I’m going to try real hard to remain objective about this data breach and trust FEMA when they say they had nothing to do with further victimization of Hurricane Katrina survivors. It’s going to take a whole lot of effort, though, given FEMA’s track record.
No matter who’s responsible for the screw up, the fact remains that the personal information of almost 17,000 Katrina survivors somehow ended up posted on the Internet.
FEMA maintains that MOST (emphasis is mine; qualification is theirs) of the information pertaining to aid applicants from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas was appropriately released to an unidentified agency of an unidentified state, and that that unnamed state agency is responsible for posting the data on, not one but TWO privately-owned websites.
(Is it just me? Doesn’t their saying MOST of the information was appropriately released beg the question of which information was “inappropriately” released? Or, how did it happen that some of the information was “inappropriately" released? Or, will anyone at FEMA ever take responsibility for the never-ending debacle that is post-Katrina assistance?
Could it get any worse for these 16,857 people who sought assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency? The answer is “you bet it could”. Now that their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information has been made available to almost anyone in the world, there’s a pretty good chance that at least some of these folks will have their identities stolen.
An only partially unrelated side note
The February edition of Vanity Fair will feature an oral history of President George Bush’s administration, with these comments from Matthew Dowd, Bush's pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign:
'Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter.'
(Oops! Looks like my objectivity is "mostly" blown.)