The United States Postal Service on Thursday said “human error” was to blame for the agency’s improperly releasing a Virginia congressional candidate’s personnel file and security clearance application that she said earlier this week was illegally obtained by a House Republican-aligned super PAC.
USPS apologized to Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former federal agent with the postal inspection service and CIA case officer, and said it’s asking the group to return the documents, which have been circulated to press outlets in recent days.
She said Thursday her unredacted national security questionnaire “could not have been legally provided to them” and called on America Rising and the Congressional Leadership Fund to stop circulating the information.
“I am continuing to review potential legal remedies against USPS, America Rising and CLF to get answers to unanswered questions and right this wrong,” she said.
Ms. Spanberger is challenging GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which stretches from the Richmond area up past Culpeper and near Washington, D.C.’s outer suburbs.
Earlier this week, Ms. Spanberger sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Congressional Leadership Fund, House Republicans’ main super PAC, saying the group improperly obtained her government security clearance application that contained highly sensitive information.
The group, in turn, said America Rising, another conservative group, obtained the information after filing a public information request to the federal government for information from Ms. Spanberger’s personnel file.
“CLF follows the letter of the law in examining any candidate’s background and Ms. Spanberger was no different,” said Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the group.
America Rising, meanwhile, said Ms. Spanberger was leveling “irresponsible” and “false” charges.
Both groups said Ms. Spanberger was trying to draw attention away from her work at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia, which has been a longtime target of local and national officials who have expressed concern about known and suspected terrorists who have attended, including Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who after attending was later implicated in a plot to assassinate then-President George W. Bush.
“It should surprise no one that Ms. Spanberger would want to hide from voters that she worked at a school that produced some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists,” Ms. Alexander said. “That she’s threatening legal action, however, should raise serious questions for voters about what else she is trying to hide.”
The group publicly released a file that showed Ms. Spanberger indicated she taught AP English at the Alexandria school and said it was redacting personal information like addresses and social security numbers.
Ms. Spanberger claimed Thursday that the group was still circulating private information that included her Social Security number and medical history.
“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,” she said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said USPS officials also disclosed Thursday that several other similar incidents have occurred in recent months, though they didn’t disclose the individuals affected.
Mr. Cummings said if the groups don’t return the records in question, the oversight committee might have to step in and make them.
“The right to privacy is sacred, and we must take all appropriate steps to prevent further damage to the individuals whose information was compromised,” he said.
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