This post has been updated.
The Democratic National Committee suspended Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign from its voter files after a staffer for the campaign improperly accessed Hillary Clinton’s voter information, the Washington Post reported on Thursday night.
CNN and the New York Times confirmed that the Sanders campaign was suspended for viewing Clinton’s confidential information while a software error made the rival campaign’s voter information temporarily available to others.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, told the Washington Post that a low-level staffer accessed the information. And Michael Briggs, a spokesman for the campaign said that the employee had been fired.
However, Bloomberg Politics reported that the campaign fired its national data director, Josh Uretsky, on Thursday afternoon for viewing Clinton’s confidential information. And Uretsky told CNN on Friday morning that he did not intentionally view the voter files of Clinton’s campaign.
He said he was trying to “understand how badly the Sanders campaign’s data was exposed” by the software glitch that made the information available.
“We knew there was a security breach in the data, and we were just trying to understand it and what was happening,” he told CNN.
Uretsky said that he doesn’t believe anybody “took anything that would have given the (Sanders) campaign any benefit.”
The New York Times reported that four user accounts associated with the Sanders campaign conducted searches in the system while Clinton’s information was available.
The Sanders campaign’s suspension could be a setback for the Vermont senator’s presidential bid, as campaigns rely heavily on voter data.
The DNC maintains a master list of likely Democratic voters, and each campaign can then add to the list. The DNC keeps each campaign’s data separated by a firewall. But for a brief period, the firewalls were down due to a glitch. NGP VAN, the vendor that manages the data, told the Washington Post that the incident occurred on Wednesday while the company was working on the software and that it was very brief.
Weaver blamed NGP VAN for the incident.
“Sadly, the DNC is relying on an incompetent vendor who on more than one occasion has dropped the firewall between the various Democratic candidates’ data,” he told the Post.
Briggs told CNN that the Sanders campaign had previously notified the DNC about the firewall dropping.
“Our campaign months ago alerted the DNC to the fact that campaign data was being made available to other campaigns. At that time our campaign did not run to the media, relying instead on assurances from the vendor,” he said. “Unfortunately, yesterday, the vendor once again dropped the firewall between the campaigns for some data. After discussion with the DNC it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modeling data from another campaign.”
According to the Washington Post, the DNC told the Sanders campaign that they will again be able to access the voter files after they destroy any data collected from the Clinton campaign’s list and explain why the staffer breached the system. Weaver told the Post that the campaign never downloaded any of the Clinton campaign’s information and therefore is not in possession of any of the data.
The DNC said that they are in contact with NGP VAN to make sure another breach doesn’t happen again.
“The DNC places a high priority on maintaining the security of our system and protecting the data on it,” DNC spokesman Luis Miranda said in a statement to the Washington Post. “We are working with our campaigns and the vendor to have full clarity on the extent of the breach, ensure that this isolated incident does not happen again, and to enable our campaigns to continue engaging voters on the issues that matter most to them and their families.”