WASHINGTON - A State Department contract employee pleaded guilty today to illegally accessing confidential passport application files, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Mark Carter, 51, of Upper Marlboro, Md., pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with unauthorized computer access.
According to information contained in plea documents, Carter worked as a contract employee for the State Department, serving as the network administrator in the Eastern District of Virginia. Carter admitted he had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of his employment, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains, among other data, 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.
In pleading guilty, Carter admitted that between March 2007 and March 2008, he logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of approximately 60 celebrities, musicians, actors, members of the business community, colleagues, a professional athlete, members of his family and other individuals. Carter admitted that he 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.
To date, 12 current or former State Department employees or contractors, including Carter, have pleaded guilty in this continuing investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Emily Rae Woods of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the State Department Office of Inspector General.