A hard drive containing 1TB of data from the Clinton Administration - some of it sensitive information - had gone missing from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the agency said.
The hard drive contained more than 100,000 Social Security numbers and home addresses of numerous people who visited or worked at the White House. Included in the list is one of then-Vice President Al Gore's three daughters.
Also on the drive were details about the security procedures used by the US Secret Service at the White House, event logs, social gathering logs, political records and other information from the Clinton administration years.
A further statement from the NARA revealed that no original Clinton administration records were stored on the external hard drive, and the Archives has all of the original tapes and a backup hard drive containing the same information on the missing drive, meaning no data has been permanently lost.
The agency "takes very seriously the loss of an external hard drive" containing personal information, said the statement, released Tuesday.
National Archives staff has reported the missing hard drive to senior officials there, including the agency's inspector general. The agency also informed the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team at the Department of Homeland Security, congressional staff and a Clinton representative, the agency said.
According to the statement, the drive was being used for "routine re-copying" as part of a records preservation process. The small 2.5-pound Western Digital MY Book external hard drive contained information from about 113, 4mm tape cartridges and weighs about 2.5 pounds. The tapes contained "snapshots" of the contents of hard drives of employees leaving from the Executive Offices of the President and contained both federal and Presidential records.
The drive disappeared from a processing room at the National Archives and was last seen sometime between October 2008 and the first week of February; officials realised it was missing around March 24. It is still unclear whether the drive was misplaced or stolen.
The loss was discovered when the processing office apparently wanted to do an analysis on the drive to see if an automated tool could be used to validate the data it contained. The validating of data until then had been done by staff members who were reassigned to other projects in March.
The agency is preparing to notify people whose personal information was included on the hard drive, the National Archives said. In addition, the agency's Office of Inspector General has begun a criminal investigation.
The National Archives "immediately undertook a review of our internal controls" and has improved security processes, said the agency, which serves as the record keeper for the US government.
Representative Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the National Archives inspector general's office briefed committee staff Tuesday about its investigation into the data breach. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is also conducting a criminal investigation, Towns said in a statement.
"I am deeply concerned about this serious security breach at the National Archives," Towns said.
Committee members will get briefings into the ongoing investigations so they "can begin to understand the magnitude of the security breach and all of the steps being taken to recover the lost information," he added.No original Clinton administration records were stored on an external hard drive missing at the U.S. National Archives and Recording Administration (NARA), the agency said this afternoon.
The NARA has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the hard drive. The Archives has all of the original tapes and a backup hard drive containing the same information on the missing drive, meaning no data has been permanently lost.
Also, the NARA has added new physical controls over archived records, revamped office access measures and updated processes for handling personally identifiable information. A criminal investigation has also been launched by the NARA's office of the Inspector General and the FBI.