MARCH 25, 2009
A third employee at the U.S. Department of State has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing confidential passport files, this time a low-level worker who repeatedly viewed what should have been protected information.
The others sentenced in the scheme, which Justice Department officials say is still under investigation, were higher level foreign services officers. The first to plead guilty to unlawfully accessing hundreds of confidential passport files was also an intelligence analyst who admitted his crimes in September. The second, who pleaded guilty in January, worked at the agency’s Office of Consular Affairs. He confessed to accessing more than 50 confidential passport files.
This week an administrative assistant and contract worker in the Bureau of Consular Affairs pleaded guilty to unauthorized computer access for illegally viewing more than 150 confidential passport files between 2002 and 2007. The assistant, Dwayne Cross, viewed the passport information of celebrities, politicians, athletes and members of the media, among others.
Although he was a low-level contract worker, Cross had access to official State Department computer databases throughout his employment with the agency. The files he regularly accessed contained detailed personal information such as date of birth, address and spouse’s name, and are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974.
These sorts of security breaches have been going on at the State Department for more than a decade. In 1992, a public scandal ensued when an employee illegally accessed the passport records of then presidential candidate Bill Clinton. Last March two State Department contract workers were fired for accessing the passport files of the three presidential candidates—Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain—at the time.
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