According to a Washington Post report, U.S. Army recruiters sent out an email containing sensitive personal information about hundreds of immigrants from countries like China and Russia, putting their lives in danger if the information gets into the wrong hands. The spreadsheet contained names, language skills, Social Security numbers and dates of enlistment. Between July of 2017 and January of 2018, the list was emailed out three times.
U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, stated in the Post: “If that list is floating out there, it would potentially be incredibly dangerous for (recruits). In some countries, it can even be a death sentence,” pointing to China and Russia in particular. The leak has already successfully been used by at least 12 people for an asylum claim. They cited imprisonment, torture and even death if ever deported to their autocratic homelands.
One of the recruits who filed for asylum said, “I was shocked to receive the spreadsheet. I surmised that Army personnel didn’t bother to look at the Excel attachment before forwarding it.”
The copy obtained by the Post contains a spreadsheet with data on 4,300 immigrant recruits, with around 900 Mandarin speakers and more than 25 Russian speakers. Interestingly, the Army, unwittingly, leaked the sensitive information to recruits it deemed a “security risk.”
Col. Michael Indovina, a spokesman for Army Training and Doctrine Command, “ensured corrective actions were taken,” after an investigation by recruiting officials. He added: “We acknowledged the severity of this inadvertent disclosure of sensitive personal information. Upon notification of this release, the command immediately reported the disclosure. While we determined that the risk of further disclosure was minimal, swift actions were taken by the command to mitigate a further release.”
No further statement was made by the Army.
The affected recruits are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) recruitment program, which has rotated over 10,000 recruits into the military with the promise of fast-tracked naturalization. The recruits provide the military with linguistic, medical and engineering skills, which is much-needed.
In 2017, however, the program was closed by the Department of Defense (DOD) after implementing extra security measures paralyzed the background check process. The DOD cited extra security risks posed by MAVNI recruits. Nevertheless, according to a RAND report, there were no security concerns, and MAVNI recruits performed better than enlisted soldiers.