Passportgate: A bipartisan mess

The scandal du jour expanded today, in a way that essentially renders it meaningless. After announcing that State Department contractors had inappropriately accessed Barack Obama’s passport file, some leaped to the conclusion that a conspiracy had arisen to find dirt on the presidential candidate. If so, it must be to benefit some third-party candidate, as both Hillary Clinton and John McCain have also had their files accessed without authorization by the same people:

The State Department said Friday that all three presidential candidates’ passport files were breached.

The admission comes after it was revealed Sen. Barack Obama’s files had been viewed three times by contractors. One of the contractors also viewed the files of Republican Sen. John McCain, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Earlier Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s office said that the State Department had notified it that her file had been breached in 2007.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday she had apologized to Obama for the unauthorized viewing of his passport file by State Department contractors.

This will make the initial response from the Obama campaign look a little ridiculous. They claimed that the breach was “an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years.” However, it wasn’t the administration that accessed the files, but employees of companies contracted to maintain State Department database. It’s a case of some low-level workers getting too curious for their own good, and a failure of the contractor to follow up on the flags that the system produced.

Instead of waiting for a little more information, however, the Obama campaign went into full paranoia mode. Where have we seen that recently?

And for sheer chutzpah, we have the Hillary Clinton campaign demanding answers from the Bush administration over its failure to secure these records. Wasn’t it the Clinton Administration that got caught illegally holding over 900 raw FBI files on political figures during the first term? So far, no one has been held responsible for that truly egregious breach of security, an ironic note given that the man who had them was hired apparently at the behest of Hillary herself.

Michelle is following the story closely. All this shows is general bureaucratic incompetence at State, not a grand conspiracy to torpedo anyone. Be sure to watch her post for more updates during the day.