ARLINGTON, Va. – Private information at bargain prices. It was a high-tech flub at the McCain-Palin campaign headquarters in Arlington when Fox 5’s Investigative Reporter Tisha Thompson bought a Blackberry device containing confidential campaign information.
It started with a snippet we read on page A23 in Thursday’s Washington Post. The McCain-Palin campaign was going to sell its used office inventory at low prices.
But when we got there, it didn’t look like we were going to get much. It was lunchtime and most of the good stuff was gone, picked over by early birds looking for deals on file cabinets, white boards, sofas– anything headquarters could sell to get back some of their campaign dough.
We saw laptops ranging between $400 and $600 with logins like “WARROOM08.” We couldn’t log on without a password, but staffers assured us the hard drive would be zapped before it was sold, and the computer would probably work.
The hottest item? Blackberry phones at $20 a piece. There were only 10 left. All of the batteries had died. There were no chargers for sale. But people were snatching them up. So, we bought a couple.
And ended up with a lot more than we bargained for…
When we charged them up in the newsroom, we found one of the $20 Blackberry phones contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night.
We traced the Blackberry back to a staffer who worked for “Citizens for McCain,” a group of democrats who threw their support behind the Republican nominee. The emails contain an insider’s look at how grassroots operations work, full of scheduling questions and rallying cries for support.
But most of the numbers were private cell phones for campaign leaders, politicians, lobbyists and journalists.
We called some of the numbers.
“Somebody made a mistake,” one owner told us. “People’s numbers and addresses were supposed to be erased.”
“They should have wiped that stuff out,” another said. But he added, “Given the way the campaign was run, this is not a surprise.”
We called the McCain-Palin campaign, who says, “it was an unfortunate staff error and procedures are being put in place to ensure all information is secure.”
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