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Re: C.I.A. Officer-Turned-Democrat-Candidate Says PAC Obtained Her Security Application
Postal Service admits ex-CIA officer's personnel file released in 'human error'
Spanberger suggested the release of the personnel file might have been politically motivated given the fact that it was unredacted and the speed with which the Postal Service processed the request: 21 days after America Rising submitted the FOIA. Spanberger said a firm hired by her campaign to research her background - a standard practice so campaigns know what information is available for rivals to gather - requested her federal employment records in December and is still waiting for them.
21 days for a FOIA request is lighting speed.
Abigail Spanberger requested her own copy of the form her security application in 2017 and it still waiting for it.
Abigail Spanberger and at least three others had their security application released.
Republicans knew this was confidential information and used it in attack ads and robo calls anyway.
Democrats have a lot of candidates running this cycle with security clearances, will their security applications be leaked and used against them?
Re: C.I.A. Officer-Turned-Democrat-Candidate Says PAC Obtained Her Security Application
USPS Issues Mea Culpa for Release of Virginia Democrat’s Clearance Form
The U.S. Postal Service has confirmed it improperly included Virginia Democratic candidate Abigail Spanberger’s highly confidential federal security clearance application in a package to a conservative opposition research group in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The mistake occurred “because of human error,” Dave Partenheimer, a public affairs specialist for the USPS, said in a statement Thursday.
“We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again,” Partenheimer said.
America Rising, the conservative opposition group that filed the FOIA request, passed along the package with Spanberger’s SF-86 security clearance form to the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC closely affiliated with House GOP leadership and Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Spanberger, who is running against GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s hotly contested 7th District, had indicated Tuesday and Wednesday that she believed CLF and America Rising obtained the form through illegal channels.
“I am not aware of any legal way that CLF could have this document,” Spanberger, a former CIA officer and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officer, wrote in a cease-and-desist letter to CLF for circulating the form to at least one reporter at The Associated Press.
CLF’s lawyers issued a response cease-and-desist letter of their own Wednesday afternoon, threatening legal action against Spanberger for “leveling false and irresponsible charges” about how CLF obtained the SF-86.
After the USPS released its statement accepting responsibility for the release of Spanberger's information, CLF said Spanberger owes the group an apology.
“For the last 48 hours Abigail Spanberger and her liberal allies in Washington have engaged in a misleading smear campaign against our organization and now that the truth has come out she owes us an apology," CLF communications director Courtney Alexander said.
C.I.A. Officer-Turned-Democrat-Candidate Says PAC Obtained Her Security Application
C.I.A. Officer-Turned-Candidate Says PAC Obtained Her Security Application
WASHINGTON — A former C.I.A. officer running for Congress accused a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday of improperly obtaining her entire federal security clearance application — a highly sensitive document containing extensive personal information — and then using it for political purposes.
Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic candidate challenging Representative Dave Brat of Virginia, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has raised more than $100 million to help Republicans in the midterm elections. She demanded that the super PAC destroy all copies of the form and agree to not use the information in any fashion.
“I write as a former civil servant and as an American, in shock and anger, that you have tried to exploit my service to our country by exposing my most personal information in the name of politics,” she wrote.
The super PAC released a statement on Tuesday strongly denying Ms. Spanberger’s charge, saying that the document was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the United States Postal Service by America Rising, a separate Republican-aligned research firm.
“C.L.F. follows the letter of the law in examining any candidate’s background and Ms. Spanberger was no different,” Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the group, said in the statement.
The group also released a portion of the security clearance application, blacking out some personal information.
Graham Wilson, a lawyer for Ms. Spanberger’s campaign, said that explanation, which laid the mistake on the Postal Service, did not ring true. “In this unredacted form, this is not a document that the government can provide under the Privacy Act,” he said.
Ms. Spanberger, 39, said in the letter that she had “clear evidence” that the Congressional Leadership Fund had provided a copy of her security clearance application to “at least one news outlet,” adding, “I am not aware of any legal way that C.L.F. could have this document.” In an interview, she said that she suspected that the group was trying to exploit a brief time when she taught at a private Islamic school funded by Saudi Arabia.
The super PAC validated that suspicion in its response, going on at some length to try to link the school — called “Terror High” in an earlier news article — to terrorist activity.
“I am proud of my background and my service, and not ashamed of the information I submitted,” she said. “I have nothing to hide in my background. But, as any American in a similar situation would be, I am concerned about my privacy and security.”
Ms. Spanberger, a first-time candidate, served in the C.I.A. as a covert officer overseas for eight years, much of it investigating international terrorism cases, and has used that part of her biography in her appeal to voters in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes the suburbs of Richmond and extends north to far reaches of exurban Washington.
She has made the race, which is rated a tossup by the Cook Political Report, surprisingly competitive.
“When I decided to run for Congress, I took stringent measures for my campaign because, as a former C.I.A. operative, I assumed I would be the target of attacks,” she said in the letter. “But I expected those attacks to come from foreign adversaries, not domestic groups associated with members of Congress, like C.L.F.”
Even before being approached by a reporter, Ms. Spanberger said in the interview that she had become suspicious that the application had been leaked because Republican-aligned groups conducting “push polling” in the race had been asking respondents whether they knew she had once taught at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., an international baccalaureate program.
One of her supporters received a call from the polling company and reported that she was asked if she would be less likely to support Ms. Spanberger if she knew that the candidate had taught at a school funded by the Saudi royal family that had “numerous students arrested for terrorism,” Ms. Spanberger said.
A recent graduate from the University of Virginia at the time, Ms. Spanberger returned to the United States in 2002 after teaching in Germany and earning a master’s degree. She applied for a job at the C.I.A. that year and was told in December that she had a conditional offer pending her background check, which she was told could take at least six months.
She waited tables in the interim, and a colleague asked her if she would be interested in a temporary job teaching English at the academy to cover for another instructor’s maternity leave, Ms. Spanberger said.
As she awaited final word from the C.I.A., she took a job at the Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service. She said she filled out the federal forms for both jobs at about the same time. She also said she informed the C.I.A. each time she took on new employment.
National security experts said that the unauthorized release of such a highly confidential document is particularly troubling if it turns out to not be an isolated episode.
“It calls for a tremendous amount of extremely private, personal information, and so to the person whose information is at stake, it is extremely significant,” said David Kris, a founder of Culper Partners and a former assistant attorney general for national security.
Ms. Spanberger noted that she, like millions of others, had been notified that her personal information may have been compromised in 2015 during a breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management. American officials have said privately that they believe that the hacking could be traced to the Chinese government.
Ms. Spanberger is among more than a dozen Democratic candidates this year with strong background in national security through service in the military or at the intelligence agencies.
Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sent a letter on Tuesday to more than a dozen candidates in his party making them aware of Ms. Spanberger’s complaint and urging caution.
“This is an official government document that only President Trump’s administration should have in its possession in its unredacted form,” Mr. Luján said.
“To be clear, we have no reason to believe that Republican groups have illegally obtained any of your personnel files, nor are we certain how C.L.F. got Ms. Spanberger’s document in the first place,” Mr. Luján said. “But even the evidence of this isolated incident is deeply troubling.”
A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, Jeremy Adler, said, “We cannot speak to the activity or behavior of outside groups.”
The Associated Press declined to comment directly on the issue. “As a matter of longstanding policy, The Associated Press does not publicly discuss its news gathering methods or sourcing,” said Bryan Baldwin, a spokesman for the news organization. “In this instance, The A.P. did not publish a story on this topic.”
President Trump’s persistent attacks on the intelligence agencies, notably in connection with its assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign to help him, have given rise to complaints that a “deep state” exists in the government that is working to undermine the president.
But Ms. Spanberger is looking at that from the opposite perspective.
“I personally don’t see that they only have my documents,” Ms. Spanberger said. “I just happen to be the canary in the coal mine and we had someone bring it to my attention.”
She added, “I have nothing to hide. If they need a canary in the coal mine, I’m glad it’s me.”