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State Dept replaces top passports official

From NBC's Libby Leist
Two weeks after it was revealed that State Department employees were found snooping on five different occasions in the passport files of all three Presidential candidates, a State Department official tells NBC that the top official for Passport Services is being replaced.

The department intends to name a new acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services to replace Ann Barrett who will be stepping aside.

The official declined to offer an explanation as to why Barrett is being replaced, but the timing comes in the midst of a State Department Inspector General investigation into the passport breaches.

The individual set to take over as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary is Lawrence Baer. State Department phone records indicate Baer is currently in a management position in the Consular Affairs bureau.

As head of Passport Services, Barrett oversaw the massive passport backlog in 2007 when State Department production of passports went up by 50 percent. The department was widely criticized for not anticipating the increased demand for passports that occurred because of new travel laws put in place by the Department of Homeland Security.

Separately, President Bush announced yesterday that Janice Jacobs currently the second ranking official in the Bureau of Consular Affairs has been nominated to now head the bureau. The State Department maintains that Jacobs and her old boss Maura Harty were not alerted to the passport breaches until it was revealed on March 20.