Contractor employees implicated in passport breach

Updated at 7:05 p.m.

UPDATED?Stanley Inc. and Analysis Corp. were named as the contractors involved in the improper accessing of the passport file of presidential candidate Barack Obama, according to the State Department.

Breaches involving fellow candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain are under investigation.

At least two people have been fired from their jobs and a third was disciplined, the State Department said.

A State source identified two of the people involved in the incidents as Stanley employees.

The investigation into the breaches is ongoing. On Thursday, the State Department announced that three people, in three separate incidents, looked at Obama's passport file.

On Friday, it was revealed that Clinton's and McCain's files also were accessed.

A system to detect unauthorized access to files identified the breaches quickly, a State Department spokesman said. "It's our initial view that this was imprudent curiosity," spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

The three incidents involving Obama occurred at three different locations by three different people on Jan. 9, Feb. 17 and March 14. One of the people also accessed McCain's file, several news organizations have reported. The breach involving Clinton's file reportedly occurred in 2007 and involved a trainee, who was admonished but not fired.

The department's inspector general is investigating the breaches to see how and why they occurred and what if anything may have been done with the information in the files.

Stanley issued a statement Friday afternoon in which it acknowledged that two of its subcontractor employees were involved in the unauthorized access of Obama's passport files. In each case, the employee was terminated the day the unauthorized search occurred, Stanley said.

Stanley described the improper conduct as a rare occurrence and said it regretted the unauthorized access of any individual's private information.

In the statement, Stanley said that during the hiring process it conducts several background checks on its employees and subcontractor employees. In addition, employees are subjected to a government-sponsored background check.

Beyond that, job candidates receive training on the Privacy Act and are required to sign a Privacy Act acknowledgement before starting work, Stanley said in the statement. "This acknowledgement, among other items, indicates that any employee who knowingly obtains access to information under false pretenses is subject to immediate dismissal and both civil and criminal prosecution," the statement said.

In its statement, Analysis Corp. said, "We deeply regret that the incident occurred and believe it is an isolated incident."

The company said it as delaying any action against its employee at the request of the State Department, which wants its inspector general to complete its investigation.

"We are fully cooperating with the Department of State in its investigation," the statement said.

Both companies have a long history of supporting the State Department.

In fact, on Monday, Stanley announced it won a $570 million contract with the department's Bureau of Consular Affairs/Passport Services Directorate.

The company first began working with State in 1992 when it helped establish the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, N.H.

Stanley began construction last year of a secure passport production center in Tucson, Ariz., which is expected to begin operations this spring. The Tucson Passport Center and an existing facility in Hot Springs, Ark., which opened in March 2007, were authorized under a 10-year, $164 million contract, which Stanley won in October 2006. Stanley oversees operations and the printing, quality control and mailing of U.S. passports and other travel documents at all 18 passport processing sites nationwide.

About the Authors

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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