A CIA technical-support official has been arrested on charges of selling more than $60,000 worth of pilfered agency electronic gear.
Todd Brandon Fehrmann, a communications-technology specialist with the agency, was arrested Friday morning at his office in Virginia and charged in a criminal complaint with stealing government equipment and selling it to a Massachusetts-based electronics equipment broker.
The FBI complaint unsealed Friday stated that Mr. Fehrmann worked for an unidentified U.S. government agency. However, U.S. officials and Mr. Fehrmann confirmed he was a CIA employee.
“This agency takes very seriously any allegation of misconduct, period,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said, who added that he was not discussing any particular case. He declined further comment.
Reached by phone at his home in Reston, Va., Mr. Fehrmann declined to comment on the arrest, but said he is no longer employed with the CIA. Mr. Fehrmann’s attorney, Paul Kemp, also declined to comment.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Fehrmann arranged the sale of several handheld spectrum analyzers — high-technology devices with military applications that can measure and check cell-phone signals and equipment — to a company called Bizi International Inc.
The buyer became suspicious after noticing that two analyzers were new and contacted the manufacturer, Anritsu, and learned they were sold recently to the CIA. The discovery triggered a CIA inspector general investigation of Mr. Fehrmann last month, which led to an FBI probe.
“This appears to have been detected internally rather quickly — just as it should have been — and the cooperation with law enforcement was good,” said a U.S. official familiar with the case.
The CIA equipment seized by the FBI in the case included 10 Anritsu analyzers, one Rhode & Schwartz analyzer and a Fluke electronic testing device. The affidavit stated that the value of half the equipment is $60,000 and that the investigation was continuing.
Mr. Fehrmann is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Thursday.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Fehrmann, who analyzed and bought communications gear, identified himself to the purchaser in a telephone conversation as a self-employed independent government contractor who in the past worked on “rebuilding telecommunication infrastructure in Iraq.” According to the affidavit, he said he was not going back to Iraq and needed to sell surplus equipment.
Mr. Fehrmann told The Times it was “not correct” that he was involved in telecommunications projects in Iraq. He said he did not work in Iraq.
Communications experts say spectrum analyzers have a variety of security uses. They can be used for checking the security of intelligence communications or for countering or tracking those who plant and trigger improvised explosive devices, which commonly use cell phones as part of the triggering device.
Anritsu, manufacturer of two types of analyzers taken from the CIA, stated on its Web page that the analyzers have several uses, including measuring cell phone base-station signals, mapping signal strength to determine where to place antennas, base stations and signal repeaters.
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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