Dwayne F. Cross, the second of three people who have plead guilty to illegally accessing then Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s passport files was sentenced to 12 months probation and 100 hours of community service on Monday. Mr. Cross admitted to accessing State Department passport records involving over 150 individuals, including celebrities, family members, and personal acquaintances, out of “idle curiosity”. These files contained a wealth of personal information including social security numbers, phone numbers, emergency contact information, and photographs.
Mr. Cross, along with Lawrence C. Yontz and Gerald R. Leuders, touched off a firestorm when State Department computers monitoring the electronic records of "high profile persons" alerted officials to the unauthorized access to then Senator Obama’s records around March 2008, during the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary. At the urging of the Obama campaign, the State Department initiated an investigation that resulted in criminal charges against all three individuals and a hundred page report (.pdf) re-evaluating security measures used to protect passport records. Mr. Yontz received a sentence of 12 months probation and 50 hours of community service and Mr. Leuders has pled quilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Some commentators have complained that the sentences handed down are overly lenient. However, in these cases there is no allegation that there was ever any intention to use the information contained in the illegally accessed files for any purpose other than to satisfy "imprudent curiosity," so the maximum sentence they faced for the violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1030(a)(2)(B), was a year in prison. Notably, the statute in question provides much stiffer penalties if the violation is for economic gain or for repeat offenders, who could be sentenced to jail terms of up to 10 years (and even more serious penalties, if the hacking was part of an attempt to commit serious bodily injury or death).
- CNN report “Former Employee Sentenced for Accessing passport Files” is here.
- Fox Business report, “Former State Department Employee Sentenced for Illegally Accessing Confidential Passport Files” is here.
- Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit expresses his concern about the sentences here.
- 18 U.S.C.A. § 1030 is available at the DOJ website here
- The redacted audit from the Department of State on passport files is available here (.pdf) or at Wired here (.pdf)