NBC is reporting that two State Department contract employees have been fired, and a third person disciplined, for snooping around in Barack Obama’s passport file.
“A monitoring system was tripped when an employee accessed the records of a high-profile individual,” a department official told NBC News. “When the monitoring system is tripped, we immediately seek an explanation for the records access. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the supervisor is notified.”
The Obama campaign is demanding an investigation:
“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an Administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years. Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes. This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we 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,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
I’m hearing the State Department will be having a conference call on this matter shortly.
UPDATE: Patrick Kennedy, director of the State Department’s Office of Management Policy, and Sean McCormack, the Department spokesman, just concluded a conference call with reporters on this issue. I’ll be filing a more detailed story for TIME.com shortly on what they had to say, but here are the basics:
They repeatedly described this as an episode of “imprudent curiosity,” though it is being referred to the IG to see if it was something more than that. It involved three contract employees at three separate passport offices on three dates: January 9; February 21, and March 14. But somehow, they say, none of this got passed up the food chain until this afternoon, when McCormack first heard about it from … a reporter. Obama’s Senate staff has been informed, but no one from the Department has talked to the Senator directly yet. They will be briefing his staff tomorrow.
They are refusing at this point to identify the employees, the contractors they worked for, or the locations where this happened.
There are thousands of these contract employees. Some are allowed access to people’s passport files as part of their jobs. They are given criminal background checks, but (understandably) no one looks into their political backgrounds. This will be a matter for the IG. However, it is unclear what jurisdiction he will have over people who have already been fired.