Agriculture Department Laptop Stolen in Kansas

A laptop computer bag was stolen from an Agriculture Department worker's car in Kansas, and the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of about 350 employees may have been accessed, the department said.

The case, containing a computer and a printout of the data, has since been returned to a meat plant, department spokesman Ed Loyd said Tuesday. But it was obvious someone had rummaged through the case, Loyd said.

The theft may have affected about 350 full-time and part-time employees and state contractors involved in federal Agricultural Marketing Service meat grading programs in 30 states and the District of Columbia, the department said.

In June, the department said a group of 26,000 Washington-area employees may have been affected when a computer hacker broke into the department system.

But last week, an investigation showed the employee information had not been downloaded.

Local authorities and the department are investigating the recent theft, which happened Friday in Wellington, Kan., and was discovered on Saturday. The department also is looking into why sensitive employee data was left in a car.