Unless you've been living in a bubble, you heard it revealed last night that Obama's passport file at the State Dept. had been accessed by unauthorized personnel - on 3 wholly separate occassions. As of this writing, here is the latest info
The State Department says it is trying to determine whether three contract workers had a political motive for looking at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's passport file.
Two of the employees were fired for the security breach and the third was disciplined but is still working, the department said Thursday night. It would not release the names of those who were fired and disciplined or the names of the two companies for which they worked. The department's inspector general is investigating.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that for now it appears that nothing other than "imprudent curiosity" was involved in three separate breaches of the Illinois senator's personal information, "but we are taking steps to reassure ourselves that that is, in fact, the case."
The breaches occurred on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14 and were detected by internal State Department computer checks, McCormack said. The department's top management officer, Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy, said certain records, including those of high-profile people, are "flagged" with a computer tag that tips off supervisors when someone tries to view the records without a proper reason.
The firings and unspecified discipline of the third employee already had occurred when senior State Department officials learned of the breaches. Kennedy called that a failing.
"I will fully acknowledge this information should have been passed up the line," Kennedy told reporters in a conference call Thursday night. "It was dealt with at the office level."
In answer to a question, Kennedy said the department doesn't look into political affiliation in doing background checks on passport workers. "Now that this has arisen, this becomes a germane question, and that will be something for the appropriate investigation to look into," he said.
Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who is challenging Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, said of the current breach: "It's outrageous and the Bush administration has to get to the bottom of it."
Kennedy and McCormack said it was too soon to say whether a crime was committed. The searches may violate the federal Privacy Act, and Kennedy said he is consulting State Department lawyers.
The State Department inspector general's power is limited because two of the employees are no longer working for the department. McCormack said it was premature to consider whether the FBI or Justice Department should be involved.
McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was informed of the breaches on Thursday.
As mentioned in the article, it is reminiscent of a similar incident that occurred when Bill Clinton was originally running for office, and George H. W. Bush was president
A State Department official who carried out the two-day search of passport files for information about Gov. Bill Clinton said today that he had resigned, just 48 hours before Federal investigators are expected to issue a report criticizing the search.
The official, Steven M. Moheban, was a top aide to Elizabeth M. Tamposi, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs who was dismissed last week by President Bush for her role in the search of files on Mr. Clinton, his mother, Virginia Kelley, and Ross Perot, the independent Presidential candidate.
Ms. Tamposi has said that White House officials encouraged the search of Mr. Clinton's records and that her superiors approved it. The inspector general has interviewed White House officials. But it is not clear whether he will assign any responsibility for the search to senior officials at the White House and the State Department, or will merely focus on Ms. Tamposi and lower-ranking employees.
In a more general sense, it is also reminiscent of the the Nixon Watergate break-in
, where Nixon was trying to get information about the Democratic candidate(s) running against him. In all of these cases, we have a well-liked presumptive Democratic nominee, and a Republican administration willing to break the law and use its access to secret records (or burglary) to get private information, in a win-at-any-cost push to hold onto power. Why do these things never happen the other way around?
As of now, there is no hard evidence that the current Bush administration had a hand in this. It seems unlikely, however, that the fact that 3 separate people on 3 separate occassions tried to dig through his file is anything BUT politically motivated. Right now the focus is on "who knew what when". Since this is a misdemeanor, the FBI should check the bank records of the people involved to see if there were any strange large deposits. Perhaps this Adminstration HAS learned from the past, and avoided a top-down approach, opting to use outside people instead. Only time will tell if this becomes Bush's "Watergate Moment" (discounting of course all of his previous
Watergate moments that were allowed to slide).
Do not be surprised if this is only given the most cursory of looks and then brushed off as isolated incidents with no conspiratorial malfeasence. They have a pattern, and taking responsibility and honest self-examination are not part of it...
... and oh yeah - Bill Richardson is endorsing Obama