Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don’t Tell Me – Another "Idle Curiosity" Case

Our computers IIImage by aranarth via Flickr

Yesterday, DOJ announced yet another guilty plea on the passport snooping case. This is the 8th person to plead guilty to illegally accessing passport files. How many more are coming down this way?

An eighth individual pleaded guilty today to illegally accessing numerous confidential passport application files. Susan Holloman, 58, of Washington, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay in the District of Columbia to a one-count criminal information charging her with unauthorized computer access. Holloman is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 21, 2010.

According to court documents, Holloman has worked full-time for the State Department since November 1980 as a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. In pleading guilty, Holloman admitted that she had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of her job, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The imaged passport applications on PIERS contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal information including 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 strictly limited to official government duties.

Holloman admitted that between Feb. 13 and Dec. 5, 2007, she logged onto the PIERS database and repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of 70 celebrities and their families, actors, professional athletes, musicians and other individuals identified in the press. Holloman admitted that she had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that her sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity.

Holloman is the eighth current or former State Department employee or contractor to plead guilty in this continuing investigation.
Read the whole thing here.


hannah said...

I am continually astounded that people keep searching for the pop start of the week in PIERS. Has no one noticed what happened to the last seven people who tried that same thing? Or are they just that behind on technology that they don't realize that they can be caught?

It's much easier to look up foreign celebrities in the CCD! ;-)

diplopundit said...

Actually more astonishing is how come a contract specialist and contract rep were given access to PIERS? I had to scratch my head on those two previous cases. Why would you give PIERS access to somebody when their jobs are with contracts and nothing to do with ppts?

Consul-At-Arms said...

Was it actually PIERS or was it perhaps in TDIS? It would make sense that a contract employee in one of the domestic passport centers would have access to TDIS, if not to PIERS.

(My apologies to those for whom these acronyms mean nothing.)

diplopundit said...

Hi CAA - I have not seen TDIS mentioned in all these cases, only PIERS. I think some of these individuals were identified as contract employees, formers FSOs and current employees. But the one I don't understand is why would an employee whose job is a contract representative or contract specialist as they are described in the previous announcement should have access to the PIERS system. If they're dealing with contracts should they have a reason to access PIERS?