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Air Force under fire for losing highly classified documents

The Air Force was found to have lost two highly classified documents and failed to notify the proper authorities for several months, once again raising concerns over a lack of security within the military.

According to information revealed by Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the Democratic Party, Operational Plan 3600-06 and Operational Order 2500 were lost in December 2010 after the then-chief of Air Force Operations Command Lieutenant General Lee Young-man reviewed them. Lee is currently serving as the deputy chief of staff of the Air Force.

The documents Operational Plan 3600-06 and Operational Order 2500 are respectively second- and third-grade secrets, and are required to be kept in secure containers with two locking mechanisms.

However, the files were not stored according to regulation and on Dec. 29, several days after the files were first taken out, Lee’s orderly placed them along with others in a truck collecting documents to be destroyed.

The Air Force is said to have noticed that the documents were missing between April and June.

When internal investigations failed to locate the documents, the Air Force reported the developments to the Defense Security Command on Sept. 5, despite being required to report such developments to the counterintelligence division immediately.

An Air Force public relations official refused to comment on the issue.

In the ensuing investigation, the Defense Security Command found that the orderly was told by Lee’s former aide, a colonel, to shred the documents as he was cleaning out his office.

The orderly noticed that the files were marked as classified and considered whether they should be discarded, but decided to do place them in the collection truck without reporting in order to avoid creating extra work, a Defense Security Command official said.

The security command has concluded that information contained in the files has not been leaked.

However, the incident highlights lax information security and the military’s disregard for related regulations, a long-standing issue in the Korean military.

In 2009, contents of a second-grade secret document containing details about Korea and U.S. joint operations in wartime were leaked, and 73 pages of the same operational plans were leaked on the internet in 2007.

The number of information security breaches has also been on the rise.

According to data, 22 such incidents occurred during the first six months of the year. In comparison, the number came in at 29 for last year and 27 in 2009.

By Choi He-suk  (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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