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Presidential Candidates’ Electronic Passport Files Improperly Accessed

The US State Department said on March 21, 2008 that during its ongoing investigation of several incidents, it found that the digital passport documents of three major presidential candidates improperly fell into the hands of employees, as reported by The New York Times on March 21, 2008.

An important issue that follows from the incident is that there should be greater controls on data access for contractors and employees in the government and the IT sector.

The security breach affected electronic files holding personal information belonging to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. An issue that was not clear related to whether the unauthorized access made visible the key personal data comprising name, age, citizenship, place of birth and Social Security number, which is essential while applying for a passport.

Patrick F. Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management, said on March 20, 2008 that three contractors of the State Department had made an unauthorized viewing of the electronic documents of the candidates, although they were authorized to refer to the database, as reported by Information Week on March 21, 2008.

The incident led to sacking of two workers. Leaders of the State Department believe the workers reached the files to satisfy their curiosity. On March 21, 2008, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, regretted the incident and apologized to Clinton and Obama and assured that she would speak with McCain, as reported by Information Week on March 21, 2008.

Kennedy further said during a meeting with the press on March 20, 2008 that all the three suspected of looking at the passport information of the candidates had the database available for various reasons. Kennedy, however, would not tell their job functions or specify the purpose that was necessary for the access. He only said that workers in the State Department needed the facility to refer to the information when individuals contact for their passports.

California Democrat, Howard L. Berman, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, draws a comparison between the new breaches with a closely resembling incident in 1992 that involved unauthorized access to a State Department file on Bill Clinton, the then-presidential candidate.

Related article: Presidential Candidates Spamming Voters

» SPAMfighter News - 3/27/2008

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