Computer Consultant Hacked Secret Passwords of FBI Director, Others
An FBI computer consultant gained access to the secret passwords of Director
Robert Mueller and others using free software found on the Internet, the latest
embarrassment in the bureau's long struggle to modernize its computers.
The consultant, Joseph Thomas Colon of Springfield, Ill., has pleaded guilty
to four misdemeanor counts of intentionally exceeding his authorized computer
access, and prosecutors are recommending roughly a year in prison.
Colon's lawyer is asking U.S. District Judge Richard Leon for probation, contending
that an employee in the FBI's Springfield office gave Colon a password to get
into the secret system to speed the installation of a new computer system. The
work was part of the ill-fated Trilogy project that Mueller abandoned last year.
Prosecutors do not believe Colon was trying to damage national security or
use the information for financial gain. Still, they said in court papers, the
FBI was forced to take significant steps to make sure there was no harm from
His sentencing was postponed on Tuesday and reset for July 13.
Colon, 28, lost his job and security clearance after acknowledging that he
made his way into the deepest reaches of the FBI's internal computer network
on four occasions in 2004.
He used two computer programs to extract the information and decode the passwords
of Mueller and others, according to his plea agreement.
It was unclear from court documents why he sought so many passwords.
The FBI would not comment on details of the case. Colon's lawyer, Richard Winelander,
did not respond to messages Thursday from The Associated Press.
In court papers, Colon argues that by March 2004, he and FBI information technology
employees in Springfield had grown frustrated with bureaucratic delays in performing
"such routine and mundane tasks as setting up workstations, printers, user
accounts and to move individual computers from one operating system to another."
One employee, identified by Colon as an FBI agent, gave him a password he could
use to avoid the delays. That password got Colon into the secret user name and
The FBI has beefed up its systems to guard against unauthorized access, FBI
spokesman Paul Bresson said.
The FBI has spent nearly $600 million to put in place a high-speed, secure
computer network and 30,000 new desktop computers. The Trilogy technology upgrade
was begun even before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, highlighted computer problems
at the FBI.
But Mueller scrapped the final phase of the program, a paperless case management
system called Virtual Case File after consultants said it was obsolete and riddled
In March, the FBI said it would spend an additional $425 million to build and
run the Sentinel system. It is expected to be finished in late 2009.