Setback for Sanders' campaign

2015-12-18 21:52
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine. (Robert F Bukaty, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine. (Robert F Bukaty, AP)

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Washington - US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders' campaign has been punished by the party after at least one its staffers used a computer glitch to peek at Hillary Clinton's voter data.

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday temporarily suspended the Sanders campaign's access to the party's voter database.

That's a real slap because the trove features information on voters nationwide and candidates use it to plan strategy as they vie for the nomination in next year's election to replace Barack Obama.

The Vermont senator's campaign fired one intruding staffer, and the party blamed NGP VAN, the technology company that provides campaigns with access to the data, for allowing the intrusion.

The glitch - in which a firewall protecting proprietary data was lowered briefly on Wednesday - made voter data unique to the Clinton campaign viewable for outside eyes.

Sanders, an independent who calls himself a democratic socialist, is running a distant second behind Clinton, who has a more than 20 point lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley face off on Saturday in the party's third presidential debate, which is to be held in the early voting state of New Hampshire.

The data breach story was first broken on Thursday by the Washington Post.

The dismissed staffer, Josh Uretsky, told CNN on Friday he had not been trying to spy on Clinton.

Rather, Uretsky said he had become aware of the breach and just poked around in the Clinton data for a while to see how exposed the Sanders campaign was. Then the firewall protecting the data went back up.

"To the best of my knowledge, nobody took anything that would have given the campaign any benefit," Uretsky told CNN.

According to the DNC, the suspension will remain in effect until the Sanders campaign provides a full explanation of what happened. It must also present proof that any pilfered data has been erased.

Although Uretsky was the only staffer fired, the New York Times reported that from four user accounts associated with the Sanders campaign searches were carried out while Clinton's data was exposed.

Sanders' campaign spokesperson, Michael Briggs, said on Thursday night that this is not the first time the technology company has dropped the firewall.

He said the Sanders team had learned of such glitches months ago and told the DNC that campaign data, including Sanders material, was being made visible to other campaigns.

"Unfortunately, yesterday, the vendor once again dropped the firewall between the campaigns for some data," Briggs said.

"After discussion with the DNC, it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modelling data from another campaign. That behaviour is unacceptable and that staffer was immediately fired."

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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