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USA Today October 7, 2005

Analyst Allegedly Used Same System As Spy

By John Diamond

WASHINGTON — An FBI analyst suspected of stealing classified documents about the Philippines allegedly surfed undetected through sensitive government computer files, including those from the CIA and Pentagon. It's the latest sign the bureau has yet to fix security flaws in its computer systems.

Leandro Aragoncillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Filipino descent, “improperly accessed” classified material through the FBI's Automatic Case System (ACS) computer at the Army's Fort Monmouth, N.J., Information Technology Center where he worked, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who pleaded guilty in 2001 to spying for the Soviet Union and Russia for 15 years, used the same computer system to gain access to secret documents far beyond his area of responsibility. A Justice Department inspector general's report in 2003 urged the FBI to fix the system, but those repairs haven't been made.

After the Hanssen case, the FBI began a $170 million upgrade of its computer network. Severe technical problems led that upgrade to be scrapped, and only now is the FBI seeking bids for a new system, called Sentinel.

“We thought that we had solved this problem a long time ago,” said John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a think tank that follows intelligence issues. “Apparently, we haven't.”

Aragoncillo, 46, is cooperating with authorities investigating the theft of classified government documents and their delivery to forces attempting to overthrow Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to a federal court filing in Newark, N.J.

Although Aragoncillo has been arrested, federal investigators haven't indicted him because they hope he will tell them more about documents they believe he stole, according to two federal law enforcement sources familiar with the probe. Investigators are particularly interested in material they believe was taken from the White House West Wing during Aragoncillo's earlier tenure as a Marine Corps guard in the office of Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney from July 1999 to February 2002, the sources said.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss a current investigation.

Michael Ray Aquino, a former Philippine national police officer living in New York, was indicted Thursday in U.S. District Court in Newark on a conspiracy charge for allegedly receiving classified information from Aragoncillo via e-mail.

According to court documents, Aragoncillo easily tapped into secret documents through FBI computers. He was discovered after Aquino had visa troubles and Aragoncillo interceded on his behalf with federal immigration officials.

That raised suspicions and led the FBI to audit his computer, where investigators found the classified material.

FBI spokesman John Miller said the investigation is reviewing Aragoncillo's assignments that would have given him access to classified information, including his Marine career.

Contributing: Toni Locy and Matt Kelley


Copyright 2005, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.