"Imprudent Curiosity"

A campaign blog.
March 21 2008 12:29 PM

"Imprudent Curiosity"

Of all the explanations floated as to why three State Department employees were snooping around Barack Obama's passport files—and, it now turns out , Hillary Clinton's and John McCain's—the most plausible one is also the simplest: "imprudent curiosity."

That's what State Department spokesman Sean McCormick called it, and although his job is to spin, it rings true. Temp jobs are inherently unaccountable—you're in, you do your work, you're out. You're less likely to want to develop a lasting relationship with your employer and therefore might be more willing to take a peek at federal records, especially if they're sitting there under your nose.

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Naturally, the State Deptartment had to react forcefully, lest anyone believe suggestions that the security breach was political motivated. Condoleezza Rice called Obama personally to apologize and promised a full investigation. But all signs so far point to plain old nosiness. It's hard to see partisanship playing a role: Andrea Mitchell points out that Maura Harty, the person in charge of management and consular affairs, has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Plus, the same employees peeked at Clinton and McCain's files, too. Seems more like a case of managerial incompetence than partisan skullduggery.

But hey, at least Obama got another umbrage-taking opportunity out of it.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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