According to the staffer fired by the Bernie Sanders campaign for initiating a data breach, it’s all just a big misunderstanding.
The Bernie Sanders campaign has been suspended by the Democratic National Committee for allegedly accessing the voter database for Hilary Clinton’s campaign. The campaign’s data director, Josh Uretsky, was fired, but he told CNN on Friday that he and other staff members had no intention of stealing information from the Clinton campaign.
In an interview with CNN, Uretsky said, “We knew there was a security breach in the data, and we were just trying to understand it and what was happening.”
In fact, he said, they tried to report what they were doing to the DNC. The DNC figured out what they were doing and got to them first.
“They called me fairly quickly after the breach was closed to inform me that there was something weird going on and that portions of the system were shut down.”
A software problem at technology company NGP VAN was at the root of the breach, reports the New York Times. The software gives campaigns access to voter data, and a bug in its code made it possible for Uretsky and possibly others on Sanders’ campaign staff to see voter data of the Clinton campaign.
The Sanders campaign quickly released a statement distancing itself from Uretsky’s actions and confirming he was no longer on the staff.
“After discussion with the DNC it became clear that one of our staffers accessed some modeling data from another campaign,” Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement reported by Time. “That behavior is unacceptable and that staffer was immediately fired.”
The DNC blamed the company NGP VAN for the security glitch itself, reported the New York Times. The chief executive officer for the company sent out a reassurance Friday morning that no other campaigns have been able to “access or have retained any voter file data of any other clients; with one possible exception, one of the presidential campaigns.”
That campaign was evidently Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
Former Sanders staffer Uretsky maintains that the Sanders campaign was equally at risk during the breach, and the Sanders campaign “did not gain any material benefit.”
He told CNN that the security breach that resulted in his being fired had no malicious intent. He and the other staffers involved, who he will not name, were just trying to figure out what was happening and to protect the Sanders campaign data.
When he first noticed the data breach on Wednesday morning, in fact, it sent him into a panic, he told CNN.
“This wasn’t the first time we identified a bad breach.”
There was another breach in October.
“We reported it to them. They thanked us for reporting it and they told us the breach had been closed,” Uretsky said.
The database is maintained by the DNC and contains voter data critical to campaign strategy and communications. According to Time, maintenance of the database is one of the official Democratic party’s key roles at election time and “has historically given the Democrats an important advantage over Republicans.”
The Sanders campaign has made a strategy out of creating a support base made up of individual voters, reporting recently that it has reached two million campaign contributions, which individually averaged less than $30.
Suspension from accessing the voter database may really hurt Sanders, said the Washington Post in an editorial Friday morning.
“It is understandable that the DNC is demanding a full accounting from the Sanders campaign, since the DNC should get to the bottom of what happened, so that the campaigns can have confidence in the security of voter data,” said Greg Sargent in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “But, based on what we know at this point about what happened, preventing the Sanders camp from accessing voter data for any meaningful length of time is not tenable.”
The suspension comes at a particularly bad time, as the Sanders campaign has recently begun to pick up some serious steam, garnering endorsements from a major labor union and one of the nation’s most influential progressive groups.
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