Friday, March 21, 2008

PassportGate and the "curiousity" defense 

The lefty blogosphere is in a twist because a couple of unrelated State Department contract workers took an unauthorized peek into Barack Obama's passport file. The Obama campaign "blasted" the Bush administration, but the State Department -- which is investigating -- said that the now-fired workers were probably just curious.

Apart from the silliness of "blasting" the Bush administration for something that low-level State Department employees have done -- believe me, the Bush administration wishes there were enough Republicans in the State Department for such trivialities -- the curiousity explanation is simply very credible. People who have access to the confidential information of famous people are naturally curious about it. Indeed, I have a confession to make along these lines. In the summer of 1980 I worked as a summer intern doing credit investigations in a huge international bank; my friends and I spent at least one afternoon peeking into the bank accounts of famous people. I still remember that Bianca Jaggar had $40,000 in her checking account, which seemed like an absurdly huge amount in those much less flamboyant times.


By Blogger Ray, at Fri Mar 21, 08:31:00 AM:

Difference being, today we're crazy enough that we fire people for this sort of thing.

Instead of calling them on the carpet, telling them they were stupid, and making them buy lunch for the office as an elaborate apology.

It was his passport file. Not his tax return or FBI file, for goodness' sake.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Mar 21, 09:10:00 AM:


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 09:30:00 AM:

Blasting the administration for this act is silly, but I think this whole kerfuffle (great word) also justifies a point commonly made when governments take on extra powers. (For example, wiretaps without court orders or blanket warrants.)

People aren't angels, and will abuse these powers for mundane or malicious ends, and to pretend that the employees behind the system are infallible angels is laughable. Counterarguments would be more persuasive for me if they were of the form "abuse will happen, but this is still important" rather than "don't be silly, everything will be fine."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 09:31:00 AM:

But why the nearly three month delay to inform Obama of the breaches?

The Inspector General learned of the attempts to read his file -- the first of which occured in January--yesterday just a couple of hours before we did. As for the "investigation," bear in mind that because the first two employees were fired, he can't question them without a subpeona.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 09:47:00 AM:

Three separate contract workers tapped into his personal file on three separate occasions. Knuckleheads alone? Perhaps. But I dare say that the track record of the administration is not very good on these issues. Besides, let us not forget that 41's administration did the same thing with Bill Clinton's passport file when he was running for office in 92.

You can say it's only a "passport file" but the Consul's office maintains records on public officials that extends far beyond the custom' officer's stamps that appear on yours. just saying.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 09:55:00 AM:

So the campaign is "blasting the Bush administration" over this, huh? News that doesn't include the words "Rezko" or "Wright" is news to be trumpeted!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 10:19:00 AM:

I wonder what the voter registration is for those "contract workers." Could they be part of the vast left wing clinton conspiracy?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 11:29:00 AM:

“We are very concerned about this,” Ms. Rice said. “I told him that I was sorry and I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file.”  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 12:45:00 PM:

The curiosity defense is indeed credible. My guess is that's what it was.

But when you're dealing with an administration that has worked methodically to roll back protections against electronic snooping that were put in place (at least in part) to prevent spying on political enemies, "trust us they were only imprudently curious" just doesn't cut it. The snooped-on should have been informed immediately, and records of the investigations made available to the victims of the intrusion.

- mattt  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Fri Mar 21, 01:05:00 PM:

In related news, the Clinton campaign today revealed that the 900 FBI files of prominent Republicans they had snooped on in the 90s were a result of simple curiosity. “I mean, doesn’t everybody with access to classified raw FBI data on their political opponents thumb thru them in their spare time for nighttime reading material,” reported a top Clinton administration official who wishes to remain anonymous while running her Presidential campaign.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 01:26:00 PM:

"The matter was investigated by the Whitewater Independent Counsel, who found in 2000 that there was no criminal activity by anyone in the matter, and that there was no credible evidence that senior White House figures or the First Lady had requested the files or had acted improperly or testified improperly..." - Wiki "Filegate". Of course that Ken Starr was just a secret Dem operative. :/

I'm not for Hillary, but if she pulls it out it'd be a minor consolation to watch righties squirm as she was sworn into office, and trusted with all the powers of surveillance and detention that GWB has claimed. What did you guys think when you backed this power grab - did you actually buy Rove's line that he'd forged a 1000 Year R....er, permanent majority?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 01:52:00 PM:

It was his passport file. Not his tax return or FBI file, for goodness' sake.

Gotta love your notion of right to privacy. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.

But but but...it was only a passport file.

J. Edgar Hoover is smiling  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 02:02:00 PM:

The lefties can calm down, at least as far as spinning up anti-Obama conspiracies are concerned. Via Instapundit we learn that both Clinton and McCain's files were also accessed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 02:06:00 PM:

>we learn that both Clinton and McCain's files were also accessed.

SOP for covering a snoop operation, of course.


- mattt  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 02:09:00 PM:

Would this *secret, private* information be something like the list of entry stamps that you show foreign national police agencies every time you enter their country?

And these were viewed by *gasp* State department flunkies?

What a fucking crisis.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 04:05:00 PM:

Several decades ago, while working on a report program to show the outside processing cost component of purchase orders, my coworker and I stumbled upon an obscure data record from which we could glean the salaries of everybody in the division. We immediately informed corporate IT of the availability of the inappropriate data in an otherwise nondescript data file. But not before we ran one job, one time, that listed the annual salaries in descending sort order. Mostly because we could. I remember thinking that I would never in my life make as much as the GM.

It took me eight years, factored for inflation.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 04:45:00 PM:

Yeah, but you'll never get the same number of visa stamps any one of the Senators running for President has, unless you somehow get elected to Congress and can also get on the "taxpayer-paid vacation" program they're on.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 05:34:00 PM:

Well at least this was a US contractor in Virginia. The man for whom I voted in 2000 and '04 is awarding billion dollar contracts to foreign firms for vital work!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 21, 08:22:00 PM:

Since when did the President have the power to raise and appropriate billion dollar contracts?  

By Blogger Consul-At-Arms, at Tue Mar 25, 02:16:00 AM:

You win the CAA quote-of-the-day.

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2008/03/re-passportgate-and-curiousity-defense.html  

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