Navy whistleblowers recently discovered the service had kept a database of all sailors who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, and they say it was pretty easy to access the database with a few simple steps.
Screenshots of the website were first shared on Thursday by TerminalCWO — a popular social media handle that shares military whistleblower claims, leaks and complaints. The U.S. Navy has since confirmed the authenticity of the website in response to an American Military News request for comment.
The Navy website includes a tab titled “COVID Unvaccinated Tracker” that includes DOD ID numbers of unvaccinated service members, and lists their rank, duty status, where they are located and the reason they are unvaccinated.
The website lists each sailor’s reason for remaining unvaccinated such as “unvaccinated, approved medical exemption,” “unvaccinated, refuser” and “vaccination series complete, previously reported as unvaccinated.” It is not clear what other reasons the database may include for why sailors aren’t vaccinated or how many vaccinated service members were included on the database after being initially reported as unvaccinated.
According to TerminalCWO, the only real requirement to gain access to the database is a common access card (CaC) and knowledge of the web portal’s existence. A CaC is the standard identification cards given to all military service members as well as Department of Defense civilian employees and some defense contractors. TerminalCWO said people still have to sign up for a command’s CDO (Command Duty Officer) but said “no one verifies your duty position or if you have a need to access the information within.”
In response to an American Military News request for comment, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Devin Arneson denied that the database could be accessed by the public or by just anyone in the Navy.
“The database is not publicly accessible and all members of the Navy do not have access to the database,” Arneson said in an emailed statement. “Access to this secure portal is controlled and limited to DoD personnel based on need-to-know and in for performance of one’s official duties.
TerminalCWO said a colleague was able to successfully access the website without being hindered by any verification process.
“The Navy claims the system wasn’t open to the public, but we were able to independently confirm that access could be gained by providing “needed for CDO duties” as a reason,” the whistleblower account said. “No one confirmed this information, they simply gave access.”
On his website, TerminalCWO said the information contained in this dataset is “a big deal because it violates a person’s PHI and PII (private health and personally identifiable information) to potentially everyone in the Navy and possibly even the DOD.”
Arneson said “the information is limited to that which is necessary for operational tracking and coordination in the COVID-19 environment. That said, the COVID-19 environment continues to evolve, and as it does OPNAV continually reassesses the need for this portal.”
TerminalCWO noted that in the time since American Military News reached out to the Navy, the web portal has changed and the tab listing the number of unvaccinated service members has been removed.
“If it wasn’t open to the public, then why take it down?” TerminalCWO said.
Before the web portal was apparently updated to remove the dataset of unvaccinated troops, TerminalCWO noted that the number in that dataset was noticeably higher than what is currently publicly reported by the Navy. The unvaccinated dataset included 11,743. At the same time, the Navy’s official COVID vaccination records state 6,376 active and ready reserve sailors are unvaccinated and there are another 4,251 active and reserve sailors with an outstanding religious accommodation request. Assuming the numbers for unvaccinated and religious accommodation requests are not overlapping figures, that would indicate 10,627 troops are not vaccinated.
It is unclear how many additional sailors in the now-missing dataset were listed as “vaccination series complete, previously reported as unvaccinated” or some similar disposition.
When asked about the apparent discrepancy, Arneson said, “The referenced web portal is an internal management tool. The total number of entries in the portal are not representative of the total number of currently unvaccinated Sailors. The numbers reported publicly by the Navy (6,376) accurately reflect the number of active and reserve Sailors who are known to be unvaccinated at the time of the report.”