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Passports probe focuses on worker
Question of the Day
The State Department investigation of improper computer access to passport records of three presidential candidates is focusing on one remaining employee — a contract worker with a company headed by an adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama
The probe by State’s inspector general will include polygraph tests for supervisors in the passport section to find out whether the three contract employees who accessed the records had a political motive or were part of a political operation to obtain personal data on Mr. Obama, Sen. John McCain or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Two of the three contract employees had been fired before The Washington Times first reported Thursday on security breaches involving Mr. Obama’s passport records. The furor expanded yesterday to incidents involving the passport records of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton.
The third employee, who has not been fired, worked for The Analysis Corporation (TAC), which is headed by John O. Brennan, a former CIA agent who is an adviser to Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign on intelligence and foreign policy.
The TAC employee is the only individual to have accessed both Mr. Obama’s and Mr. McCain’s passport information without proper authorization, a State Department spokesman said. That employee, who was not named, triggered an electronic alarm system, officials familiar with the probe said.
The accessed records have the data provided in passport applications and used by the department to issue or renew travel documents.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was unaware of the specific activities of the IG investigation but said all three contract employees will be questioned.
State Department officials said Thursday and yesterday that the intrusions appeared to be the result of “imprudent curiosity” on the part of contract employees who were hired last summer to help process passport applications.
In Portland, Ore., Mr. Obama said the series of attempts to “tap into people’s personal records” were “a problem not just for me but for how our government functions.”
“I expect a full and thorough investigation. It should be done in conjunction with those congressional committees that have oversight so it’s not simply an internal matter,” Mr. Obama told reporters.
Mr. McCain, who is traveling in France, called for an apology and a full investigation of the breach. “The United States of America values everyone’s privacy and corrective action should be taken,” he said.
Mrs. Clinton had not publicly commented by yesterday evening.
Mr. McCormack said the investigation also will determine whether the records of other high-profile political candidates were accessed improperly and whether there are “systemic” problems.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised that the department will carry out a “full investigation” and expressed anger about the breaches, as well as the failure to notify senior officials.
By Michael Widlanski
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