New Scandal : State Department Violation of Obama Privacy

Obama’s passport files breached.

[We aren’t normally in the business of breaking news, but this is pretty interesting stuff and could have very significant ramifications. So pay attention. The Rag Blog.]

By Huffington Post / March 20

Two State Department officials have been fired, and another suspended, over repeated unauthorized breaches of Sen. Barack Obama’s passport files, multiple sources are reporting. The State Department has launched an investigation.

NBC reports:

Two contract employees of the State Department were fired and a third person was disciplined for accessing passport records of Sen. Barack Obama “without a need to do so,” State Department officials confirmed to NBC News.

The three people who had access to Obama’s passport records were contract employees of the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, NBC News has learned. The unauthorized activity concerning Obama’s passport information occurred in January.

“A monitoring system was tripped when an employee accessed the records of a high-profile individual,” a department official told NBC News. “When the monitoring system is tripped, we immediately seek an explanation for the records access. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the supervisor is notified.”

Explaining why the contractors had access to the files, the official said: “The State Department uses cleared contractors to design, build and maintain our systems and cleared contract employees provide support to government employees and several steps of passport processing including data entry, file searches, customer service and quality control.

“Each time an employee logs on, he or she acknowledges the records are protected by the privacy act and that they are only available on a need-to-know basis,” the official added.

NBC’s Howard Fineman reports that “a State Department official called Obama’s Senate office to inform him in almost a routine, bureaucratic way that a breach had occurred.”>

More from the Washington Times:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was notified of the security breach yesterday, and responded by saying security measures used to monitor records of high-profile Americans worked properly in detecting the breaches.

Mr. McCormack said the officials did not appear to be seeking information on behalf of any political candidate or party.

“As far as we can tell, in each of the three cases, it was imprudent curiosity,” Mr. McCormack told The Washington Times. …

One administration official said the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the officials involved in the unauthorized access incidents related to Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat. An FBI spokesman could not be reached for comment. …

Asked whether a political candidate or party is behind the incidents, Mr. McCormack said: “None at this point in time that we have determined.”

Mr. McCormack declined to provide the names of the employees or the contract, but he said they were hired by the contractor involved in producing, processing and approving passports. The dates of the breaches were January 9, February 21, and March 14 — last Friday. Statement from Obama campaign:

“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an Administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years. Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes. This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who looked at Senator Obama’s passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach.

FLASHBACK: A senior State Department official under George H. W. Bush breached Bill Clinton’s passport information and was forced to resign in 1992. Read about it here.


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