The U.S. Postal Service says it made a mistake in releasing the official personnel file of a Democratic candidate to a Republican-aligned super PAC after the candidate claimed that a GOP super PAC had obtained the file improperly.
A spokesperson for the Postal Service said Thursday that the agency made an "unfortunate error" when releasing the personnel file of Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who is challenging Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) for his House seat, The New York Times reported Thursday.
“We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again,” spokesman David Partenheimer said.
“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.”
The Postal Service, according to the Times, also said there were other possible improper disclosures.
Spanberger accused the Postal Service earlier this week of improperly releasing her personnel file relating to her time working for the Postal Inspection Service. Spanberger claims that a GOP-aligned PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) inappropriately obtained the document and distributed it to news organizations.
CLF said it gained Spanberger’s application through a normal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which it included in its statement. According to CLF, another GOP research group, America Rising, filed the request with the United States Postal Service (USPS).
“As is its right, CLF therefore will continue to disseminate this information through all available means so that voters can reach an informed conclusion regarding their choice at the polls on November 6, 2018,” an attorney for CLF told the Times.
Spanberger maintains, however, that the file could not have been obtained legally in its current form, and sent a letter to CLF alleging that the organization had distributed sensitive personal information, which included her Social Security number.
“Astonishingly, CLF has persisted in distributing Ms. Spanberger’s Social Security number and you have refused to agree that you will not continuing distributing it in the future," Spanberger's lawyer wrote in a letter to CLF, according to the Times.
Spanberger told the Times that it was "sad" to see Republicans attempting to tie her to terrorists using her time as a CIA officer.
She briefly served as a substitute teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia before joining the agency. At the time, the CIA had hired her conditionally, pending a background check. Spanberger later worked in law enforcement for two years at the Postal Inspection Service before being hired officially by the CIA, the Times reported.
“If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny that they are somehow trying to give me terrorist ties,” she said. “I put myself at risk to thwart the terrorist threat.”