Secret Service laptop stolen in New York
A laptop belonging to a female Secret Service agent was stolen from her unattended vehicle in Brooklyn, NY on Thursday. The device contained sensitive information, including the floor plans for Trump Tower, and other "national security" information according to a spokesman for the Secret Service.
The Secret Service also confirmed that the laptop was agency-issued. While no classified information was apparently on the device, access to secret information could be gained through the computer.
Two of the sources said that some items stolen from the vehicle — including a set of lapel pins that allow agents entry into security perimeters around dignitaries protected by the Secret Service — had been recovered in the vicinity soon after the break-in.
One person who is in contact with the Secret Service said that an agency-issued radio used for secure closed-circuit communications also was among the stolen items, but the person did not know whether it had been recovered.
The Secret Service declined to comment on the pins or the radio.
But, in a statement, the agency said that it is investigating the laptop theft with help from the New York City Police Department. The statement stressed that agency-issued laptops “contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption” that prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing their contents.
A law enforcement official who has worked with the Secret Service said that, in order to access agency computers, users need an authorized electronic identity card and at least two different passwords.
The closed-circuit agency radios are encrypted, said the person who is in contact with the Secret Service. Nonetheless, the incident provoked alarm among law enforcement officials.
One official characterized as highly sensitive the information on the laptop about the physical layout of Trump Tower, where President Donald Trump’s family maintains a residence and the Trump Organization and campaign maintain offices.
The official said the theft of the laptop feeds the perception that that there’s a “culture of complacency among the agents as to the gravitas of the mission.”
The missing laptop is the latest embarrassment for the agency, after recent revelations about an intruder who managed to jump the White House fence and evade apprehension for 15 minutes, as well as an investigation into two agents who reportedly are under investigation for taking photos with Trump’s sleeping grandson.
The New York police say that they will be able to ID the thief from surveillance video near the scene of the crime. But this raises the troubling question that if the police can find the perp, won't foreign intelligence agencies also be able to track him down?
Unless you believe the New York city traffic cams are unhackable, the Secret Service must assume that the identity of the thief could become known to spies who may have great interest in what's on that laptop. While a common criminal wouldn't be able to gain access to classified information, if the laptop was in the hands of a sophisticated intelligence agency, that might not be the case.
Such a scenario is not likely, but possible. As for the "complacency" of the Secret Service, there is no doubt that since responsibility for the agency was removed from the Treasury Department and placed in the Department of Homeland Security, the performance of the agency has gone downhill. Numerous scandals involving drinking on the job, security breaches, prostitutes, and lapses like the most recent incident involving a disturbed person climbing the White House fence and wandering around the grounds for 15 minutes, reveal an agency in crisis.
Will it take a horrible tragedy to reform the Secret Service? We can only hope not.