By Jason Straziuso
May 8, 2006
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Computer storage devices containing sensitive
military information stolen from the U.S. base here and widely
available in shops last month are now hard to come by.
The U.S. military has increased security measures to prevent Afghan
workers from slipping the small portable flash drives into their
pockets in order to sell them to shops near the main American base in
Afghanistan, a U.S. spokesman and shopkeepers said Monday.
One shopkeeper said Afghan workers on the Bagram base are now
scrutinized carefully on their way out. "They even look in their
shoes," said the 40-year-old shopkeeper, who would only give his first
In April, dozens of used flash drives were available in markets here.
Drives viewed by The Associated Press had the Social Security numbers
of hundreds of soldiers, including four generals, and lists of troops
who completed nuclear, chemical and biological warfare training.
The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, reported that some
drives had classified military secrets, including maps, charts and
intelligence reports concerning the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Soon after those stories, the military went from shop to shop and
bought all the drives they could find, concentrating on the used
devices, which would be more likely to contain military information.
Most shopkeepers said Tuesday they no longer had any used drives for
Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a military spokesman, said the majority of
the drives the military bought were unused or had unclassified
information on them. He said the investigation into the thefts was
The military now has measures in place to better protect the storage
devices, particularly the ones with classified information on them,
Fitzpatrick said. He would not provide specifics.
"Could there still be stuff out there? Yes, there could be," he said,
noting there were 2,000 Afghan employees on the U.S. base. "But we
will continue to monitor the situation. Gray and black market business
is common in this country".
Shopkeepers said they still received goods from inside the U.S. base,
but not at the rate they once did.
One shopkeeper, who gave his name as Mohammed Agha, showed the AP
three used drives Monday that he said came from the base, though that
was impossible to verify. One of the drives had no information on it,
and the other two were password protected. Agha said that last month
he had dozens of used drives.
Agha did, however, show the AP a brand new Toshiba laptop computer he
said came from the base. It had most of its original packaging, and
scrawled in black marker on the outside of the computer box was:
"Mouse keeps freezing." He would not let the AP review the hard drive.
Also available at Agha's shop was a used iPod he said came from the
base and telephone calling cards from AT&T that said "military
exchange" on them.
Amruddin said shopkeepers "did a very good business" when the American
soldiers came through to buy their goods last month. He said he hasn't
had a used flash drive to sell since.
"A few people still bring small things from the base, but not like
before," he said.
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