Friday, March 21, 2008

Passport Breaches: Much Ado About What?

Despite the inherent sleaziness of the Bush administration, the news that two State Department contract employees have been fired for accessing Barack Obama's passport file didn't set off any alarm bells. Then we learned that the files of Hillary Clinton and John McCain had been breached, as well.

Condi Rice apologized to the candidates (and she seems to be doing an inordinate amount of apologizing these days), while the White House had no comment, but there is a quick and easy way to determine whether the Bush administration has an itty-bitty scandal or a full-blown one on their hands:
The State Department should reveal post haste whether the passport files of any presidential candidates who have been slavishly supportive of the Bush administration were subjected to prying eyes, which might begin to answer the question about whether these breaches were politically motivated.
Rice has promised a full (cough, cough) investigation, quite likely of the Blackwater in Iraq variety, but as it is a pretty good circumstantial case is being made that this turn of events may register on the upper end of the Scandal-O-Meter.

Beyond the fact that Obama, Clinton and McCain have not been friends of the White House, consider that:
* Why State did not go public about the breaches and the firings until a reporter started asking questions.

* Is it merely a coincidence that the three Obama breaches followed key events in the primary campaign?

* The fired contract employees are being described as "low level" by State. True? And for whom did they work and what political connections does their employer have?
If all of this has the ring of familiarity, recall that in 1992 a Republican appointee at State accessed Bill Clinton's passport records. The reasons vary: Some people claimed at the time that it was an effort to see if the president-to-be had participated in antiwar demonstrations when he was going to school in England. Others said that it was to see whether he had visited Libya, and still others whether he had renounced his American citizenship.

An independent counsel concluded after a three-year investigation that no higher-ups had known about the breach and it wasn't criminal anyway.

More here.

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