Leahy, Specter Want Investigation Into Passport Privacy Breach

The Democratic chairman and top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee don't want to wait around for an internal State Department investigation into why contractors poked around in the passport files of the three presidential candidates.

Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), in a letter today to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, say they want Justice to open a criminal investigation into whether federal privacy laws were violated and whether there are extra measures that should be taken to prevent contractors from accessing such high profile passport files. The passport files of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain were all viewed by State Department contractors, but the department has not identified the contractors.

"The Justice Department’s critical law enforcement function need not and should not await completion of the State Department’s internal probe," the senators wrote in their letter. "We ask that you take immediate action to look into this matter, and inform us what preliminary steps the department is taking to determine whether these passport file breaches involved the violation of federal laws, and to make sure that any evidence of possible violations by current or former contractors is being preserved."

In a separate letter to Senate leaders, Leahy and Specter used the incident as an opportunity to promote their bipartisan privacy bill, which would require timely notification of data security breaches and mandate that government contractors closely guard sensitive personal data. They asked for floor time in the Senate to debate the bill, which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year.

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