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Rice Apologizes For Breach of Passport Data

John Brennan, chief executive of Analysis, gave $2,300 to Obama on Jan. 28, records show. "We deeply regret that the incident occurred and believe it is an isolated incident," the company said in an e-mail statement. It noted that at the request of the State Department, it has delayed taking action against its employee until the IG's office completes its investigation. Brennan had a 25-year career with the CIA and served as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

A fourth worker, who accessed Clinton's file, is not a contractor but a State Department employee. The employee looked up Clinton's file during a training exercise last summer -- trainees had been told to look up a parent's application -- and was "admonished" but not fired, McCormack said.

Though Rice has ordered a probe by State's inspector general, the two fired employees no longer fall under the department's jurisdiction and could refuse to answer questions. McCormack said the department hopes the former employees will cooperate with the inquiry. State has also asked the Justice Department to help monitor the IG's probe, McCormack said.

David H. Laufman, associate independent counsel in the earlier passport scandal and now a partner at Kelley Drye Collier Shannon in Washington, said that a violation of the Privacy Act would occur if the person who accessed the information also disclosed it to someone unauthorized to received it. Even then, he said, violating the act is only a misdemeanor.

McCormack said State's passport services directorate includes 1,800 employees and 2,600 contractors. The contractors perform data entry and customer service tasks.

The State Department recently expanded the access that various government agencies and even foreign law enforcement agencies can have into the passport system, according to a notice in the Federal Register earlier this year. The notice said the action was being taken "for counter-terrorism and other purposes such as border security and fraud prevention."

In a recent report, State said that it was trying to balance access to data with the appropriate level of security. "One lesson of September 11, 2001, is that restricting access to information poses serious risks, often outweighing the impact of potential unauthorized disclosure," the department said.

Staff researchers Julie Tate and Madonna Lebling in Washington and staff writer Jonathan Weisman in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.

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