Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is prepared to take on the Democratic National Committee in federal court after the committee locked his campaign out of a data system that stores “information which is the lifeblood of this campaign,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver said at a news conference Friday.
Sanders’ campaign temporarily lost access to a major database of Democratic voters after four staffers reportedly took advantage of a vulnerability of the software system in order to get information about Hilary Clinton’s campaign, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Because competing campaigns use the system, it is designed to have firewalls between different campaigns’ research files. The goal is to allow each campaign to have access to the party’s voter data without allowing the campaigns to spy on each other’s research.
According to Friday’s Washington Post story, a software update brought down the system’s firewalls on Wednesday. While those security measures were temporarily disabled, four of Sanders’ campaign staffers snooped on the Clinton campaign’s private files in the system.
In response, the Democratic National Committee locked the Sanders campaign out of the system until “it provides an explanation as well as assurances that all Clinton data has been destroyed,” the Washington Post reported.
Weaver said Friday that Clinton’s campaign data “should not have been looked at. Period.” He added that the Sanders campaign does not have possession of any of Clinton’s campaign data. He threatened to take the national party to court if access to the data is not restored.
Sanders’ campaign has already fired one staffer in response to the issue, and Weaver said further disciplinary action may follow, but called the DNC’s move an “inappropriate overreaction.”
“In other words, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee is actively trying to undermine our campaign,” he said.
Weaver also said this isn’t the first time the contractor for the DNC system has failed to maintain its security.
“Two months ago, we found out when we were downloading some of our data that it was dumping a bunch of other campaigns’ data along with ours, which clearly indicated that the firewall between the campaigns was ineffective,” Weaver said.
“We immediately segregated that information … put it in a password-protected file so we could document that in fact there had been a breach – because we were very concerned that large amounts of our own data was being downloaded – and we contacted the DNC to remedy the situation,” he said. “They assured us … that this was going to be taken care of. But apparently they are not competent in terms of maintaining the security of data between campaigns.”
The contractor that runs the data system, NGP VAN, released a statement Friday that said the company isn’t aware of any reports of data breaches in the past.
The company’s statement said that “this bug was a brief isolated issue, and we are not aware of any previous reports of such data being inappropriately available.”
UPDATE 2:30 p.m., Dec. 18, 2015. Story was updated to include information from Sanders campaign news conference.