The TSP hack attack: Where are we?

A favorite game in political (that’s “p” as sometimes paranoid) Washington is what did you know and when did you know it? Under the rules of the game, the cover-up is almost always worse than the crime itself. The rule of thumb, from the Watergate era, is follow the money, although people rarely do that. Following the money can be tricky. Also complicated. Especially in the computer age with multinational players.

The topic (plot) du jour for some federal workers and retirees is the hack attack on their Thrift Savings Plan. It apparently happened in July 2011, although we don’t know when the FBI found out about it. Or how. The FBI informed the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (it runs the TSP) in April. The board set up procedures so that people (approximately 123,000) whose data had been compromised could have their credit monitored for a year.

The TSP is a big deal. It has 4.5 million accounts and is worth about $313 billion.

It has irked some people that the TSP didn’t immediately contact certain senators (or, uh, reporters for that matter) to report the breach. It has irked some people that the FBI waited too long after it found out about the hack-in to tell the TSP.


Could it be that they know what they are doing, even though it’s not the way Hollywood would handle it?

Last week, the Office of Personnel Management had its regular annual conference, this time in Dallas. Lots of important people from the HR community were there. One of them was Greg Long, the TSP’s executive director. He was scheduled as a speaker.

One of the participants said that when Long came on stage, he moved away from the lectern, stood center stage and said the equivalent of “fire away”. The questions came, including at least one from someone who was one of the 123,000 who were hacked. So what did Long say? Let’s find out.

Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show, Long has agreed to run though what happened, who knew what when and, to the extent anybody knows, what’s next? Bear in mind this is an active FBI investigation. Some of the data may involve the accounts of FBI agents.

They are playing it close to the vest for what may very well be a very good reason. You don’t tell the bad guys when you are closing in. You don’t, darn it, (unlike Criminal Minds) hold a press conference to flush out the bad guy or guys.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


By Jack Moore

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