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      US Blunder: Jerusalem Consulate Sold Documents in Auction

      The United States Consulate in Jerusalem unknowingly sold classified documents contained in file cabinets that were auctioned off for $42.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 1/29/2009, 1:11 PM

      Israel News Photo: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

      The United States Consulate three years ago unknowingly sold documents to a woman from a Jerusalem suburb who bought file cabinets for NIS 166 ($42) plus tax at a U.S. Consulate auction. The documents contain classified information, some of which was labeled secret but not top secret information. The Consulate has been investigating how the blunder occurred.


      Some of the thousands of US Consulate documents left in file cabinets which were auctioned off to an Israeli civilian

      Paula, who requested her last name be withheld from publication, said that she discovered the documents in two cabinets after breaking the locks on the drawers, most of which were empty. She explained that she found thousands of papers mostly relating to correspondence, funding and financial information, including social security numbers, of army personnel.

      "They are lucky that the information fell into my hands, because someone else could have used them for identify theft," Paula told Israel National News.

      Other information in the documents includes notes that a U.S. Marine soldier wrote to his superior after meeting a female IDF soldier. His wrote down her name and details about her family, including the fact that they came from Spain and where her father worked.

      A Consulate spokeswoman expressed anger that Paula did not return the documents immediately because "they are the property of the U.S. government."

      Paula said that she intended to return the documents, but only after information of the slip-up would be made public in the United States.

      "I did not want simply to let the State Department say it was a mistake and be done with it because the same thing could happen again," she added.

      Both Israel National News and Fox News made contact with Paula and went over the documents. The story was held until Wednesday, and U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that "an investigation is underway."

      After the media contacted the Consulate to ask about the incident, American officials threatened Paula with legal action if she did not return the documents immediately, although they were in the file cabinets that she had bought.

      She said she had no intention of keeping them, and the Consulate has confirmed that the documents have been returned.