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Senators: Probe passport-file snooping

  • Story Highlights
  • Senators call for attorney general, panel to investigate passport file snooping
  • State Department inspector general investigating viewing of candidates' files
  • CEO of company that hired one of the contractors is an Obama adviser
  • Company says contractor's actions were due to ideal curiosity and an "aberration"
  • Next Article in Politics »

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two senators Sunday called for the Justice Department and Congress to investigate how the security of three presidential candidates' passport files was compromised.

Sen. Arlen Specter is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last week, the State Department revealed that Sen. Barack Obama's passport file was improperly accessed three times in 2008, and the passport files of the two other major presidential candidates -- Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain -- had also been breached.

"There are federal criminal statutes involved. I think that ought to be a very intense investigation. I think privacy is a very fundamental matter," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, told CNN.

"And if you can't have privacy for Senator McCain and Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, so what's the average person facing?" he added.

Specter said Attorney General Michael Mukasey should look into the matter as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter is the top Republican on that committee.

Last week Mukasey said the Justice Department had not launched an investigation but would look into the matter if asked by the State Department inspector general, who has already started an investigation.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, joined Specter's call for an inquiry.

"I will also say the Government Accountability Office has been warning about this problem for a decade," he said. "And it seems to me in this administration, there's been pretty much a culture of disregard for privacy and that's part of the problem."

Three contractors are accused in the wrongdoings. One of the contractors who worked for The Analysis Corporation was disciplined. That contractor accessed McCain's file in addition to Obama's.

The other two contractors, who worked for Stanley Inc., were fired. Stanley has had contracts with the department since 1992, and was recently awarded a $570 million contract to continue providing support for passport processing.

None of the contractors was identified.

The source said there has been no problem "at all" in the past with the TAC employee, who has "extensive" experience.

The worker has been at TAC for years, and during that time has always worked under a State Department contract. Explaining that the department had "complimented" this person for work in the past, the source said the individual is considered a "terrific" employee, except for this one instance, which the source characterized as an "aberration."

The department asked TAC not to take any administrative action against the employee while the investigation is under way. On Friday, the company released a statement saying it would fully cooperate with the federal probe.

The source said TAC has told the employee to do the same. Echoing the State Department spokesman Friday, this source said there is no indication the motivation was anything but idle curiosity

On Saturday a source told CNN that the CEO of one of the two companies that hired the contractors is a consultant to the Obama campaign. Watch how the companies had ties to Obama, Clinton »

John Brennan, president of TAC, advises the Illinois Democrat on foreign policy and intelligence issues, the source said.

Brennan briefed the media on behalf of the campaign earlier this month. The executive is a former senior CIA official and former interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

He contributed $2,300 to the Obama campaign in January.

TAC's CEO, Philip Nolan, contributed $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. E-mail to a friend

CNN's Kate Bolduan and Zain Verjee contributed to this report.

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