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Reporter finds private campaign info on McCain BlackBerry purchased at a garage sale

We learned during the presidential campaign that the BlackBerry was the “miracle that John McCain helped create,” according to an aide to the failed GOP candidate. And what a miracle it’s turned out to be for an enterprising reporter who poked around at a garage sale the campaign held in Arlington, Virginia, last week, turning up two BlackBerries with more than 300 contacts still loaded on them.

Tisha Thompson, an investigative journalist at WDCA-TV, the Washington, D.C., Fox News affiliate, reports that she paid $20 a pop for the devices, which contained phone numbers of McCain donors and supporters as well as e-mails, calendars and photos. 

“It makes me quite uncomfortable,” former Republican Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, whose number was on one of the BlackBerries, tells the station. “It’s a matter of principle. I gave that information to McCain headquarters and to have it sold is bothersome.”

Gilmore’s number was on a BlackBerry belonging to a “high-level” campaign fundraiser whom the station doesn’t identify. WDCA says it’s getting e-mails from other people who also supposedly bought devices containing private info, including one who said the stuff on his was “mind-blowing.”

The campaign told WDCA: “It was an unfortunate staff error and procedures are being put in place to ensure all information is secure."

The general voice mail–box at the McCain campaign was full early this afternoon and a spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an e-mail asking what's being done to secure that information or the purpose of the fire sale. But It's not uncommon for campaigns to sell used equipment after a race, Politico has noted; Democratic Sen.Hillary Rodham Clinton held a fire sale last month to help pay off debt from her doomed presidential campaign.

Pols’ privacy was recently compromised on President-elect Barack Obama’s side. Staff at Verizon Wireless were fired after they peeked without permission at Obama’s cell phone records.

BlackBerry Bold by Research in Motion

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