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Obama Calls Passport Intrusion 'Deeply Disturbing'

By Jonathan Weisman
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Sen. Barack Obama said he told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this morning that he expected a full and thorough investigation of the rifling of passport files by State Department contractors, later calling the intrusion "deeply disturbing."

In a wide-ranging press conference after he accepted the coveted endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama also called for an end to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy toward gays in the military, potentially reopening a difficult hot-button social issue. And he showed how difficult it has been to put behind him the controversy surrounding his former pastor and spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

On Wright, Obama said he had not changed his position when on Tuesday he admitted he had been present in the pews when Wright had uttered controversial remarks. In his most specific explanation yet, he said he had been present during Wright's condemnations of U.S. foreign and domestic policies. But he said he was unaware that Wright had called HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a U.S. government plot to wipe out African Americans -- a charge Obama called "out of line and off the wall." Nor was he aware that Wright, who brought him to his Christian faith, married him to his wife and baptized his children, had declared, "God damn America" until such sermons burst onto the Internet and cable television in recent days.

"There's no doubt that we've had a turbulent couple of weeks," Obama conceded, "but we've had turbulent weeks in the past. People just don't remember them."

On the passport security breach, Obama decried what he called "Not just one but a series of attempts to tap into people's personal records."

"That's a problem not just for me but how our government is functioning," he added, calling not only for the administration to investigate openly but for the relevant oversight committees of Congress to weigh in.

By Washington Post editors  |  March 21, 2008; 3:43 PM ET
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