Would-be TSA saboteur sentenced to 2 years in prison

DENVER Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:53pm EST

DENVER (Reuters) - A former data analyst for the Transportation Security Administration was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in federal prison for trying to sabotage a computer network used for screening airline passengers.

Douglas Duchak, 47, admitted last year to attempting to load malicious code into TSA computer servers in October 2009, about a week after being told he was being let go from his position at the agency's operations center.

Duchak had worked at the Colorado Springs facility for five years, employed by government contractor InfoZen to update TSA computers with data from the Terrorist Screening Database and the U.S. Marshals Service Warrant Information Network.

The computers are used by the TSA to screen passengers at U.S. airports with information furnished by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent individuals who pose a threat from boarding commercial flights.

"I want to say I'm very sorry to TSA," Duchak said in Denver courtroom as he broke down in sobs before his sentence was pronounced. "I'm really sorry -- It's heartfelt and true."

Defense lawyer David Lindsey said Duchak was "under a great deal of stress" at the time from losing his family's sole source of income with a 5-year-old child at home and wife going through a difficult pregnancy.

But federal Judge David Ebel admonished Duchak that "the very lives of American citizens are dependent upon the integrity of these security systems."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies called Duchak's actions a "very serious offense," though the government has said data was not compromised as a result of the tampering.

Duchak pleaded guilty in October to one count of attempting to damage a protected computer, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $500,000 fine. But the judge agreed to prosecutors' recommendation of a two-year prison term, taking into account security concerns posed by the public disclosure of evidence had the case gone to trial.

Duchak also was ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution to repay the costs of the investigation, damage assessments and restoring the TSA files to their screening functions.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Greg McCune)