Bored bureaucrat pleads guilty to passport snooping

A fifth person who has worked for the U.S. Department of State has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing passport application files stored in a computer database, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Kevin M. Young, 42, of Temple Mills, Md., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of unauthorized computer access. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 9.

Young was among a group of State Department employees or contractors who were targeted for prosecution after March 2008 news reports that employees there were accessing the electronic passport files of three presidential candidates: Sen. John McCain, now President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, now the secretary of state. The inspector general's office at the State Department later found that there had been widespread breaches of the agency's Passport Information Electronic Records System, or PIERS.

Young has worked for the State Department since February 1987, and during the past eight years he has been a contact representative for the Passport Special Issuance Agency, the DOJ said. Young had access to official State Department databases, including PIERS, which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994.

The passport applications on PIERS include applicants' names, addresses, telephone numbers and other personal data. Access to the database by State Department employees is limited to official government duties.

Between March 2003 and December 2005, Young logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of more than 125 celebrities, actors, professional athletes, musicians and other people, the DOJ said. In pleading guilty, Young said that he had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that his sole purpose was "idle curiosity," the DOJ said.

Since last September, four other State Department workers have pleaded guilty to passport snooping. Three have been sentenced, and the harshest sentence so far has been one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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