Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cops learned late that Metro knew when laptops stolen

Davidson Election chief says all information passed along By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer Tennessean• February 16, 2008 On Jan. 2, as anxious Nashville voters worried they would become victims of identity theft, Metro police announced that they had learned the likely time of the theft of two laptop computers bearing the Social Security numbers of 337,000 Nashville voters. But workers of the Davidson County Election Commission and other Metro employees had known the likely time of the theft for a week, according to e-mails examined by The Tennessean. County Election Administrator Ray Barrett said the election commission didn't sit on any information, but he could not explain the seven-day lag. "We turned everything we knew over as quickly as we knew it," Barrett said. "I can't say when the police got it. Did I pick up the phone the first minute I knew it? No. But we gave them all that we knew." Employees of the election commission and Metro Information Technology Services had learned on Dec. 26 that a computer router stolen along with the laptops had been unplugged at 9:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the e-mails show. The time of the router going offline seemed to pinpoint the time of the break-in. But police didn't learn until Jan. 2, the day officers told the public, that the router had been unplugged at 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 24, police spokesman Don Aaron said this week. "Detective (Rick) Mavity did not know that until the day we put it out," Aaron said. "I remember thinking that was a pretty important fact. … We were speaking about a broad range of dates then." Machines recovered Sandy Cole, director of Metro Information Technology Services, was out of the office on Friday and did not respond to a message left on her voice mail. The computer router and two laptops were stolen from the election commission's offices on Second Avenue South. Police recovered the machines on Jan. 17, and tests indicated the sensitive data had not been viewed or copied. The e-mails show that a Metro information systems analyst sent a log for the router to Kathy Charlton-Deshotels, the election commission's information systems adviser, at 12:11 p.m. Dec. 26. About three hours later, another employee asked Charlton-Deshotels whether it was true that "some equipment" was missing. She wrote back at 3:28 p.m. that she had reported the serial number for a Cisco router to the police. "The great news is ... Don King was able to provide exactly when the Router was shut down according to his log apparently sometime on 12/24/2007 around 9:45 p.m.," Charlton-Deshotels wrote, copying the message to Barrett. Aaron said both Metro agencies cooperated with every request from police investigators. Ultimately, he said, the time it took for police to get the router information didn't harm the investigation, which turned on DNA analysis of blood left behind by the thief, who cut his hand during the burglary. Barrett said it was Charlton-Deshotels, in fact, who told police about the blood after officers missed it on an initial sweep of the election commission's offices. Posted by MS

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