As America celebrates its birthday, new disclosures showcase just how disposable privacy has become in what used to be the home of the brave and the land of the free.
An investigation into practices of the U.S. Passport service show government employees routinely snoop into the private files of celebrities, sports figures and other prominent Americans.
One Passport Agency employee who routinely browsed the files of professional sports figures told investigators that he just "liked looking at information" about athletes.
The snooping is so widespread that a massive overhaul is needed to protect the privacy of millions of Americans who hold a U.S. passport.
Government workers repeatedly snooped without authorization inside the electronic passport records of entertainers, athletes and other high-profile Americans, a State Department audit has found. One celebrity’s records were breached 356 times by more than six dozen people.
The audit, by State’s inspector general, was prompted by the discovery in March that three of the department’s contract workers had peeked at the private passport files of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain and that a State Department trainee had examined the file of Sen. 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 Sen Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.).