- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2010

A State Department employee pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to department officials in an investigation into her illegal access of hundreds of confidential passport application files, including the private files of more than 500 famous Americans without authorization.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Brooke E. Reyna, 28, of Barrington, N.H., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph N. Laplante in federal court in Concord, N.H., to making false statements. She admitted lying to investigators when asked if she had looked through confidential files containing photos and personal information.

She is the 10th State Department employee to plead guilty in the investigation, which began in 2008 after officials discovered that the files for then-presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton had been inspected.

According to information contained in plea documents, Reyna worked in various capacities at the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, N.H., including most recently as a passport specialist, where she had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of her employment.

That access, according to the court papers, included 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. The 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, Mr. Breuer said Reyna admitted that between May 2004 and February 2008, she logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of more than 500 celebrities, actors, reality television contestants, television personalities, musicians, models, athletes and members of their families, including their children and others identified in the press.

Mr. Breuer said Reyna admitted she had no official government reason to access and view the passport applications, but that her sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity. He said she also admitted that, on being sent an e-mail from State Department officials investigating her illegal use of PIERS and being confronted with numerous occasions on which she had viewed the passport applications of celebrities, she lied when she responded that she did not recall any of the occasions.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Timothy J. Kelly of the criminal division’s public integrity section, and was investigated by the State Department Office of Inspector General.

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