Former FBI bomb technician Donald Sachtleben, a 55-year-old who was arrested last year for distributing child pornography, has been identified as the source for the Associated Press story about a foiled Al Qaeda terrorist plot that led the Justice Department to snoop on AP reporters' phone records.
The Justice Department announced Sachtleben will plead guilty to charges of unlawfully disclosing national defense information and face 43 months in prison. Sachtleben worked for the FBI for 25 years, before retiring in 2008, when he was rehired as a contractor and maintained his Top Secret clearance. During his time with the agency, he worked on high-profile cases like the hunt for the Oklahoma City bomber. If an Indiana court approves, some are saying it would be the longest prison term ever for releasing national security information. You can read the plea agreements here, per the Huffington Post.
"While I never intended harm to the United States or to any individuals, I do not make excuses for myself," Sachtleben said in a statement. "I understand and accept that today's filings start the process of paying the full consequences of my misconduct, and I know that the Justice System I once served so proudly will have its say."
In May, it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed two months of telephone records — incoming number, outgoing number, and call duration — for up to 20 lines related to the Associated Press. They were hunting for the leak that disclosed this May 2012 article detailing an al-Qaeda bomb plot, based in Yemen, to be carried out on the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death. But their man was already in federal custody.
Federal investigators arrested Sachtleben last year for allegedly distributing child pronography last year. Some reports said he used the email address "firstname.lastname@example.org" to trade his illicit materials. According to the Justice Department, it was information retrieved from the AP subpoena cross-referenced with evidence retrieved in the child porn case that led to the second charge:
Sachtleben was identified as a suspect in the case of this unauthorized disclosure only after toll records for phone numbers related to the reporter were obtained through a subpoena and compared to other evidence collected during the leak investigation. This allowed investigators to obtain a search warrant authorizing a more exhaustive search of Sachtleben’s cell phone, computer, and other electronic media, which were in the possession of federal investigators due to the child pornography investigation.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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