If a different State Department contract employee illegally peeked at Barack Obama’s passport records in January and was fired for it, why did the top management of the State Department only learn about it now?

I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that snooping into Obama’s passport records was some sort of Administration plot. After all, you only need to snoop once to get dirt on your opponent; three violations by three different people on three different dates seems more consistent with either curiosity or venality (hoping to find something hot to sell to the tabs or a rival campaign) than with political skulduggery organized from the top.

Still, doesn’t it seem strange that the January incident, which led to the contract employee being fired, is only now coming to the attention of the Department’s top management? Smells like a significant systems failure to me. Who decided to keep the story bottled up for two months? And have criminal referrals been made?

If snooping into someone’s passport records isn’t already a crime, it certainly should be.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: