Passport to Trouble

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Last Thursday the Obama campaign was up in arms over the news that the Illinois senator’s passport information had been breached.

“Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who looked at Senator Obama’s passport file, and for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach.”

Well, be careful what you wish for. Turns out, one of the three people who accessed the candidate’s files works for… wait for it… Obama foreign policy advisor, John O. Brennan, president and CEO of the Analysis Corp. Brennan’s employee was the only one of the three who was not fired, merely disciplined and, CNN’s Zain Verjee reports, the unnamed employee also accessed John McCain’s files. In a separate breach, Hillary Clinton’s passport information was also breached.

The idea that it may have a campaign operative is hardly surprising. As my colleague Brian Bennett notes this also happened in the 1992 election when 41’s staff tried to access Bill Clinton’s passport details. The question throughout this mini-scandal has been: what, if anything, of interest was learned. But with today’s revelation a new question arises: will Obama be forced to distance himself or fire yet another advisor for lowering themselves to “politics as usual” tactics, ie doing opposition research on McCain?

Karen points out, there was definitely no conspiracy with the Hilary breach. And The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder this morning declares there was no “conspiracy” with Brennan’s employee’s access, saying it’s all part of an ongoing debate over access given to federal contractors. I can see the point that if this really was some guy in a training room, he/she might have thought it fun or illustrative to access Obama or McCain’s information as a test case. But what if something salacious had popped up? Do we really think such information would remain secret for long no matter who the employee worked for, especially given how easy it seems to innocently access this information? Which brings me to Jay Ackroyd’s thoughtful point: “There is a scandal here, but not one that involves the presidential candidates, as presidential candidates per se.”

And with that, I wish you all Happy Easter!