The Social Security numbers of Army recipients of the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross were inadvertently posted online by a Pentagon contractor, making them available to the public until they were discovered by a Vietnam veteran who researches military medal awards.
The Social Security numbers of 31 winners of the military's top two awards for valor in combat were posted by a contractor conducting medals research for the Pentagon.
The information was removed Friday after the Pentagon learned of the breach through the efforts of Doug Sterner of Alexandria, Va., a Bronze Star winner who has spent 14 years researching medals.
"I was stunned — I'm very upset this information got out there," he said.
Sterner, 62, said Google searches of several medal winners' names led him to the link, where the Social Security numbers were included along with names, ranks, units and brief narratives of battlefield heroics in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Erik Muendel, chief executive officer of Brightline Interactive, an Alexandria, Va., company that has compiled information on medal recipients for the Pentagon, said he didn't know how the Social Security numbers ended up online.
He said the company was supposed to receive only unclassified information.
"We are investigating exactly how it occurred," he said. "We're getting a lot of heat over this."
Sterner said the Social Security numbers appeared to have been available for some time. He said soldiers whose Social Security numbers were published ranged in rank from colonel to private. No Social Security numbers were published for Silver Star winners.