Sources: Malheur data breach concerns Fish & Wildlife

Militia took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2, 2016

An American flag hangs on the sign at the front entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
An American flag hangs on the sign at the front entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A data breach by militia at the Malheur Wildlife National Refuge has led the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ask some of its employees to relocate from their homes until the situation is resolved, sources told KOIN 6 News.

While Ammon Bundy has told reporters that his group has not accessed computer files, a reporter for OPB witnessed them doing just that.

About the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Because the group is believed to have accessed the personal information — including home addresses — of employees, some employees have been advised to stay elsewhere.

“There is not a stated threat,” one source said. “This is out of an abundance of caution.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been in close communication and planning with its employees to ensure that they and their families remain safe,” Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Megan Nagel told KOIN 6 News. They are “working with law enforcement and taking appropriate security precautions,” she said.

“As folks from out of town arrived over the past few weeks, harassment of our employees has increased,” Nagel told KOIN 6 News.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward released this lengthy statement late Monday afternoon:

Buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are seen near Burns, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters are occupying the refuge to object to a prison sentence for local ranchers for burning federal land. (AP Photo/Rebecca Boone)
Buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are seen near Burns, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters are occupying the refuge to object to a prison sentence for local ranchers for burning federal land. (AP Photo/Rebecca Boone)

Concerns about employee safety ratcheted up after several employees reported what were described as “uncomfortable incidences” in which unknown individuals from outside the Burns community have driven slowly past or idled in front of their homes, observing the residents and their activities.

Additionally, several employees told officials they have been confronted by self-identified militia members while the employees were grocery shopping, running errands and just trying to lead their day-to-day lives.

Some of these confrontations have occurred while employees were with their families.

“While not direct physical threats, these activities are clearly designed to intimidate,” Nagel told KOIN 6 News.

Nagel said it was a combination of the data breach along with other considerations, including the public confrontations and the ramping up of rhetoric online, that led to officials to taking action to guarantee the safety of their employees.

The Malheur Wildlife National Refuge remains closed until the situation is resolved.

Fences removed by militia

In a statement from the US Fish and Wildlife, spokesperson Jason Holm said enormous effort has been made over the past 100 years to restore a devastated landscape at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“Removing fences, damaging any Refuge property, or unauthorized use of equipment would be additional unlawful actions by the illegal occupiers.  Any movement of cattle onto the Refuge or other activities that are not specifically authorized by USFWS constitutes trespassing,” the USFWS said, adding it “also destroys the positive conservation impacts reaped” over decades.

KOIN 6 News reporter Cole Miller contributed to this report.

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