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U.S. Probes Stolen Files in Afghanistan

April 12, 2006

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) _ The U.S. military said Wednesday it was investigating the sale of computer files with seemingly sensitive military data stolen from inside its headquarters in Afghanistan.

The flash-memory drives were taken by some of the hundreds of Afghans working as janitors, office staff and interpreters at the Bagram base, according to a shopkeeper outside the base who was selling them. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears he would be arrested.

Four of the drives, which connect to a computer’s USB port and also are called pen, thumb or key drives, reviewed by The Associated Press on Wednesday contained personal letters and biographies of soldiers, lists of troops who completed nuclear, chemical and biological warfare training and the Social Security numbers of four U.S. generals and dozens of other officers.

News of the security breach was first reported by the Los Angeles Times on Monday. The paper said its reporter reviewed files containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses.

The shopkeeper showed a plastic bag containing about 15 flash drives and said they were on sale for between $20 and $50, depending on their memory capacity. He said he was not interested in the data stored on them.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Mike Cody said the matter was being investigated and that the military takes ``operational security seriously.″

``We will not comment in detail on these reports, but the circumstances are being reviewed,″ he said. ``More information will be provided as it becomes available.″

Military investigators Wednesday were scouring the market in search of the drives.

Asked if they have found any, one soldier, who declined to give his name, said, ``We are looking. That’s all I can say.″

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