This morning McCormack said Acting Inspector General Bill Todd has been in touch with the Department of Justice "so they can proceed together" in case the IG's investigation determines any laws were broken.
Today McCormack said he wasn't trying to suggest anything other than the initial assessment that the employees were anything other than curious Obama fans but was not dimissive of other possibilities.
The violations took place as long ago as January, though senior staffers at the department said they did not learn about them until Thursday.
McCormack maintains that "the system worked," but the problem was that "information didn't flow up and managers didn't know what happened...the next step was not taken."
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement Thursday evening referring to the Obama revelation, saying, "This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years. Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."
Though they heralded the computer monitoring system installed a few years ago to detect such breaches, senior officials at the State Department were said that they had only learned of the Obama breach from a reporter calling for comment earlier Thursday.
"It should have been passed up the line," said Undersecretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy. "They failed to pass the information up the chain to a sufficiently high level."
Kennedy, who learned of the privacy violations from McCormack, briefed Rice Thursday afternoon.
He also called Obama's Senate office with news of the violations, which took place Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14. No dates were immediately available about when the Clinton and McCain violations occurred.
Kennedy said Rice wanted to make sure that the monitoring system in place to detect such breaches is working properly, and that the matter was investigated thoroughly.
The inspector general will determine why the three employees were accessing the private information of Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a child and traveled to the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe as a U.S. senator.
"They were supposed to use their access for the purposes of the tasks they were assigned," Kennedy said. "They violated that trust. And they were caught by the monitoring system."
McCormack and Kennedy said that the three employees had access to the passport database for their jobs and had inappropriately accessed Obama's information out of nothing more than "inappropriate curiosity."
But they admitted that assessment was based on nothing more than the reassurances of the employees' supervisors at the two outside companies. The officials said they don't know the political affiliations of the individuals.
"When we do background checks, it would be inappropriate to look into the political affiliation of individuals," Kennedy said. "Now that this has arisen, it has become a germane question i.e., the purpose of why they did this."
The incident recalls a similar incident during the 1992 campaign when State Department employees were fired for inappropriately accessing then-Gov. Bill Clinton's passport files to chase down rumors the candidate had renounced his U.S. citizenship during the Vietnam War. A subsequent investigation by an independent counsel found no wrongdoing in that case.