Security

State Dept. Worker Sentenced for Passport Snooping

An employee of the U.S. Department of State was sentenced Wednesday to 12 months of probation for illegally accessing more than 125 electronic passport application files, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Kevin M. Young, 42, of Temple Hills, Maryland, was also ordered by Judge Alan Kay, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to perform 100 hours of community service. Young pleaded guilty on Aug. 17 to one count of unauthorized computer access.

Young has worked full time for the State Department since February 1987, and he has been a contact representative for the Passport Special Issuance Agency for the past eight years, the DOJ said.

Young had access to official State Department computer databases, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The passport applications on PIERS contain applicants' names, dates of birth, current addresses, parent information and other personal data.

PIERS access by State Department employees is limited to official government duties.

Between March 11, 2003, and Dec. 21, 2005, Young logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of more than 125 celebrities, actors, comedians, professional athletes, musicians, models, a politician and other individuals identified in the press, the DOJ said. In his guilty plea, Young said he had no official government reason to view these passport applications, and his reason for doing so was "idle curiosity," the DOJ said.

Young is the eighth current or former State Department employee or contractor to plead guilty since September 2008 to charges related to passport snooping. Most of the other defendants have received sentences of probation, community service, or fines.

A group of State Department employees and contractors were targeted for prosecution after March 2008 news reports of employees there accessing the electronic passport files of three presidential candidates, Senators John McCain, Barack Obama, now U.S. president, and Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state.

The inspector general's office at the State Department later found that there had been widespread breaches of PIERS.

The inspector general's office looked at the passport files of 150 politicians, entertainers and athletes, and found that 127 of those passports had been accessed at least once between September 2002 and March 2008. Those passport files were accessed 4,148 times during that time frame, and one person's passport was searched 356 times by 77 users.

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