The passport files of Senator Barack Obama were inappropriately accessed on January 9th, February 14th, and March 14th of this year by contract employees of the State Department.
The facts being presented on MSNBC (or perhaps I should say "information being presented as fact") as coming from the State Department is that the fact of these breaches of Senator Obama's files was not reported beyond the mid-level managers who first learned of these events until this afternoon. In other words, Secretary of State Rice -- we are told by the State Department -- did not learn these facts until yesterday. And we are told that Senator Obama's office was not told about any of this until today.
However, the State Department's Inspector General has NOT conducted an investigation. So, all that MSNBC has to go on is the State Department's own statements. An investigation WILL be conducted.
Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger is telling MSNBC (by phone), "It's pretty clear to me that this was not done for political purposes."
Sorry, Secretary Eagleburger, but you have no more ability to know why Senator Obama's files were broken into than I do.
What I will hold out for is verifiable truths resulting from an independent, absolutely impartial investigation.
I will hold out for verifiable truth regarding not just how this happened and who knew about it and when... but also why it happened.
I hope you will all do the same.
Also, MSNBC now reports that Secretary of State Rice learned about this today, not yesterday.
UPDATE: Friday morning
I just want to state for the record that there's a reason I didn't say anything about who I think was behind this break-in. The reason: I am not going to pre-judge that issue until the facts come out. Some may think the Clinton's were behind this... some may think the Bush administration... some may think this is all just government contract employees with "too much time on their hands." What I do know is that for the Bush administration's spokespeople - or former Republican officials, such as Lawrence Eagleburger - to be saying "Oh, don't worry. We're sure this was all an innocent case of contractors behaving badly."... and for any reporter or citizen to then say "Okay. End of story" is crazy!
That's why I wrote this post: to demand that this story be followed where ever it goes. The days of taking the Bush administration's word for why anything has happened - without a verifiable, independent investigation proving them right or wrong - are over.
UPDATE: Friday evening
This afternoon, I blogged on the related issue of the State Department refusing to give out the name of the contractor involved in this story.
And sometime between 5 and 6PM Eastern, AP reported that it has learned that two of the three employees involved with Obama's passport files worked for Stanley, Inc. of Virginia. That's two down and one to go.
I note that on the web site for Stanley, Inc. there's a press release - dated March 17, 2008 - touting the firm receiving a "$570million Contract To Continue Support Of Passport Program"... support which the company has been providing for 15 years. From this press release:
This contract award follows Stanley's announcement in December 2007 that it had begun construction of a secure passport production center in Tucson, Ariz., expected to begin operations in spring 2008. The Tucson Passport Center and an existing facility in Hot Springs, Ark., opened in March 2007, were authorized under a 10-year Department of State contract in October 2006, initially valued at $164 million. Stanley oversees operations and the printing, quality control and mailing of U.S. passports and other travel documents at these locations.
The company began its relationship with the Department of State in 1992 when it assisted in establishing the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, N.H. Since that time, Stanley has expanded its services to support passport operations at all 18 locations nationwide.
UPDATE Very Late Friday Evening:
Thanks for the large number of comments everyone.
I regret that a number of people have taken my post as a starting point to get into various forms of Clinton vs. Obama vs. McCain back and forth stuff. Not everyone, of course, but a bunch of people. My post was not meant to be about any one candidate, including the theory that any one candidate might have been responsible for these events. My post was about the issue of the investigation being done by the Bush administration (in which case it is not a real investigation... just a white wash) vs being done by an independent body with the assistance that comes from letting a free press do its job.
And for that same reason, I didn't think it important to focus on the expanded number of candidates whose files were broken into, once that information came to light. I acknowledge that Senator McCain's files were broken into (also on March 14th, the last day Senator Obama's files were broken into) and that Senator Clinton's files were accessed (which happened during a training class, which is not the same thing as what happened to Senators Obama and McCain, because that happened in plain view of an instructor) and certainly want the investigation to include those incidents as well.
I have a very central concern in general.... that we have lost a lot of our ability to know what's really going on (vs. what our elected officials tell us is going on). We cannot be informed citizens - which is the fundamental premise for a healthy democracy - if we don't insist that information is accurate... produced with honesty and integrity. That's one reason why I list Al Gore's book "The Assault On Reason" as one of my two blogger's books.
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