May 31, 2006 in Nation/World

VA deputy quitting after theft of data

The Spokesman-Review
 

A Veterans Affairs deputy assistant secretary who didn’t immediately notify top officials about a theft of 26.5 million veterans’ personal information is stepping down, citing missteps that led to the security breach.

Michael H. McLendon, deputy assistant secretary for policy who supervised the VA data analyst who lost the data, said he would relinquish his high-level post on Friday.

The data analyst also will be dismissed while the acting head of the division in which he worked, Dennis Duffy, has been placed on administrative leave, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said Tuesday.

The resignation comes as the VA is under attack for a three-week delay in publicizing the burglary in what has become one of the nation’s largest security breaches. During hearings last week, Nicholson said he was “mad as hell” that employees did not notify him of the May 3 burglary until May 16; the public was told on May 22.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Democrats endorse Spitzer candidacy

Riding an unprecedented surge of confidence within their ranks, Democrats on Tuesday chose state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as their candidate for governor, tapping the nationally known prosecutor to help them retake control of the state after a dozen years in the GOP’s shadow.

After a voice vote, Spitzer delivered an acceptance speech in which he vowed to challenge the status quo in the state Capitol, comparing some of Albany’s dysfunctions to the abuses he confronted on Wall Street.

The nomination of Spitzer and his running mate, state Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, marked another stage in what Democrats believe will be a transformative election year with early polls indicating the party will easily defeat Republican contenders at the state level.

Spitzer said his campaign would focus on reducing property taxes, providing health care for the uninsured and addressing education funding inequities.

Washington

FBI’s DNA database will aid coroners

The FBI plans to use its national DNA database system to help identify not only criminals, but also tens of thousands of unidentified bodies held by local coroners and medical examiners.

A new computer program planned for this fall will compare genetic profiles taken from unidentified bodies or body parts to DNA submitted by family members of missing persons. Biological relatives sometimes have similar, though not identical, DNA profiles. The FBI will look for near-matches.

The FBI’s move comes as other branches of the Justice Department are launching programs to identify thousands of murder, accident and other victims identified only as John or Jane Doe. The International Homicide Investigators Association, based in Fredericksburg, Va., estimates there are more than 40,000 unidentified dead nationally.

Thomas Callaghan, director of the FBI’s national DNA database program, said the FBI is in “a very good position” to identify remains through family members because of the agency’s small but growing database of missing persons and unidentified remains, plus its experience in using computers to match DNA.


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