The Social Security numbers of some of the nation's most highly decorated Army war heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan were posted this week by a civilian contractor on a publicly available website.
The Army has launched an investigation to find out how the privacy of its heroes was violated.
Of more than 500 names and profiles on the site, 31 contain Social Security numbers. Six are Medal of Honor recipients, two of whom are alive. There are also Social Security numbers for 25 soldiers who earned the Distinguished Service Cross, 22 of whom are living.
Army spokesman George Wright told The Washington Times on Friday the service has launched an investigation to determine how the Army data was handled. He said the contractor was contacted and told to remove the site.
"We take this matter seriously," Mr. Wright said.
By Friday evening, The Times could still access the Web address for the list of heroes, their accomplishments in battle, and, in 31 cases, the Social Security numbers.
The site was discovered by a veteran doing research on war heroes.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta earned the Medal of Honor, presented by President Obama, for saving the lives of comrades in Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. He left the Army last year and is attending college.
The Times provided him a copy of his data on the website.
"My reaction is 'What a bummer!'" he said in an email. "Our Socials are not public information for a reason. I don't know why someone would make them public."
1st Sgt. Leroy Petry is the Army's lone Medal of Honor recipient on active duty. A Ranger, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during a firefight in Afghanistan.
Contracted by The Times and shown the data, Sgt. Petry said he immediately contracted Army Special Operations Command.
"It's disappointing. You always have the fear of fraud," he said. "The bigger question is how did they get it and is the person who released it being held responsible."
Doug Sterner, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has been urging the Pentagon to set up a database of citations for valor in the war on terror. He is the curator of the Hall of Valor website on MilitaryTimes.com.
What struck Mr. Sterner is how complete the database is. "It's an impressive piece of work," he told The Times. "This is the single most complete and accurate compilation of Army awards I have found since World War II."
The Army Times reported the site was created by an employee of Brightline Interactive, which is helping the Army's public affairs office build a "Gallery of Heroes" to be displayed at conventions.
Before the Army Times story was posted, The Washington Times contacted Brightline. A man who identified himself as the chief operating officer denied any knowledge of the website and suggested it was from another company.
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