While working on another investigative story, News 5 discovered hundreds, perhaps thousands of files containing personal information, dumped along a dirt track in Fountain, Colorado. The records, originating from Fort Carson, contain information that could potentially put thousands of soldiers at risk for identity theft and more. News 5 found names, social security numbers, financial records, and details of sexual assaults, hate crimes and other alleged crimes committed by former soldiers.
Our investigative team spent hours poring over those abandoned documents, and found information detailing investigations into soldiers conducted on behalf of the Department of Defense. The soldiers named had been accused of a variety of wrongdoings during their time at Fort Carson. We also had access to records of disciplinary action taken under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, such as a service member’s failure to pay his debts, the results of investigations into alleged hate crimes, drug dealing, and at least one rape by a service member on a civilian woman.
Information we found in some of the documents extended beyond soldiers. Some files contain personal information of witnesses and victims, including results from medical exams; in one case, results from a woman's gynecological exam.
After making that initial discovery, News 5 contacted Fort Carson's Public Affairs Office. The army immediately sent out three Special Agents from the Criminal Investigation Division, or CID. The agents were quick to notice that some of the documents should have been disposed of within two years. However, the documents we found were dated back to 2013 and even 2009.
Fort Carson Public Affairs Officer, Dee McNutt, told News 5 that the papers we uncovered were irresponsibly dumped, noting, "the information that's in the papers... has personally identifiable information on it."
Digging deeper, we contacted some of the people whose names appeared in the mess of dumped paperwork. They were not happy. One caller, who wanted to remain anonymous, called it a "complete, utter misuse of classified information.” Another said they are “concerned that it could have gotten in the wrong hands.” The army says it will contact every person whose name and information appeared in those files, and has created a contact line for any person who feels they may have been impacted by this incident.
When asked about where the investigation now stands, following our discovery last Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Brown, a Fort Carson spokesperson, tells us that military police investigators have identified a person of interest. He said, “…it's a Department of Defense employee, but beyond that I can't speculate in an on-going investigation." The army confirms that the person of interest is not a contractor.
As to how those sensitive files could have been dumped as they were, Brown says it “isn't something that happens. It's not a failure of the system. Something like this has never happened before and we're doing everything in our powers to make sure it doesn't happen again."
A woman, who asked to be identified only as “Terry”, is one of the civilians impacted by this incident. She tells News 5 she is concerned about who may have had access to her personal information, but worried as well, about a very private moment in her life. Terry works as a paralegal and says her next move could be legal action against the army.
Congressman Doug Lamborn sits on the House Armed Services Committee. His office says it is keeping a close eye on the outcome of the army's investigation into this matter.
Fort Carson released the following statement Wednesday night:
"On September 14th, Army records containing personally identifiable information and personal health information were discovered in a field in Fountain. All known records involved in this incident have been recovered and secured by military police investigators and the investigation remains ongoing.
Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division take this loss very seriously. Military Police Investigators have identified a suspect in this case and all indications are that this is an isolated incident. Fort Carson officials are making every effort to contact personnel affected by this loss. The records pertain to legal actions in the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team between the years of 2008 and 2014 and were scheduled for destruction. We fully understand our responsibilities in safeguarding personal information and will make all efforts to assist impacted individuals. If you feel your information may have been involved, please contact the Commanding General's Hotline through the web form at http://www.carson.army.mil/cg-hotline.php or by phone at (719) 526-2677."