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Personal info of Katrina victims leaked

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. government said private details of 16,857 Louisianans who sought refuge from Hurricane Katrina in Texas were mistakenly published on the Web.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed in a statement that names, Social Security numbers and phone numbers of the 16,857 people who applied for benefits were published on two privately run Web sites as a result of an "unauthorized breach of private information," The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Wednesday.

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FEMA said the information leak is being investigated and the agency currently believes a Texas state agency is responsible for leaking the information.

"FEMA believes that most of the applicant information posted on the Web sites was properly released by FEMA to a state agency which requested and received this information to fulfill routine needs following Hurricane Katrina," the agency said.

The Texas agency and the Web sites that published the information have not been released by FEMA.

The federal agency said that while no identity thefts have been reported as a result of the information leak, it is offering free 18-month subscriptions to an "identify theft protection service" to affected applicants to protect them from the crime.

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