In Focus: What McCain, Clinton and Obama Do Have In Common: Passport Breaches

"The episodes have raised questions as to whether the actions by the Bush administration were politically motivated." So MSNBC reports today in a piece disclosing that the three major candidates for president have had their passport files breached by a few contractors at the State Department, all of whom have either been fired or disciplined. (Trivia question number: Does it bode well for an already tendentious twig of the executive branch to have a man named Patrick Kennedy conducting the internal investigation of this mini-scandal?)

Previously, it had been reported by the Washington Times that only Obama's file had been breached. Condoleezza Rice apologized to the Illinois senator personally, and Obama's camp called the violation an "outrageous breach of security," which it no doubt was. Apart from containing a person's citizenship, age, place of birth, a passport file also contains his Social Security number, which can be used to trace credit reports and travel records.

Suspicion of fishiness arose immediately, with some blaming the Bushies, who'd do anything to derail a Democratic campaign, others blaming Clinton, who'd hire Karl Rove himself if she thought that'd secure the nomination. (Hillary's camp has expressed curiosity about Obama's senatorial itinerary, particularly in light of her unwilling release of the First Lady archives, a veritable Encyclopedia Britannica of doubt about what she claimed to have accomplished or facilitated in that role.)

But since Clinton and McCain's files have also been hacked by the same bureaucratic voyeurs, wouldn't that scupper any motive of politics? (Trivia question number two: Are State Department officials who might have been acting out of partisan skulduggery really clever enough to cover their asses by opening everyone's file?)

Will Bunch at Attytood has uncovered the following:

The office that handles passports, consular affairs, is indeed run by a woman named Maura Harty, who's a....wait for it -- Clinton administration holdover. Remember, no one has implicated her or any State Department employees -- the two people who were fired were contract workers.

Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee doesn't see conspiracy behind the breaches:

I worked for a financial services company years ago, and trainers that would use the dummied copies of the accounts of certain internationally-known celebrity clients in orientation to keep the class awake. There was never any ill-will involved in using the client's accounts, just a certain sort of stupid Stuart-ish "look what I can do!" voyeuristic element premised more on curiosity than malice.

And This Ain't Hell... says:

If the Bush Administration was really behind it (and I can’t imagine many Bush supporters at the State Department) why wouldn’t they have done it long before now?... Maybe it’d just be easier to list those of us haven’t had their passport records breached. All ya’all are welcome to mine - steal my identity, too. Maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I have.

But Steven Benan at The Carpetbagger Report contends that a more sinister explanation still has legs:

That State Department staffers sought out confidential information about the major presidential candidates starts to look more like opposition research, and less like innocent prying. Given the Bush administration’s history of politicizing non-partisan government agencies, including the State Department, there’s no reason to extend the benefit of the doubt.

And John Cole at Balloon Juice gets meta:

While the chattering classes all look for nefarious reasons for these invasions, I will simply restate what I said last night- the real scandal is that our government has this much information stored about us. And yes, I am aware that private corporations have much the same information, and no, I am not happy about that, either.

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of Pajamas Media. His blog is Snarksmith.