are now exposed.

Adrienne Thomas, the acting Archivist of the United States, says that the investigation into what happened with the missing hard drive is continuing.

Because of the extremely large amount of data on the drive, over 8.7 million individual files, we do not yet know the total number of individuals whose privacy has been affected. NARA has taken steps to improve internal security within our electronic records division. First, we have installed electronic badge access to the preservation rooms within suite 5300. Only those with badges authorized for the processing room may enter the processing room. All others must sign a log, and be accompanied by a person authorized to be in the processing room.

Thomas went on to detail an audit of "all electronic media containing personally identifiable information", and says steps have been taken to store these files in a special, secure area. And she says NARA staff is getting additional training on how to handle sensitive information,.

The investigation into what happened to the missing hard drive continues, she added.

Following the hearing, FederalNewsRadio caught up with Chairman Clay who believes the problem with NARA's missing hard drive is "symptomatic to this new technology." He points to the ease with which people download popular music these days, and suggests that the ease of simply leaving a hard disk somewhere could have led to its theft.

Clay says he hopes to hold additional hearings on the missing Archives hard drive as news from the investigation warrants.

On the Web:

House - Subcommittee Hearing on: "National Archives and Records Administration Organizational Issues."

National Archives National Archives Status Update on Loss of Clinton Administration Hard Drive (press release)

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