FEMA's 'Unfortunate' Privacy Disaster

April 23, 2007

By Al Kamen


Sometimes when they are not busy dealing with natural disasters, FEMA folks just make up their own. We got this letter the other day from Glenn M. Cannon, assistant administrator in the Disaster Operations Directorate.

"Dear Disaster Generalist," he wrote to about 2,300 people on April 16, "an unfortunate administrative processing error at FEMA . . . has resulted in the printing of Social Security numbers on the outside address labels of Disaster Assistance Employee (DAE) . . . reappointment letters."

The mail distribution center mishandled the letters, he said, creating this "unintentional release of Privacy Act information."

Once it figured out what happened, FEMA sprang into action. Everyone affected will get "identity theft protection for one year free of charge," Cannon said.

But wait! That's not all! "Each affected [employee] will receive a personal telephone call to apologize and explain the actions FEMA will take to minimize the impact," he said. And from now on employees will be given personal identification numbers so the agency won't need to use Social Security numbers.

Employees who've already lost their homes to identity thieves can avail themselves of some fine used and not-used trailers . . . (Okay, we made that up.)

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