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U.S. gov't employees frequently peek at celebrities' passport records
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09:33, July 05, 2008

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U.S. State Department employees frequently snoop inside electronic passport records of U.S. celebrities without authorization, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The findings were made by an internal audit led by the department's inspector general, according to the report.

In one case, a celebrity's records were breached 356 times by more than six dozen people.

The audit was prompted by a discovery in March that three of the department's contract workers had peeked at the private passport files of Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain and that a State Department trainee had examined the file of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The report documented a widespread lack of controls on the personal data of the 127 million Americans who hold passports, finding numerous "weaknesses, including a general lack of policies, procedures, guidance and training."

The State Department had maintained that its system worked when the candidates' passport breaches were discovered.

"This is unacceptable. The report makes it clear that the private information of over 100 million Americans is vulnerable to unauthorized access," said Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The 192 million passport files maintained by the State Department contain individuals' passport applications, which include data such as Social Security numbers, physical descriptions, and names and places of birth of the applicants' parents. Otherwise, the files provide limited information; they donot contain records of overseas travel or visa stamps from previous passports.

To test the extent of the snooping, investigators assembled a list of 150 famous Americans and checked how many times their files were accessed over five and a half years.

The audit found that the records of 127, or 85 percent, had been searched a total of more than 4,100 times.

Source: Xinhua

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