Former Gov't Worker Sentenced for Passport Snooping

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A former employee at the U.S. Department of State has been sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service for illegally accessing more than 150 confidential passport applications files, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Dwayne F. Cross, age 41, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 14 to one count of unauthorized computer access.

Cross is one of three former State Department employees to plead guilty to passport snooping-related charges since September. After news reports in early 2008 unveiled that State Department employees were looking at the passport files of presidential candidates, U.S. lawmakers called for an investigation of unauthorized snooping.

Between January 2002 and August 2007, Cross logged onto the agency's Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS) database and viewed the passport applications of more than 150 celebrities, actors, musicians, comedians, models, politicians, athletes, and members of the media, the DOJ said. Cross had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that his sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was "idle curiosity," the DOJ said.

From August 2001 through February 2008, Cross served as an administrative assistant for the State Department. He then returned to the State Department as a contract employee working as a contract specialist from March to October 2008.

Cross acknowledged he had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of his employment, including PIERS, which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994, the DOJ said.

The passport files include a photograph of the passport applicant, the applicant's full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse's name and emergency contact information. These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is limited to official government duties, the DOJ said.

On Sept. 22, Lawrence C. Yontz, a former foreign service officer and intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing hundreds of confidential passport files. Yontz was sentenced on Dec. 19 to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.

On Jan. 27, Gerald R. Leuders, a former foreign service officer, Office of Consular Affairs watch officer and recruitment coordinator, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 50 confidential passport files. Leuders' sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

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