Senator Obama Security Breaches

MSNBC Live – 3/21/2008 8:47 am

ALEX WITT: The Secretary of State has had to send a personal apology to Barack Obama for security breaches involving the Senator’s personal information. Condoleeza Rice addressed that issue just about an hour ago:

Condoleeza Rice: I told him that I was sorry and I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody looked into my passport file and therefore I will stay on top of it until I get to the bottom of it.

ALEX WITT: Staying on top of it indeed. We understand that Senator Obama’s office will be briefed by the State Department’s Ambassador Patrick Kennedy as well as at least one person from Senator Joe Biden’s staff, of course Senator Joe Biden being the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Still on the heels of that, let’s bring in Kendall Coffey, the man you just saw there, he’s a former U.S. Attorney, a partner in the law firm of Coffey and Burlington as well as being a Hillary Clinton supporter. Good morning to you.

KENDALL COFFEY: Good morning Alex.

ALEX WITT: When you think about this case, what are some of the unanswered questions that are jumping right out at you.

KENDALL COFFEY: Well they come at two levels. The more serious potential criminal investigation, the issues are going to be why and where. Why were these three different individuals, in three separate months, looking into the matter? And where, if anywhere, did the information go outside the State Department? On the purely administrative level, the question is: Does the State Department know what its own people are doing? How did this happen three times and it took literally weeks before anybody became aware of it?

ALEX WITT: Three times of late but we certainly remember of course Secretary Rice saying every effort will be made to make sure this doesn’t happen again. That was probably uttered – or similar statement – with the incident involving Clinton’s passport. That happened back in 1992 so what kind of safeguards need to be put in place that may not be there already?

KENDALL COFFEY: Yeah, as you pointed out as Yogi Berra would say, It’s deja vu all over again, very similar to what happened in 92. If anything, that was a pretty clear partisan effort to get the goods on Bill Clinton and maybe whether there some kind of efforts he made with respect to his citizenship in order to dodge the draft. They supposedly put systems in place so that when high profile individual’s passport information is accessed notifications happen. It didn’t happen here. A footnote on the last investigation was – nobody was criminally charged but there were plenty of embarrassments, plenty of criticisms made and apparently a problem that still has not been completely solved.

ALEX WITT: Okay, Kendall, we are just getting word from the Associated Press that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said apparently not just Barack Obama but also Senator Hillary Clinton last year at some point in 2007 had her passport file breached so again as this investigation is getting underway, Secretary of State Rice saying they will get to the bottom of it and among the things they are finding out now — again Senator Hillary Clinton’s passport file was breached back in 2007 — so if you all get this, Kendall, I know it’s early to have any sort of resolute answer to this, but do you get a sense this is just as was quoted “imprudent curiosity” on behalf of some of these public officials, or do you think there was something politically motivated behind this?

KENDALL COFFEY: Well, it’s very troubling and I think a lot of people are going to be more inclined toward conspiracy theory than coincidence theory. You’ve got two high-profile democrats being examined. One of the most distressing and frightening things, frankly, is the idea that confidential federal files can be accessed for snooping on political candidates. That would be an utter cancer in our system and so I think this is a kind of thing where you are going to see an outcry and a demand for some kind of an independent council, a top to bottom investigation and there is going to be no stones left unturned. They are going to be looking under every blade of grass to find out if there was a political motivation and again, Alex, very important, where was that information going to because there are plenty of potential federal crimes that can be explored and considered if, in fact, this information was being sought for any improper purpose.

ALEX WITT: And exactly what that information is we have yet to know for certain at this point. Kendall Coffey – thank you very much for your insight.