Ex-FBI Agent Cornered on Terror Plot Leaks
(CN) - Days before his arrest on child pornography charges, a former FBI agent gave a reporter classified information about a disrupted terrorist plot, new plea deals show.
The agreements, filed in Indianapolis, leave Donald John Sachtleben, 55, facing at least 11 years in prison for two national security charges and two child pornography offenses. While the national security charges include a 43-month prison term, the child pornography charges carry a consecutive 97-month term.
Sachtleben had been an FBI contractor since 2008, but he spent the previous 25 years as a bomb technician for the agency, working on many major cases involving terrorist attacks, the government noted.
He came became a suspect in a child pornography investigation in 2012 after evidence allegedly showed that he had been actively trading explicit materials online with numerous other people.
The investigators conducted several days of surveillance on Sachtleben at his home in Carmel, Ind., before executing a search warrant on May 11, 2012. He was then charged in the Southern District of Indiana with possession and distribution of child pornography.
Sachtleben agreed later that year to plead guilty, with prosecutors noting that the initial forensic examination of his laptop revealed roughly 30 images and video files containing child pornography.
Later it became apparent that Sachtleben had been disclosing classified defense information to a reporter as investigators were breathing down his neck.
The government filed the national security charges earlier this week. A statement of facts says Sachtleben had on May 2, 2012, given a reporter classified details about a disrupted terrorist plot to conduct a suicide bomb attack on a U.S.-bound airliner by the Yemen-based terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Prosecutors say Sachtleben's disclosure of national defense information compromised the national security of the United States, placing lives and a significant international intelligence operation in jeopardy.
A subpoena of the reporter's phone records and other evidence helped lead investigators to Sachtleben, whose cellphone, computer and other electronic media were already in the possession of federal investigators because of the child pornography investigation.
"Sachtleben had reason to believe that this information could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation," prosecutors said in a statement. "The criminal information also charges him with willfully retaining documents relating to the national defense without authorization."
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said Sachtleben "had threatened a sensitive intelligence operation and endangered lives by illegally disclosing classified information relating to a disrupted al-Qaida suicide bomb plot."
"That plot could not have been more serious, as it targeted a plane bound for the United States," Machen said in a statement.
Assistant Director in Charge Parlave said Sachtleben was identified as the source of the disclosure after agents, analysts and federal prosecutors conducted more than 500 interviews and analyzed subpoenaed telephone records.
The Justice Department noted that Sachtleben retained his top-secret security clearance when he switched from FBI agent to contractor in 2008.
His contractor duties required Sachtleben to routinely visit the FBI Lab in Quantico, Va., prosecutors said.