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Bank-account statements, unused checks, duty rosters, keys and even some classified material were among the items that Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, investigators found thrown in the trash recently.

They were not pleased.

“The problem with us finding such vital information about the station and random people is no one knows who else can get their hands on the information,” Andrew Samuels, an Iwakuni anti-terrorism force protection officer, told the base newspaper.

Samuels did not return phone calls from Stars and Stripes for comment.

According to base spokesman Capt. Stewart Upton, it was Samuels’ idea to sort through the base trash that’s picked up at various bins, to see whether people were using discretion when it came to taking out the trash. The answer was: No, not always.

“We do live in a world — if you don’t want your identity stolen, you should be taking certain steps,” Upton said. “And in this environment, in the war on terrorism, if someone else is able to assume the identity of an American … if they can gain access to the base, it’s hurting the whole.”

Some of the stuff in the trash wasn’t harmful from a security standpoint, Upton said. “It also has to do with recycling,” he said. “Papers should have been thrown in the recycling bin.”

Some of the papers — duty rosters with people’s names and Social Security numbers, as well as bank statements and unused checks — should have been shredded or torn up, Upton said.

And some of it — marked not to be disclosed to foreign officials — should have been shredded in the special shredder for classified material, he added.

The keys were billeting key cards. Upton said he believed housing authorities had reprogrammed all the locks on base as a result of officials finding the keys in the trash.

The trash hunt was only to get a handle on how the base could improve. “There have been no formal investigations,” Upton said. “We want to begin by reminding everyone … to let people know of the policies and procedures of getting rid of these materials.”

And if people still aren’t sure how to get rid of something, they can hold onto it, he said.

“I file things,” Upton said. “It’s not asking too much.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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