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March 21, 2008
The Obama Passport Breach Flap
Two employees under contract to the State Department have been let go and another disciplined for violating the privacy of Senator Barack Obama and snooping in his passport files:
Senior department officials said they learned of the incidents only when a reporter made an inquiry yesterday afternoon. They said an initial investigation indicated that the employees -- all of whom worked on contract -- were motivated by "imprudent curiosity."There has been plenty of grist for the conspiracy mill this morning as many Obama supporting blogs see the evil hand of Bush. But Jim Geraghty points out another possibility:
Bill Burton, spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, called the incidents "an outrageous breach of security and privacy." He said this is "a serious matter that merits a complete investigation," adding that the campaign will "demand to know who looked at Senator Obama's passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach."
Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy, in a hastily arranged conference call with reporters, said he asked the State Department inspector general to open an inquiry into the matter and acknowledged that it might need to be expanded.
I remember hearing their charge that Obama had only visited one NATO country in his life and it seemed pretty hard to believe... out of countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, etc., Obama had only been to one? The boy who grew up in Indonesia, and visited relatives in Africa, never made it to any of those European countries? The guy who lived in Chicago and went to Harvard never made it to Canada? (I presume Canada wasn't the site of the brief stopover trip.) Jim points out that the Hillary camp asked that question on March 12 - after 2 of the breaches had occurred and two days before the last one happened.
Now, I'm not saying that the Hillary camp did the snooping in the passport file. But in asking that question, they seemed awfully certain that Obama had never been to one of those countries earlier in his life, didn't they? Note they didn't say, "you have traveled to only one NATO country as a senator", (it wouldn't be all that surprising that Obama had only taken a few foreign trips since taking office in January 2005); they worded the question so that it encompasses his entire life.
But the idea that there is any conspiracy here is not very likely. If there was, it would have been a spectacularly inept conspiracy because the breaches were flagged immediately as were the perpetrators. No campaign could be that inept.
Obama's camp has called for a thorough investigation and the matter has already been referred to the Justice Department. But I think what we'll find at the end of the day is pure incompetence by the State Department in their reporting procedures. This would be par for the course for the historically glacial bureaucracy in Foggy Bottom.