The Passport Story

Via the AP: Clinton Says Her Passport File Breached

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that her passport file was breached in 2007

In a statement from her Senate office, Clinton said she had been contacted by Rice. The State Department plans to brief Clinton’s staff Friday about the unauthorized breach.

The development came just hours after the State Department fired two contract employees and disciplined a third for inappropriately examining the passport file of Clinton’s Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

And, now, it appears that McCain’s were snooped as well:

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the individual who accessed Obama’s files also reviewed McCain’s file. This contract employee has been reprimanded, but not fired.

McCormack says the department is still reviewing options for dealing with that person.

My first thought (and this was when the news was that it was just Obama) was: and people wonder why there is concern over the vast amounts of data collection on citizens that has been spurred on by the war on terror. Yes, Virginia, sometimes people do, in fact, access records that they otherwise ought to leave alone.

Of course, I am now curious as to what would be in passport records apart from basic identification information and records of where one has traveled.

The Detroit Free Press story notes:

It is not clear whether the employees saw anything other than the basic personal data such as name, citizenship, age, Social Security number and place of birth, which is required when a person fills out a passport application.

Aside from the file, the information could allow Obama’s critics to dig deeper into his private life. While the file includes his date and place of birth, address at time of application and the countries he’s traveled to, the most important detail would be his Social Security number, which can be used to pull credit reports and other personal information.

On balance, hardly a major deal in terms of the type of information, although still extremely serious.

Chris Lawrence noted the original story (just Obama) below.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Incompetence from the Bush administration? Hard to believe…

  2. mike says:

    I think a credit bureau has a lot more information than your passport files – you could track every country I went to over the past 5 years through my credit card much easier than my passport esp since you only get one stamp when you enter the EU and not one for each country.

    Anjin – your sad – as if the most senior employees in the US gov’t can be held liable for a very low level employee’s illegal acts – heck, the employees who engaged in wrongdoing were contractors – will you attempt to blame everything on the Bush Admin? I am not happy with the WH but I cannot see how something like this could possibly be prevented by any president or his administration. Damn, I can’t believe I tried to reason with you – there goes 20 seconds of my life.

  3. Wayne says:

    Yep, the Clinton administration wouldn’t have caught these low level State department employees. They couldn’t even catch those in the Clinton administration that did such things. Any bets on whether these low level State Department employees are Democrats.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Mike,

    The problem is, that in the Bush admin, no one, low or high, is held responsible for illegal acts. The rule of law has pretty much ceased. But don’t strain those higher brain functions of yours unnecessarily.

  5. mike says:

    Genius – what part of the Bush administration are these contractors? when did Bush appoint them? Did you miss the point about “State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the individual who accessed Obama’s files also reviewed McCain’s file. This contract employee has been reprimanded, but not fired. McCormack says the department is still reviewing options for dealing with that person.

    Does that mean that any civil service worker or in this case contractor is a part of the Bush Admin?

  6. anjin-san says:

    Uhhh Mike….

    Condi…. SecState… Cabinet member… reports directly to Bush… runs State Dept. These guys work for the State Dept… ultimately Condi is their boss… Notice how she has taken point on the matter? Bush is her boss… Try to connect the dots… don’t hurt yourself… Civics courses are available…

    > from Washington Post:

    “State Dept. says employees examined Obama, Clinton and McCain passport files without authorization; Rice promises full investigation.”

    But 7 years of the no-accountability administration have left America in such wonderful, fantastic shape that one can easily see why you are happy with the status quo!

  7. mike says:

    Thank you for the civics lesson, but again I fail to see how an alleged illegal activity by one of the lowest people on the totem pole equals conspiracy by the WH. The activity is being investigating by Condi herself b/c of the senstitivity of the issue.

    But I still don’t understand what the Admin did wrong? They found out that a low level contractor, not appointed by the WH, did something that is likely a crime and they are investigating. You assume I am a Bush supporter b/c your blind hatred of him makes you think that if someone says “wait a second let’s investigate” means wrongdoing by the man himself or one of his appointees and a coverup. You need help.

    Happy Easter.

  8. yetanotherjohn says:

    Senator Obama has called for a congressional investigation.

    Obama wants to put legs on this story (I wonder why).

    I do think it is ironic that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Europe has found no reasons to hold any hearings (e.g. Kosovo, US embassy riot/fire in Belgrade, Putin, etc), but wants congress to investigate this.

  9. anjin-san says:

    >equals conspiracy by the WH

    Who mentioned “conspiracy”? Not me… putting words in the mouth of another is a sure sign that one realizes one has lost the argument, and has to move on to misdirection…

    “Blind hatred” of Bush? My disgust for this man and the damage he has done to this country and the world are extremely well informed. I voted for Reagan, a fine president, twice. I originally had hopes that Bush would be a better president than his father… sadly this hope was not realized.

    Anyway, I am waiting for you to show me where I mentioned, or even implied “conspiracy”…

  10. Wayne says:

    anjin-san You said ”The problem is, that in the Bush admin, no one, low or high, is held responsible for illegal acts.”

    “Condi…. SecState… Cabinet member… reports directly to Bush… runs State Dept. These guys work for the State Dept… ultimately Condi is their boss… Notice how she has taken point on the matter? Bush is her boss… Try to connect the dots… don’t hurt yourself… Civics courses are available…”

    If that doesn’t implied conspiracy what does? “Try to connect the dots..”, please! Bush is responsible for most federal employees but the Bush administration does not incorporate all Federal employees.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    Do you know what a reporting chain is? To state that those at the top of the chain bear responsibility for the actions of those under them doe not in any way imply or suggest conspiracy. The dots are… the people in the chain, not some sort of extrapolation of lurking shadows.

    The Head of the State Department reports directly to the president. This makes him accountable (along with SecState), for what happens in that department. It’s really not all that complicated, but if you are getting brain strain, turn on Fox. I am sure they have a story running about a pretty blonde girl who has vanished…

    The buck stops anywhere in the solar system… except on Bush’s desk.

  12. Bob says:

    I am so glad to see we’ll be getting some congressional hearings on this. Maybe they will start with calling a former high level State Dept official who shoved Classified documents down his pants and left the building…

    Because we all know that data security at State is only recently broken.

  13. floyd says:

    I remember hearing about an old trick in which you draw a chalk-line on the pavement and force a chicken to stare at it long enough to become mesmerized. The chicken would then fail to notice the next car coming up the road!
    Apparently President Bush serves well as the chalk-line!

  14. just me says:

    The problem is, that in the Bush admin, no one, low or high, is held responsible for illegal acts.

    They were fired.

  15. floyd says:

    Anybody notice[or care] that the same thing has happened to Clinton, & McCain??….. No? that’s OK, you weren’t supposed to.

    ‘OH,samabody{sic} had to write something to right the Wright thing! Right?…
    Well it wasn’t the Right,so who’s LEFT?

  16. anjin-san says:

    Ah, Floyd, don’t you think George “I wish I could go fight in Afghanistan” who managed not to go fight in Viet Nam is a bit closer to the chicken?

  17. floyd says:

    Anjin-san;
    Different analogy, you see, the chicken represents the voter who is so distracted that….. OH,never mind, it gets a little complicated !

  18. anjin-san says:

    Floyd… If you use “chicken” in a bush analogy, well you are only going to end up one place, and that probably watching the commander do some clucking…

  19. anjin-san says:

    just me… ok, the low are being held accountable. Just not the high. Does that seem like a good thing to you?

  20. Paul says:

    How does the State Dept “passport file” include which countries I have been to? They issued the passport when it was empty, then it is in my possession ever since. Many of the countries just stamp it with no electronic record that could be reported back. Do the countries that scan the passport report that back to the US? Why? When it expired and I sent it back to State, they returned it to me with a hole punched; do they make a copy? But I could have torn out any pages that showed a trip to Iran or whatever. Ok, so yes, every time I fly home I have to list the countries I visited on my trip, do they actually sort them and send them back to DC to put in my “file”? And if someone actually went to Libya or Cuba, they would have just not listed it. So everyone is assuming these passport files have all kinds of detailed records, but what do they really show?

  21. just me says:

    And in this story exactly what responsibility do the “high” have?

    I work in a school. There are huge issues with confidentiality, and all sorts of rules that have to be followed-especially when handling anything in written form.

    If somebody screws up, that person gets written up or fired, they don’t fire the principal, even though his is “higher” up the food chain.

    They accessed the files, they got caught, they got fired.

  22. Steph says:

    I was just saved from a mugging by a federal worker in downtown Chicago who stopped and chased the guy so I guess Bush saves people from mugging. If you blame him for this you have to give him credit for me being saved from a mugging.

  23. Steph says:

    For the record I worked in passport processing for over a year. We had to sign stuff up the whazoo. I saw some famous people’s applications come through.

    You also had to pass a very strict background check. You couldn’t have farted in the last five years and passed.

    I got suspended for a week because in my address history I left off a PO Box I had for 6 months 5 years earlier. I worked for their contractor and was put on the general work area while it was worked out. My boss got a notice of violation level 3 (meaning something that had to be investigated but not a firable offense) she got an explanation I wrote my answer and a week later was back on passport.

  24. DL says:

    Let’s see now. We are suppposed to catch Bin Ladin and know where these terrorist cells are located before they go off bombing things but due to America’s hypersensitivity to a snooping government and profiling fears we don’t. But along comes a simple nothing like a passport file (which we are willing to submit to the government in the first place) and we get all bent out of shape. Like the man on the TV says about giving out his SS number – I have nothing in my passport file that couldn’t stand public scrutiny – I couldn’t care less if it was breached. Gee even the language (breached) makes it blown out of proportion.

  25. davod says:

    I see a more straight forward reason for this crisis.

    Obama has a bad week. His acolytes in the MSM are unable to staunch talk of his racist past.

    A reporter asks State if Obama’s passport details have been illegally accessed (No questions about other people).

    Doesn’t anyone see the connection – Obama’s followers, working as contractors, check out his passport details. Obama has a bad week and reporter ask State about the passport details.

    Simple – Obama’s contractor followers told the press.

    Front Page story. Obama no longer the bigoted separatist racist. Blue Collar Dem’s back on board (But not old white grandmothers).

    Who told the reporter, and is reporter linked to the to the Dem’s or Obama.

  26. davod says:

    I see a more straight forward reason for this crisis.

    Obama has a bad week. His acolytes in the MSM are unable to staunch talk of his racist past.

    A reporter asks State if Obama’s passport details have been illegally accessed (No questions about other people).

    Doesn’t anyone see the connection – Obama’s followers, working as contractors check out his passport details. Obama has a bad week and reporter ask State about the passport details.

    Simple – Obama’s contractor followers told the press.

    Front Page story. Obama no longer the bigoted separatist racist. Blue Collar Dem’s back on board (But not old white grandmothers).

    Who told the reporter, and is reporter linked to the to the Dem’s or Obama.

  27. JBell/TN says:

    Looks more and more like Sen Obama’s supporter who oversees the contract works are the ones who looked at Obama’s passport files. How about that.. Hope they continue to wish for a investigation and let the chips fall where they may…..