Ninth defendant pleads guilty to passport snooping

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2009 7:31 PM

A State Department filing clerk pleaded guilty Friday to illegally viewing passport files of celebrities, the ninth current or former employee of the agency to admit to snooping.

Debra Sue Brown, 47, of Oxon Hill, Md., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to one count of illegally accessing the files. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced March 23.

Brown has worked full-time for the State Department since September 1995 as a file clerk and a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, according to court documents.

Brown admitted that between Mar. 25, 2005, and Feb. 7, 2008, she repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of more than 60 celebrities and their families. The celebrities included actors, comedians, professional athletes and musicians. Brown admitted that she had no official government reason to view those passport applications, according to the Justice Department.

The names of the celebrities were not released.

The application files include a photograph of the applicant, 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.