Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Barack Obama in his college years
DAVENPORT, Iowa – Eight of nine former employees of a U.S. Department of Education contractor pleaded “not guilty” today to charges of gaining unauthorized computer access to Barack Obama’s student loan records.
The nine are charged with accessing the information at various times between July 2007 and March 2009, both before and after Obama was elected president, from the Coralville, Iowa, offices of Vangent Inc., a consulting firm that serves the federal government and higher education institutions.
Should the defendants have actually committed the alleged crime, the information they obtained could blow the lid off questions still surrounding Obama’s past.
As WND has reported, several of Obama’s records from his college years remain off-limits to the public, including his Occidental College records, his Columbia University records, his Columbia thesis, his Harvard Law School records, his Harvard Law Review articles and his scholarly articles from the University of Chicago.
The dearth of information even led to a popular e-mail hoax declaring Obama’s Occidental records had been found, revealing he received financial aid for foreign-born students.
Thus far, however, the accused employees – and the details of the case – have been kept quiet.
The nine defendants – Andrew J. Lage, Patrick E. Roan, Sandra Teague, John P. Phommivong, Gary N. Grenell, Lisa Torney, Julie Lynn Kline and Mercedes Costoyas – were indicted earlier this month and with the exception of Grenell who was reportedly out of the country, appeared today to enter their pleas before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Davenport.
The full indictment, which would list the details of the charges, however, remains sealed. Only a redacted document is available, which states simply that the accused are charged with a misdemeanor offense of intentionally exceeding “authorized computer access,” thereby obtaining from a department of the United States “student loan records of a candidate for president of the United States without authorization.”
As for the defendants themselves, most have refused to comment publicly. WND further contacted several of the attorneys in the case and received either no response or a refusal to comment.
Only defendant Sandra Teague, a 10-year employee of Vangent before being fired and subsequently charged in the indictment, has spoken to the press:
“I don’t know what the others did, but I know that I did not do it,” Teague told KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
She further claims she was fired without being told the cause.
“All of it was a shock,” Teague said. “I knew that something had occurred and that there was a breach of security.”
Vangent Inc., has since confirmed the nine defendants were fired last June for violating the company’s security policy. But the company has refused to comment on why the records were accessed or what information may have been uncovered.
“We do not know the intentions of the former employees,” company spokesperson Eileen Rivera said. “However, no evidence of misuse of the data by the former employees was found.”
KCRG further reports voting records show four of those indicted are registered as Democrats, and two are registered as Republicans. Teague, one of those whose voting patterns were not discovered, told the station she “didn’t even pay attention to the election” because she was planning her wedding at the time.
If convicted, the accused could face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The defendants will face trial July 6 at the U.S. District Court in Davenport.