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Ex-FBI agent guilty in leak about terror plot

| Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 8:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A former FBI bomb technician who later worked as a contractor for the bureau has agreed to plead guilty to disclosing national Defense information about a disrupted terrorist plot to the Associated Press, according to the Justice Department.

Donald John Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Ind., who had agreed to plead guilty to charges of possessing and distributing child pornography in a separate investigation, provided information to an Associated Press reporter relating to the disruption of a plot to conduct a suicide bomb attack on a U.S.-bound airline by al-Qaida and the recovery by the United States of a bomb in connection with that plot, according to court documents filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

“This unauthorized and unjustifiable disclosure severely jeopardized national security and put lives at risk,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said. “To keep the country safe, the department must enforce the law against such critical and dangerous leaks, while respecting the important role of the press under the department's media guidelines and any shield law enacted by Congress.”

In a sweeping investigation, Justice officials secretly obtained cellular, office and home telephone records from more than 20 phone lines assigned to the Associated Press and its journalists as part of a yearlong investigation into the disclosure about the failed al-Qaida plot last year.

Sachtleben worked for the FBI from 1983 through 2008 and was a special agent bomb technician assigned to work on many major cases involving terrorist attacks. In 2008, Sachtleben retired from the bureau and was rehired as a contractor. As a contractor, he routinely visited the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.

Sachtleben was identified as a suspect in the case after the toll records for a reporter's phone numbers were obtained through a subpoena and compared to other evidence collected during the Justice Department leak investigation. This allowed investigators to obtain a search warrant authorizing a more exhaustive search of Sachtleben's cell phone, computer and other electronic equipment, which was already in the possession of federal agents because of the unrelated child pornography investigation, according to Justice officials.

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