U.S. Army Special Forces veterans and possibly their family members were among the millions of Americans whose personal data was stolen this year in cyberattacks on the Office of Personnel Management.
Letters have been going out for at least three weeks to veterans of the elite force, letting them know that their Social Security numbers and other information provided for prior background investigations were stolen, according to a retired Special Forces master sergeant who provided Military.com with a copy of the letter on condition of anonymity.
"It's disgusting that we risk our lives to defend this nation and that the government cannot defend our most sensitive records or our families records," the retired senior noncommissioned officer said.
U.S. intelligence officials say the hacks were carried out by China.
In response to Military.com's request for comment, OPM provided a link to its original announcement and guidance on the breach. The office in June announced it had discovered two hacks affecting some 21.5 million Americans, including military personnel and veterans.
OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, who on Nov. 10 was nominated by President Obama for a four-year term as the agency's permanent director, revealed in the recent letter to the retired Special Forces master sergeant that her own information had been hacked.
"As someone whose information was also taken, I share your concern and frustration and want you to know we are working hard to help those impacted by this incident," she said.
Because of the breach, the federal government is going to provide everyone whose data was stolen, as well as their minor children, with identify theft protection, including credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and identity restoration services for three years.
She said the identify protection services have already been put in place.
Government officials at the time said the second of two hacks targeted military records, including sensitive information provided by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances. The forms believed taken at the time included Standard Form 86, which require applicants to detail sensitive personal information about mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies, The Associated Press reported.
In the letter given to Military.com, OPM stated, "If you applied for a position or submitted a background investigation form, the information in our records may include your name, Social Security number, address, date and place of birth, residency, educational and employment history, personal foreign travel history, information about immediate family as well as business and personal acquaintances and other information used to conduct and adjudicate your background."
For family members listed on a spouse or co-habitant's form, the information available to hackers would include name, Social Security number, address, date, place of birth and, in some cases, citizenship information, according to the letter.
The names of contacts and relatives potentially expose any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion, the AP reported.