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8 more Utah state employees questioned in immigrants' data leak

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Who's behind Utah immigration list?
  • NEW: Utah questioning eight more Dept. of Workforce Services employees
  • AG Mark Shurtleff says the investigation into potential crimes "needs to be swift"
  • He says the list is "like a hit list ... to put people at fear, to terrorize"
  • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert plans immigration round-table meeting for Tuesday

(CNN) -- Eight more employees from the Utah Department of Workforce Services are being questioned in connection with a leaked list containing personal information of 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants, Dave Lewis, a department spokesman, said Monday afternoon.

He said that makes a total of 10 employees questioned, including the two placed on administrative leave last week.

Investigators are interviewing employees who have had access to certain cases "for legitimate business reasons," he said. "We want to give them the opportunity to explain work they're doing."

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said on CNN's "American Morning" on Monday that he expects to launch a formal investigation into the data leak very soon. He said he was awaiting the names of at least two suspects from the state's executive branch.

Lewis said the investigators' goal is to get all the interviews done Monday and he believed the suspects' names would be delivered to the attorney general later in the day. By early Monday afternoon, the Department of Workforce Services' general counsel had been in touch with the attorney general's office to bring lawyers there up to speed, Lewis said.

Earlier Shurtleff said, "It's important we get to the bottom of it immediately. We have condemned ... the dissemination, the use, the purpose of the list in the strongest possible terms and we do believe that action needs to be swift."

"People have to have confidence in their government that those records will be protected." he said.

The list was anonymously distributed last week to media and government offices across the state, CNN affiliate KSTU-TV reported. An accompanying letter from "Concerned Citizens of the United States" insisted that those on the list should be deported immediately.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told CNN's John King on Friday night that the 1,300 people have Hispanic names.

Shurtleff said the alleged crimes may have broken both state and federal privacy laws, and some may have been felonies, so if appropriate, it could be a multi-level investigation. He added that crimes may have been committed not only in generating and preparing the list, but also in how the list was used. Some of the alleged illegal immigrants listed have reported harassment since their names appeared on the list.

"Clearly, it's not even meant as a blacklist. It's more like a hit list. It is, I think, to put people at fear, to terrorize, to get people mobilized to do things. The fact is, the names on that list are also innocent until proven guilty and we're finding that some of those names ... are here legally," Shurtleff said.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services said Friday it had identified at least two employees believed to be involved in creating the 29-page list.

"At this point we don't think it was a very large conspiracy. We think it was two, maybe. We have suspicion of a couple of more people, a very small group," said Kristen Cox, the department's executive director.

The state focused on the Department of Workforce Services, Herbert's office said Thursday, because all of the information on the list -- including contact information, Social Security numbers and pregnancy due dates -- is contained within that agency's database.

Those named on the list are even more frightened, Jesus Ramos with the Utah Coalition of La Raza said last week. "For these 1,300 people, unfortunately, that fear has escalated," he said. "There's an arrest warrant out, essentially. That fear never goes away."

Herbert said Friday, "Some are scared and apprehensive. I understand that. I expect that comes with the status of being illegal. If I was in the country illegally, I would probably have fear and apprehension, too."

Shurtleff said Monday it's time to put aside rhetoric and work on a solution to the immigration issue.

Herbert has plans to bring together what he called a "spectrum" of viewpoints, some "diametrically opposed," for a round-table discussion on immigration reform in Utah on Tuesday.

"We see what's happened in Arizona," he said Friday. "So Utah, like other states right now, are saying if the federal government is not going to do something, we will take steps to do something ourselves within the parameters of the law. It may mean creating (a) new law."

CNN's Mark Morgenstein contributed to this report