24 June 2011

ARMY TIMES: Arlington records abandoned in storage unit...

ArmyTIMES; US/1; ATTN: Fox/2; ADD/2;TSP/2;  SubMIND/3; US/94; US/12; CID/2; US/201; JAG/1; US/5; NSNS/1; ANG/1; VS/[redacted]; YQ/G-1; US/121; Inshallah: GrandPA and DAD…

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 23, 2011 15:27:43 EDT

A criminal investigation is underway after 69 boxes of Arlington National Cemetery burial records were discovered June 10 in an abandoned storage unit in Northern Virginia.

The discovery, made public at a House hearing on Thursday, raises privacy issues and is another sign of management problems at the Army-run cemetery.

Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s veterans disability and memorial affairs panel, who disclosed the records discovery, said the boxes include copies of grave cards used to record burials that appear to have been given to a contractor who was supposed to help create a database of burials.

What happened to the contractor and why the records were left in a public storage unit is unclear, Runyan said, adding that the subcommittee was notified when the records were found.

However, he described himself as “less pleased with the lack of follow up and public disclosure.”
Kathryn Condon, executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, said the Army learned of the misplaced records when the owner of the public storage facility called a cemetery hotline. Army criminal investigators seized the files, and a determination was made there was a “low” risk of privacy concerns because little personal information appeared on the cards, she said.

Grave cards contain Social Security numbers and other identifying information that generally would be closely guarded, Condon said. In this instance, however, the Social Security numbers belonged to people who are dead, and thus at negligible risk for identity theft.

“The first time we knew the records were stored off-site was when we got a call from the new owner of the storage facility,” Condon said.

No effort has been made to contact families of the veterans whose records were found, and she is not sure how that could be done. In many cases, the next of kin of the veterans “are no longer with us,” she said.
Because of the ongoing criminal investigation, Condon declined to answer additional questions.
“At multiple levels, this causes a lot of problems,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

Runyan said he believes new Army management at Arlington is showing progress but “it is not enough to fix all of the problems.”

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