NEW YORK – John Brennan, the Obama counter-terrorism adviser nominated this week to head the CIA, played a controversial role in what many suspect was an effort to sanitize Obama’s passport records.
On March 21, 2008, amid Obama’s first presidential campaign, two unnamed contract employees for the State Department were fired and a third was disciplined for breaching the passport file of Democratic presidential candidate and then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Breaking the story, the Washington Times on March 20, 2008, noted that all three had used their authorized computer network access to look up and read Obama’s records within the State Department consular affairs section that “possesses and stores passport information.”
Contacted by the newspaper, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack attributed the violations to non-political motivations, stressing that the three individuals involved “did not appear to be seeking information on behalf of any political candidate or party.”
“As far as we can tell, in each of the three cases, it was imprudent curiosity,” McCormack told the Washington Times.
The spokesman did not disclose exactly how the State Department came to that conclusion.
By the next day, the story had changed.
The New York Times reported March 21, 2008, that the security breach had involved unauthorized searches of the passport records not just of Sen. Obama but also of then-presidential contenders Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton.
Again, the New York Times attributed the breaches to “garden-variety snooping by idle employees” that was “not politically motivated.”
Like the Washington Times, the New York Times gave no explanation to back up its assertion that the breaches were attributable to non-political malfeasance.
Still, the New York Times report indicated then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spent Friday morning calling all three presidential candidates and that she had told Obama that she was sorry for the violation.
“I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file,” Rice said.
The newspaper quoted Obama as saying he appreciated the apology but that he expected the passport situation “to be investigated diligently and openly.”
According to the New York Times report, Obama’s tone of concern was obvious.
“One of the things that the American people count on in their interactions with any level of government is that if they have to disclose personal information, that is going to stay personal and stay private,” Obama told reporters. “And when you have not just one, but a series of attempts to tap into people’s personal records, that’s a problem, not just for me, but for how our government is functioning.”
The New York Times noted that the files examined likely contained sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses and dates of birth, as well as passport applications and other biographical information that would pertain to U.S. citizenship. Only at the end of the article did the New York Times note that State Department spokesman McCormack had emphasized the most egregious violation appeared to have been made against Obama.
Obama was the only one of the three presidential candidates involved who had his passport file breached on three separate occasions. The first occurred Jan. 9, 2008, followed by separate violations Feb. 21 and March 14, 2008. Moreover, all three of the offending employees had breached Obama’s files, while each of the passport files of McCain and Clinton had been breached only once.
The Brennan connection
The New York Times noted the two offending State Department contract employees who were fired had worked for Stanley Inc., a company based in Arlington, Va., while the reprimanded worker continued to be employed by the Analysis Corporation of McLean, Va.
The newspaper gave no background on either corporation, other than to note that Stanley Inc. did “computer work for the government.”
At that time, Stanley Inc. was a 3,500-person technology firm that had just won a $570-million contract to provide computer-related passport services to the State Department.
Analysis Corporation was headed by Brennan, a former CIA agent who was then serving as an adviser on intelligence and foreign policy to Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign.
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