Obama, Clinton, McCain’s passport files breached

March 22nd, 2008 - 6:55 am ICT by admin  

Washington, March 22 (DPA) Contractors working for the US State Department breached the passport files of presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had contacted Democrats Obama and Clinton to apologize for the mishap and would soon be speaking with the presumptive Republican nominee McCain, McCormack said.

“We’re sorry that this happened and we take it very seriously,” McCormack said, adding the State Department has launched an investigation into the incidents.

Obama’s file was breached on three occasions beginning Jan 9 by three different contractors and two of them were sacked for violating privacy regulations. The third employee who was disciplined but remained employed also snooped on McCain’s file, McCormack said.

“We are reviewing our options with respect to that person and his employment status,” he said.

“I can tell you that that individual no longer has access to this kind of information,” McCormack said.

Computer mechanisms for detecting unauthorized accesses to the files alerted the department to the incidents but the breaches were not reported to upper management, McCormack said, adding that the cases initially appear to be based on “imprudent curiosity” and not politically motivated.

“It is deeply disturbing what’s happened,” Obama said on the campaign trail in Portland, Oregon. “This is something that has to be investigated diligently and openly.”

News that Obama’s file had been violated broke Thursday night, and Rice told reporters Friday she telephoned the Illinois senator to apologize and would “make certain that nothing more was going on.”

“I told him that I was sorry,” Rice said. “And I told him that I, myself, would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file. And therefore I will stay on top of it and get to the bottom of it.”

Clinton’s office released a statement Friday saying she had been informed by Rice of a violation in 2007.

“The State Department will be briefing Senator Clinton’s staff this afternoon to provide details about the recent unauthorized breaches of passport records,” Clinton’s office said. “Senator Clinton will closely monitor the State Department’s investigation into this and the other breaches of private passport information.”

McCormack said the individual who looked at Clinton’s file was a trainee brought in to deal with last summer’s backlog of passport requests.

“Usually in these training circumstances, people are encouraged to enter a family member’s name, just for training purposes,” he said. “This person chose Senator Clinton’s name.”

McCain was travelling in France Friday.

The House Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees said they were investigating the violations.

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