(Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Friday that employees had improperly viewed the passport files of all three major presidential candidates: Democrats Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain.
Here are the main facts of the case, as disclosed by the State Department.
— On Thursday, the State Department said three contract employees, apparently acting independently and without any political motivation, looked at Obama’s computerized passport file without authorization.
— The three workers were employed by Stanley Corp and the Analysis Corp, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday.
— There are about 180 million to 200 million passport files in the government’s system, the State Department said.
— The incidents took place on January 9, February 21, and March 14 in three places. In the first two cases, the contract employees were fired by their companies. The third case remains under investigation and the person concerned is still employed but no longer has access to such information.
— Lower-level State Department officials knew about the incidents as they took place but failed to inform senior managers, who found out about them on Thursday.
— State Department spokesman McCormack said he first learned Obama’s passport file had been breached when he got an e-mail inquiry from a reporter on Thursday. McCormack, in turn, informed Undersecretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy.
— Kennedy on Thursday asked the State Department’s acting inspector general William Todd — who conducts independent audits within the department — to investigate.
— On Friday, the department said Todd had contacted the Justice Department to offer regular briefings on the probe and to invite federal investigators to join in it at any time.
— On Friday, the department said the passport files of McCain and Clinton had also been breached.
— In McCain’s case, one of the three employees who looked at Obama’s file also accessed the presumptive Republican nominee’s passport records this year.
— In Clinton’s case, a regular State Department employee in 2007 looked at the Democratic candidate’s file during a training exercise. The employee, who had been told to look up a family member’s file, remains employed at the department.
— U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Obama, Clinton and McCain on Friday to apologize for the violation of their privacy and promised to get to the bottom of the matter.
— U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey told reporters on Friday the Justice Department would launch an investigation if it found reason to, or if another agency referred the matter to his department.
— Passport files typically include information from a U.S. citizen’s passport application, including the applicant’s name, address and social security number. They may contain other information, as well.
— State Department officials went to Capitol Hill on Friday to brief aides to all three senators on the incidents. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Editing by Peter Cooney)