Panel to Probe IRS Employee Who Took Data Home

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., on Tuesday issued a statement saying, “In the past, the IRS has released personal taxpayer information to the public, and has not been able to effectively prevent and detect identity theft. " Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., on Tuesday issued a statement saying, “In the past, the IRS has released personal taxpayer information to the public, and has not been able to effectively prevent and detect identity theft. " J. Scott Applewhite/AP

This story has been updated.

A House committee chairman is investigating a recent report that an Internal Revenue Service worker took home data on 20,000 agency employees on a thumb drive.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., on Tuesday issued a statement saying, “In the past, the IRS has released personal taxpayer information to the public, and has not been able to effectively prevent and detect identity theft. This latest report is concerning. The IRS has repeatedly broken the American people’s trust, and the Ways and Means Committee will take a thorough look into this incident.”

The same day, the IRS published a statement saying employees had been informed of the only recently discovered data security breach. “The information at issue, which we presently believe dates back to 2007 or earlier, included IRS employee-related information and not general taxpayer information or records,” the agency said. “The incident stems from an employee's use of an unencrypted thumb drive and does not involve a third-party breach of any of our systems. This was not a problem with our network or systems, but rather an isolated instance. “

The statement said the IRS is currently working cooperatively with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on next steps. “At this point, we have no direct evidence to indicate this personal information has been used for identity theft or other inappropriate uses,” the agency continued. “The IRS strongly believes this situation could not occur in today’s environment, because starting in 2008 we added automatic encryption for any external portable devices attached to our systems.”

Commissioner John Koskinen in an email to staff called the event “an isolated incident” that briefly exposed Social Security numbers and names and addresses of employees online. He also said that the current and prior employees, who worked in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, were being contacted. 

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