WASHINGTON (CNN) — The passport file of any American could be exposed, but there have been only a few breaches of the Passport Office’s security system, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.
Those few incidents were likely “imprudent curiosity,” he said.
Original DVD cover.
(Sean looks better with a hat, doesn’t he?)
The issue of exposed passport files came to light during the past two days as the State Department revealed the files of the three presidential contenders, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, had been accessed without authorization.
A State Department source said passport files contain scanned images of passport applications, birth date and basic biographical information, records of passport renewal and possibly citizenship information.
March 21 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she personally apologized to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for a security breach in which three contractors looked at his passport information.
The State Department has fired two of the contract employees and disciplined the third after senior managers discovered the workers at three locations looked at Obama’s personal data on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday.
The department’s inspector general will be asked to conduct a review and internal lawyers are looking into whether any laws were broken, Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, said yesterday. The State Department is also investigating whether the individuals did anything with the information, he said.
McCormack and Kennedy said they were looking into what information was accessed. The workers read Obama’s passport application among other records, the Washington Times, which reported the story earlier, said.
Kennedy is going to Obama’s office today to continue to review the matter.
The State Department is under fire for the revelation that employees or contractors for the agency were snooping through the passport records of three presidential candidates, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, at different points over the last year. But at the same time agency workers were breaching the files of those high-profile individuals, it turns out that the Bush Administration was in the process of greatly expanding the number of agencies and foreign governments that have routine access to that same database. Called Passport Records, the sensitive computer system includes all documents, photographs and information attached to passport applications and renewals.
Under new guidelines printed in the federal registry on January 9, the same day Obama’s records were first breached, the Bureau of Consular Affairs allows the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Counter-Terrorism Center, “foreign governments, and entities such as Interpol” to link into the same system.
The expanded access does not appear to be related to the breaches of the candidates’ records. But privacy experts are concerned nonetheless, because the move is part of a trend in which more and more of citizens’ personal information is being put at the fingertips of a growing number of government employees.
What kind of personal information do these Passport Records actually contain? […] That [passport] application has your address, Social Security number, phone number, the name and number of your emergency contact and your photograph. The records also have information on any attempts to change the status of your citizenship, which is what employees in the elder Bush Administration were suspected of looking for in Bill Clinton’s records in 1992.
Like Poppy, like son? The Chimpy apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
A search by name or passport number can also dredge up other items that have been attached to the file, such as court orders, arrest warrants, financial reports and even medical reports, according to the public State Department records.
Senior managers at the State Department are rightly embarrassed they weren’t notified about the high-profile breaches before a reporter’s inquiry.
We don’t know yet if the individuals who engaged in the candidates’ browsing passed the information on to someone else. But changes at the State Department have certainly made it easier to access those records, not harder.
What companies were involved?
March 22 (Bloomberg)…
The two companies that gained unauthorized access to Obama’s passport files were Stanley Inc. and Analysis Corp., the State Department said in an e-mailed statement.
Stanley is a 3,500-person Arlington, Virginia-based company that this week won a $570 million State Department contract to continue passport services. Both the employees who accessed Obama’s information in separate incidents were terminated the day the breach occurred, Stanley said yesterday in a statement.
Employment candidates for Stanley and its subcontractors submit to security and government-sponsored background checks and are trained in the Privacy Act, Stanley said. They also sign a statement that includes acknowledgement that they are subject to immediate dismissal, civil charges and criminal prosecution for knowingly obtaining access to information under false pretenses, the company said in the statement.
McLean, Virginia-based Analysis Corp., known as TAC, said late yesterday that the “individual’s actions were taken without the knowledge or direction of anyone at TAC and are wholly inconsistent with our professional and ethical standards.”
TAC President and Chief Executive Officer John O. Brennan is an informal foreign policy adviser to Obama’s campaign. Jim Flynn, a spokesman for the company, didn’t immediately return a call today seeking comment on Brennan’s role in the campaign.
Brennan spent 25 years as an intelligence officer, including in the Central Intelligence Agency and as interim director of the multi-agency National Counterterrorism Center. TAC said in January 2006 that he’d been awarded the National Security Medal by then-Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, who is now head of the CIA.
And what is our esteemed Attorney General doing about the matter? (Also from Bloomberg):
Attorney General Michael Mukasey, speaking to reporters in Washington, said the Justice Department will likely wait for a referral from the State Department before looking into the matter.
“When, as and if we have a basis for an investigation” into the breach “we would conduct one,” Mukasey said.
Kids, let’s not hold our breath. Condi should be furious and itching to get to the bottom of this, but, instead of steamed Rice, I get the feeling we’ll get another serving of reheated….