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Go ahead and apologize, then demand answers

April 1, 2008
At least snoops among contractors working at the State Department are nonpartisan in their approach to invading privacy. According to reports last week, they had looked improperly into Passport documents involving all three major candidates for president: Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was, by all appearances, mortified. By week’s end she already had called Obama and Clinton to apologize, and planned to do the same with McCain.

State Department officials announced that two people have lost their jobs because of the invasion of privacy. An investigation involving both that agency and the Justice Department was launched.

There has been speculation that political motives were involved in the snooping. It’s possible, of course, but it is more likely that employees of the contractor working for the State Department’s Passport section were merely curious.

That doesn’t excuse the invasions of privacy — and it raises new questions. How many similar situations have occurred, but not been reported because they did not involve prominent Americans? How many others — perhaps Ohio Valley residents taking that trip of a lifetime abroad — have had their privacy invaded? How much damage, possibly through identity theft, has been done?

Once Rice is finished apologizing to the candidates, she should begin asking those questions — and demanding answers.


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