© Miri WTPOTUS March 29, 2012
This month marks the fourth anniversary of what author Jack Cashill called
one of the great underreported stories of the 2008 campaign: the multiple breaches of the presidential candidates’ passport records in March of that year.
This will be a comprehensive overview of the story, so it is long and for that I apologize. Read it or save it for future reference. The revelations from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse are topical. The vettings of Barack Obama by Breitbart’s successors are topical. As the campaign revs up, the blogosphere and many conservative news websites are revisiting stories from 2008. The security breach of the State Department passport files, in 2008, was among the very first signs of the scrubbing of any documentary evidence that might disprove what Obama wants Americans to believe about him. As hard as it may be for us to believe, there remain Americans who know little about these issues. And so, we reprise …
The passport breach
As Ken Timmerman of Newsmax reported at the time:
The security breach, first reported by the Washington Times and later confirmed by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, involved a contract employee of [John O.] Brennan’s firm, The Analysis Corp., which has earned millions of dollars providing intelligence-related consulting services to federal agencies and private companies.
During a State Department briefing on March 21, 2008, McCormack confirmed that the contractor had accessed the passport files of presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John McCain, and that the inspector general had launched an investigation.
Sources who tracked the investigation tell Newsmax that the main target of the breach was the Obama passport file, and that the contractor accessed the file in order to “cauterize” the records of potentially embarrassing information.
“They looked at the McCain and Clinton files as well to create confusion,” one knowledgeable source told Newsmax. “But this was basically an attempt to cauterize the Obama file.”
(Timmerman is currently running for Congress in Maryland. Update: he apparently lost.)
Three individuals were intially caught up in the security breach, which was flagged by a computer program of which the perpetrators may have been unaware; but inexplicably knowledge of the breach didn’t percolate to the upper levels of the State Department until months later, against what should have been established procedures. The breaches of Obama’s files occured on January 9, February 21 and March 14, 2008. Cashill reported that
[O]ne of the three contract employees caught in the act worked for the Analysis Corporation, the CEO of which was John Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran. The [Washington] Post does report that Brennan donated $2,300 to the Obama campaign but suggests no deeper tie. This information is offset by the revelation that the other two culpable contract employees worked for Stanley Inc., whose CEO Philip Nolan contributed $1,000 to the Clinton campaign.
Stanley, however, had been handling passport work for 15 years and had just been awarded a five-year, $570-million contract. The company had no reason to play favorites in the 2008 campaign. It promptly fired the two employees, neither of whom was likely working at the directive of Nolan or of the Clinton campaign.
Unlike Stanley Inc., a huge government contractor listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Analysis Corp. had fewer than 100 employees, and its one culpable employee escaped discipline. The Post article tells us only that “his or her employment status is under review.”
At the time of the passport breach, Brennan was advising Obama’s campaign on matters of intelligence and foreign policy. When Brennan was later selected by Obama to join his administration as an advisor on counterterrorism (now Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President), the passport breach wasn’t mentioned by the Washington Post, according to Cashill. Daniel Pipes of Front Page Magazine referred to Brennan as “sycophantic” with regard to his relationship with Obama.
The news media brushed the incident off as simple curious snooping into the lives of the rich, famous, and powerful, although Timmerman’s anonymous source supplied the actual reason, which was to “cauterize” Obama’s passport file of “embarrassing” information.
Whether deliberate or coincidental, the State Department added to the “curious snooping” meme by widening the investigation to look for browsers other than the three who worked for contractors and who were caught by the computer program. Interestingly enough, it seems to have been Obama’s passport file that was being watched most closely by the system; it was the breach of his file that brought the “snooping” to light. The Inspector General was supposed to have been informed, but the Washington Times reported that
it is not clear whether the IG reviewed the improper computer activities, the officials said.
Acting Inspector General William E. Todd and the chief IG branch investigator, James B. Burch, a former U.S. Secret Service agent, are leading the passport probe …
Todd was appointed in January 2008 after Howard J. Krongard left the post of Inspector General (having been run out for political reasons). Todd was replaced by Harold W. Geisel in June 2008, so Geisel presented the final report about the security breach. A rather convenient shuffling of the players at a crucial time. That same Washington Times story shows the unusual focus on the breach of Obama’s records:
As soon as we realized that there were these unauthorized accesses for Senator Obama’s passport files, we collected the information, we briefed the secretary [Condoleeza Rice], we briefed Senator Obama’s staff, all before we ever replied to the reporter,” Mr. McCormack said.
What’s odd is that a reporter informed the Secretary of State of the breach! How did a reporter know before she did? Inspector General Todd should have known in January 2008, when the first breach was flagged.
In July 2008, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), produced an official report of the results of the investigation into the breach; a report so heavily redacted that it is useless to citizens wanting to know the truth. The report, labeled “sensitive but unclassified”, stated:
A U.S. passport is the official U.S. government document that certifies the holder’s identity and citizenship and permits travel abroad. Applications for passports require the submission of personally identifiable information (PII), such as the applicant’s date and place of birth and social security number. In addition, other documentation, such as the applicant’s birth or naturalization certificate, is required.
From a footnote in the report:
The term “personally identifiable information,” as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, refers to information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as name, social security number, or biometric records, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as date and place of birth and mother’s maiden name.
The report further stated that the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS) contains
scanned images of passport applications and select supporting documentation for records created from 1994 to the present. In addition, PIERS contains passport applicant information, but no scanned images, for records created from about 1978 to 1993. … PIERS also contains additional information, such as previous names used by the applicant, citizenship status of the applicant’s parents or spouse, and scanned images of passport photos, and select supporting documentation, if applicable, submitted by the applicant.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center says that
The contents of a passport file can include all the information that is required in a passport application. This includes:
- full name, date of birth, place of birth, gender, Social Security number, mailing address, phone numbers, email addresses;
- the names, birth dates, and citizenship information of the applicant’s parents;
- height, hair color, eye color;
- occupation, employer, permanent address, emergency contact information;
- travel plans of applicant;
- information regarding marital status, and information about spouses;
- a recent color photograph of the applicant and documents proving U.S. citizenship and proof of identity.