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A Vets Group Is Suing DoD For Exposing Private Info That Leaves Troops Vulnerable To Scams
Vietnam Veterans of America has filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department, alleging its website containing veterans’ and servicemembers’ records violates privacy rights and leaves them susceptible to fraud.
The site, scra.dmdc.osd.mil, is a searchable database of servicemembers’ active-duty status, intended to be used by banks and other institutions to determine whether a servicemember is on active duty and thus entitled to certain protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, such as protection from eviction. But Vietnam Veterans of America contends the website is poorly protected and allows access to “anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose,” according to a prepared statement from the group. They argue it violates the Privacy Act.
The Pentagon does not comment on ongoing litigation, said Laura Ochoa, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The website is searchable using a veteran’s or servicemember’s last name and birthday or social security number. It contains troops’ dates of active-duty service, future dates of active duty and other service information.
“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a prepared statement. “[The Defense Department] is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet. [The Defense Department] has refused to properly secure veterans’ information. We are asking a court to order them to do so.”
Vietnam Veterans of America filed the complaint Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York. The group is being represented by three student attorneys at the University of Buffalo School of Law and Jonathan Manes, an assistant clinical professor at the law school.
The lawsuit names one Air Force veteran, Thomas Barden, who was targeted by scammers who used information from the Defense Department website, according to the complaint. Scammers used details of Barden’s military service from the site to gain his trust and con him into purchasing fraudulent computer software. Later, they took control of Barden’s computer, locking him out of his files until he paid a ransom. Barden refused to pay.
The complaint states Barden’s situation “is no aberration.”
“We expect the military to protect our private information, not to leave it unsecured,” Barden said in a statement. “The government should not be giving con artists easy access to information they can use to scam veterans like me.”
Vietnam Veterans of America is asking the Defense Department be ordered to implement security restrictions on the website and award at least $1,000 in damages to Barden, among other things.
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.