Right Hooks

Database Hack at OPM Even Bigger Than Thought

Dan Gilmore · Jun. 23, 2015
Katherine Archuleta

The Office of Personnel Management has officially said only 4.2 million federal employees were affected by the database intrusion by China. But CNN is reporting that number is much, much higher, as the FBI Director told the Senate recently that an estimated 18 million Americans were affected. This number includes former and current government employees and even people who only applied for government work.

Let’s be clear: The Obama administration’s lack of leadership contributed to this intrusion and its lack of leadership will make the situation worse. In a June 17 press conference, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that Obama is standing behind OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, who just happened to be National Political Director for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. “Director Archuleta, in one of her first priorities that she identified after taking that job, was to upgrade the OPM computer network, particularly their cyber defenses,” Earnest said. “And this is obviously an ongoing process, and the president does have confidence that she is the right person for the job.” Archuleta had a job, but she didn’t do the job. Now some of the most sensitive employee data in the nation is in Chinese hands.

After this hack, Obama should project grit and resolve, but by the way he’s running damage control, he only hopes the problem will fade. Peggy Noonan described a leadership crisis President Ronald Reagan faced in 1981 when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization illegally went on strike. In response, Reagan gave the air traffic controllers 48 hours to return to work, but he had to fire 11,400 of them in the end. “Foreign governments, from friends and allies to adversaries and competitors, saw that the new president could make tough decisions, pay the price, and win the battle,” Noonan wrote. “The Soviets watched like everybody else. They observed how the new president handled a national-security challenge. They saw that his rhetorical toughness would be echoed in tough actions. They hadn’t known that until this point. They knew it now.”

In other words, Obama could have prevented the hack — or at least lessened the effect of the attack — by being a strong leader, making tough decisions, following through with his promises and nominating qualified leaders. But his character is only emboldening enemies.

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