A mundane trip manifest of reporters who traveled to Latin America with President Bush has turned colossally controversial because the White House included personal ID info on the E-mail sent to news bureaus. The key ingredients of identity theft-Social Security and passport numbers and dates of birth-were listed in the E-mail that the White House Travel Office sent out in what's typically the first stage of billing.
"A lot of us went crazy," says one reporter, "because it's an identity theft waiting to happen."
Among those on the trip were CBS's Bill Plante, Fox's Bret Baier, CNN's Ed Henry, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell. The manifest usually includes just the names of those on the trip and what they owe.
The E-mail went to media billing offices and bureau officials. "I don't know everyone on that list. It could have been taken by somebody shady," frets one TV reporter.
"It was an honest mistake," says C-SPAN's Steve Scully, president of the White House Correspondents' Association. He said that a day after the E-mail went out, the travel office apologized and tried to retrieve them. The event prompted the White House to speed up plans to institute a new and more secure system. Some news organizations aren't taking chances. They are warning correspondents to check their charge accounts.
By Paul Bedard