Obama wants Congress to probe passport breach

Barack Obama has called for Congress to investigate the U.S. State Department after it was revealed on Friday that its workers breached security by looking at passport files of all three presidential hopefuls.

Barack Obama has called for Congress to investigate the U.S. State Department after it was revealed on Friday that its workers breached security by looking at passport files of all three presidential hopefuls.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, left, embraces New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday at a campaign stop in Portland, Ore., where Richardson announced his endorsement of Obama. ((Alex Brandon/AP Photo))

The State Department revealed on Friday that the passport files of presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain had also been breached by its workers.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the latest breaches were not discovered until Friday, a day after it became public that three contractors had peeked at Obama's passport files.

The agency's inspector general is investigating and the Justice Department is monitoring in case a criminal investigation is warranted.

Two department employees were fired and another disciplined after they unnecessarily looked at Obama's files. The government has not released their identities or the name of the company that employed them.

"At this point, we just started an investigation," he said. "We want to err on the side of caution."

McCormack said the individual who accessed both candidates' files is the one who has been reprimanded.

The employee has been reprimanded. "We are reviewing our options with that person" and their employment status, McCormack said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she spoke with at least Obama and Clinton on Friday, and expressed her regrets. Department officials planned to brief the staffs of all three candidates on Friday.

Rice said she told Obama she was sorry, and "that I myself would be very disturbed."

Republican Senator John McCain, who was travelling in Paris, said any breach of passport privacy deserves an apology and full investigation.

Clinton's office released a statement saying she had been contacted by Rice about the unauthorized breach, which occurred in 2007.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack has said that in Obama's case, it appears the three breaches of personal information were nothing more than "imprudent curiosity."

Calls for probe of 'outrageous breach'

The department was trying to make sure that the actions were not politically motivated.

It was unclear whether the contractors just viewed basic personal data required in passport applications such as place of birth, name and the social security number.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, has called for an investigation into the matter, calling it an "outrageous breach."

He demands that the investigation reveal the identities of the employees who looked at Obama's passport file, for what purpose and why it took so long to reveal the security breach.

"This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years," Burton said. "Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."

The separate incidents happened on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14.

An internal State Department computer check revealed the breaches through computer flags that tip off supervisors when someone tries to view certain records.

With files from the Associated Press