MSNBC is reporting that two contract employees at the State Department have been fired and one "disciplined" after an investigation revealed they were illegally accessing Barack Obama's passport file.
More on this as it develops.
UPDATES AS THEY OCCUR: Howard Fineman on Countdown
is wondering how much the higher-ups at State knew about these three contract employees. The breach occurred in January at the Consular Affairs office.
It's interesting to note that Bill Clinton's passport files were breached by the first Bush Administration in 1991.
I suspect that by tomorrow this will be whitewashed as "a few bad apples", but I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that it's possible these employees were chosen specifically so that they could be easily jettisoned if the breach were discovered, as it apparently now has been.
8:32 PM: There's going to be a conference call at 9. A senior State Department official says there were no political considerations. The official says that the contract employees accessed Obama's records "out of curiosity". The most recent incident was on March 14 -- months after the initial breach on January 9 -- and no one every contacted the Obama campaign or Barack Obama to notify about the breach. "No political considerations. Yeah, right. And I am Marie of Rumania.
8:40 PM: Andrea Mitchell is incredulous that no one at State seemed to take this seriously. She points out, how can you ascribe motivation until you know more about the people involved? At least at MSNBC, they smell blood here. "This at least rises to the level of spectacular incompetence, if not political skulduggery."
8:46 PM: Pete Williams is spewing the State Department's spin that this was just a case of "imprudent curiosity" on the part of these contract employees. My question is why "imprudent curiosity" took place in the form of accessing this particular individual's file, and why this "imprudent curiosity" took the form of multiple accesses over the course of three months.
8:50: State Department is stating that Obama's passport file was accessed in January, February, and March. Again -- why did "innocent curiosity" warrant three separate accesses? And why was this not referred to Obama's campaign or Senate office until today?
8:55: Eric Holder from the Obama campaign is on the phone with Keith Olbermann. Holder says that if you had one incident it could be someone snooping around, but when you have three separate incidents, one in each of the three months, he wonders as a former prosecutor just what is going on here. He wants to know why this was never referred to the Justice Department. He says at the least this is serious administrative bungling, and at worst a criminal offense that should be referred to the Justice Department. It's the pattern that he finds disturbing.
It's hard for me to imagine that this is just a question of "imprudent curiosity." Whether these employees were paid by someone doing opposition research, or if they thought that someone MIGHT pay for this information, whether an opposing campaign or a media outlet, that someone tried to keep this under wraps as it went on for three months is certainly suspicious.
10:00 PM: Watching Anderson Cooper now; he's on the phone with Joe deGenova, who investigated the breach of Bill Clinton's passport files. It seems that the State Department spin now is that low-level State Department officials did not pass the information up. Frankly, all this, combined with the Secret Service calling off the Dallas police last month from checking people entering a rally for firearms, makes me wonder just how committed the people who are assigned to protect Barack Obama are to doing that.
Reports keep mentioning the "alert systems" that trigger when an unauthorized breach takes place, but that doesn't explain how this took place three times and no one kicked it upstairs.
Color me skeptical.
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: Josh Marshall notes
According to a new piece out in the Post from Glenn Kessler, the breaches occurred Jan. 9th, Feb. 21st and March 14th.
That would be the day after the New Hampshire primary, the day of the Democratic debate in Texas and the day the Wright story really hit.
Labels: Barack Obama, dirty tricks