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Eighth person charged with passport snooping
- — 10 November, 2009 07:59
An eighth person who has worked for the U.S. Department of State has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing numerous electronic passport files that are supposed to be confidential, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Susan Holloman, 58, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of unauthorized computer access. She is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21.
Holloman has worked for the State Department since November 1980 as a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the DOJ said. She had full access to official agency databases, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994.
PIERS includes passport applicants' full names, dates and places of birth, parent information, and other personal data.
Between Feb. 13 and Dec. 5, 2007, Holloman logged onto the PIERS database and repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of 70 celebrities, actors, professional athletes, musicians and other individuals, the DOJ said.
Holloman had no official government reason to view the passport files, and her only reason was "idle curiosity," the DOJ said.
Holloman is the eighth current or former State Department employee or contractor to plead guilty to passport snooping since September 2008. The other defendants have generally been sentenced to probation and community service.
A group of State Department employees or 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 and Hillary Clinton.
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.