USPS Apologizes To Dem Candidate For Mistakenly Releasing Security Clearance App

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Group

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday apologized to Democratic congressional candidate and former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger for mistakenly releasing her full security clearance application to a Republican research firm, which then shared it with a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The Postal Service deeply regrets our mistake in inappropriately releasing Ms. Spanberger’s Official Personnel File (“OPF”) to a third-party, which occurred because of human error,” USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer told TPM in a statement.

We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again,” Partenheimer added. (See the full statement below.)

After USPS acknowledged its error, Spanberger called on America Rising and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a powerful conservative super PAC, to stop circulating the information they had obtained.

“I remain profoundly disappointed by CLF’s politically-motivated choice to circulate my unredacted National Security Questionnaire, a document that could not have been legally provided to them,” Spanberger said in a statement on the news. “Despite our repeated cease and desist letters, they continue to circulate my private information, including my Social Security number and medical history.”

She said she was “continuing to review potential legal remedies against USPS, America Rising and CLF to get answers to unanswered questions and right this wrong.” (Read Spanberger’s full statement below.)

Spanberger told the New York Times Tuesday that CLF had improperly obtained her clearance application. She said an AP reporter had showed her a copy of the clearance application that CLF had provided. 

BuzzFeed then reported that America Rising, a GOP-aligned research group, had obtained the file through a FOIA request to the USPS human resources division. Years ago, Spanberger applied to the USPS’ law enforcement arm and the CIA at the same time, filling out security clearance applications for both. America Rising shared the file with CLF, BuzzFeed reported.

Read USPS’ full statement below:

The Postal Service deeply regrets our mistake in inappropriately releasing Ms. Spanberger’s Official Personnel File (“OPF”) to a third-party, which occurred because of human error. We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again.  The Postal Service has addressed the issue by providing clear instructions and guidance to our employees tasked with the responsibility for handling these requests, and we will follow up with additional training. The Postal Service also intends to change our process for handling requests for OPF information to provide further protection against its inadvertent release, and to ensure that such requests are properly handled.  We are continuing our review, but believe the issue began in June of 2018, and that only a small number of additional requests for information from personnel files were improperly processed.

The privacy and security of personal information is of utmost importance to the Postal Service. The Postal Service offers our sincere apology to Ms. Spanberger, and we will request the return of the information which we mistakenly disclosed. 

Read Spanberger’s full statement below:

“When I served as a federal agent with the US Postal Inspection Service and as a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, I did so to serve my country and protect my fellow citizens – including those who work at the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and America Rising.

“The Postal Service has confirmed that they gave information to America Rising and CLF that they never should have provided. I remain profoundly disappointed by CLF’s politically-motivated choice to circulate my unredacted National Security Questionnaire, a document that could not have been legally provided to them. Despite our repeated cease and desist letters, they continue to circulate my private information, including my Social Security number and medical history.

“I have read the press release from the US Postal Service (USPS) and have spoken with the Chief Postal Inspector regarding this disturbing issue, and many unanswered questions remain. I am awaiting confirmation as to whether my National Security Questionnaire was indeed among the Official Personnel File (“OPF”) documents released to America Rising and CLF.

“It is my sincere hope that USPS will provide significantly more detail as to how this major failure occurred, and that CLF and America Rising will put decency and country before politics and comply with USPS’s request that they return all documents received. I also expect that CLF will comply with our original cease and desist and stop sharing my personal identifying information, including my Social Security Number.”

“I am continuing to review potential legal remedies against USPS, America Rising and CLF to get answers to unanswered questions and right this wrong.”

This post has been updated.

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