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Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ex-Boeing worker accused of downloading documents and leaking to reporters

Seattle Times staff reporter

A former Boeing employee was charged today with criminally obtaining sensitive documents from the company's computer system, including information police say later appeared in news stories in The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Gerald L. Eastman, 45, of Kent, was accused of 16 felony counts of first-degree computer trespass in court papers filed by the King County Prosecutor's Office.

The alleged thefts occurred between 2003 and 2006, including documents that could potentially cost Boeing $5 billion to $15 billion in potential damage if they were "released to the wrong hands," according to the charging papers.

Eastman, reached today, said he was disappointed that the prosecutor's office had filed charges.

"What I did was allowable for Boeing policy," Eastman said. He added that he was trying to call attention to quality-control problems at Boeing.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said, "We're supporting the prosecutor and following their lead on this." He declined to comment further, including whether the company suffered any economic losses as a result of Eastman's alleged activity.

"The Seattle Times does not comment on who may or may not be a confidential source," said Suki Dardarian, a Times managing editor.

David McCumber, managing editor of the Post-Intelligencer, said today that his newspaper published no stories based on documents provided by Eastman, nor received any documents from him.

Eastman, who worked as a quality-control inspector at Boeing, was arrested at work in May 2006 and briefly held in the King County Jail. He was fired about the same time and the case has been under investigation since then by Seattle Police detectives.

Eastman is scheduled to be arraigned July 17. If convicted of all the charges, he faces between 43 and 57 months in prison.

In spring 2006, Boeing received an e-mail entitled "Leaks to the Seattle Times," that identified Eastman as a company employee who had been downloading highly sensitive computer files for more two years and providing information to The Times, according to the charging papers.

The company began an investigation into Eastman and soon after contacted Seattle Police.

Eastman's computer activity showed he acquired substantial amounts of data and information from Boeing computers from areas "he has no responsibility or legitimate reason for accessing," Seattle Police detective Nick Bauer wrote in the charging papers.

Eastman transferred the information to a "thumb drive" attached to his workspace computer and took it home after completing his shift, Bauer wrote.

As a quality-control inspector, Eastman had unfettered access to Boeing's computer system so he could perform his job, according to the papers. But Eastman violated a company policy that limits access to areas relevant and necessary to perform work duties, the papers allege.

Boeing found that Eastman's MSN Hotmail account listed as contacts Dominic Gates, a Seattle Times reporter, and James Wallace, a Post-Intelligencer reporter, according to the papers.

Correspondence by Eastman with Gates and Wallace also were found in e-mails, including indications Eastman intended to share information he had on Boeing with the reporters, the charging papers state.

McCumber said Wallace does not remember ever being contacted by Eastman and that he had not written a story based on documents provided by Eastman.

Wallace did write a story on Eastman's arrest and that is the only time he has spoken with Eastman, McCumber said.

A police search of Eastman's home on May 17, 2006, led to the recovery of computers, storage devices and other items.

The computer files and storage devices revealed Eastman possessed more than 320,000 pages of Boeing-related documents downloaded by him during his employment, Bauer wrote.

In an interview with police, Eastman referred to himself as disgruntled employee because his concerns about the inspection of parts had not been addressed by Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the charging papers.

"He admitted that he collected data to back up his contention that there were problems with inspection process at Boeing," Bauer wrote.

The FAA determined Eastman's claims were unfounded, the papers said.

Eastman also said that he had tried to leave Boeing in return for compensation and that he had warned he might go public with his concerns, according to Bauer.

Eastman's computers and storage devices showed he had corresponded and met with news reporters and apparently supplied them with proprietary and sensitive information, Bauer wrote.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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