State employee pleads guilty to passport snooping

State employee pleads guilty to passport snooping

Summary: Former State Dept. employee Lawrence C. Yontz, 48, pled guilty before a U.

TOPICS: Mobility
Former State Dept. employee Lawrence C. Yontz, 48, pled guilty before a U.S. magistrate to illegally accessing hundreds of passport files, including those of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He didn't access Sarah Palin's passport file, presumably because she obtained a passport for the first time last year. According to the Justice Dept.:
In pleading guilty, Yontz admitted that between February 2005 and March 2008, he logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of approximately 200 celebrities, athletes, actors, politicians and their immediate families, musicians, game show contestants, members of the media corps, prominent business professionals, colleagues, associates, neighbors and individuals identified in the press.

He could be sentenced to a year in prison and $100,000 fine.

Topic: Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Ouch!

    Did he do anything besides look?
    John L. Ries
    • To elaborate

      If all he did was look, I think the maxima are excessive. Dismissal and a fine of a few thousand dollars or so would be more than enough of a deterrent (it's not like the passport holders are seriously injured in such a case). But if he was disclosing or otherwise misusing confidential information, then a year in jail and a much larger fine look much more reasonable.
      John L. Ries
      • Not true--here's why--

        This is the basis for HIPAA regs, all privacy laws, and a lot of the hoopla about identity theft. The fact that this moron gazed upon somebody's confidential information IS the point--and WHAT he could have done with that information HAD HE CHOSEN TO DO SO. That is what makes it confidential-and he broke that part of the law into shards. I don't particularly want every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing where I live, my birthdate, eye color, or social security number either. And--for that matter--I sure do NOT want some idiot terrorist cooking up a fake passport with MY name on it to get a jihadist into this country! As long as the information is good--it is possible for that to happen.

        Nope--this moron stepped over a number of lines. I would have busted his butt as a manager AND I would have probably pressed criminal charges if it were MY passport info he violated. No sympathy here. Gitmo for this dude.
        • "Had he chosen to do so"

          If he chose to do nothing with the information, it's a much lesser offense than otherwise. Are you telling me that merely looking at confidential information is twelve times as serious an offense as assault and battery, which is traditionally punished with 30 days in jail?

          By all means, punish him (caning might be appropriate), but a year in jail and a $100,000 fine are excessive *unless* he disclosed or otherwise misused the information he improperly accessed (that would be a much more serious offense).
          John L. Ries
          • whatever happened to...

            the idea that the punishment should fit the crime?

            are we going to start policing people's thoughts now?

            sheesh, what a hair-trigger mentality people have.

            fire him for fooling around with something so important, but he didn't do anything severe.
        • Agree

          The penalty sounds harsh, but this guy accessed 200 confidental records of celebrities and politicians. Being fired for cause is just a start.

          A greater outrage is our government has taken on the powers to read our email and monitor our internet usage, without the need of a warrant. If some idiot in the State dept could not resist the temptation to look at passport records; then what do we have to stop a similar idiot in Homeland Security from doing the same thing?
  • RE: State employee pleads guilty to passport snooping

    Any person who due to his/her position uses that
    position to access information that is not needed in
    the performance of their job, should at a minimum be
    discharged for cause. If it is a state or government
    position then yes, cell time and fines are also called
    for. I have worked for many private companies in the
    IT group and thus had access to almost all information
    the company had. I knew that "just looking" was cause
    for dismissal. No less for any government position.
    It is trust or not trust - no in between.
  • RE: State employee pleads guilty to passport snooping

    A point of clarification about the article. The guy probably didn't look at Sara Palin's passport not because she just got it last year but because she wasn't McCain's running mate until September of this year. He probably didn't look at Joe Biden's passport either for the same reason.
    Georgia Madman