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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Charges in Boeing download case

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County prosecutors charged a former Boeing employee Tuesday with criminally obtaining sensitive documents from the company's computer system, including information police say later appeared in The Seattle Times.

Gerald L. Eastman, 45, of Kent, was accused of 16 felony counts of first-degree computer trespass stemming from the alleged downloading of thousands of pages of documents between 2003 and 2006.

Eastman, reached Tuesday, said he was disappointed the prosecutor's office had filed charges based on what he called his "whistle-blowing." He said he was trying to call attention to quality-control problems at Boeing.

"What I did was allowable for Boeing policy," Eastman said. He denied the charges of computer trespass.

Police also alleged in charging papers that information in the downloaded documents appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Eastman said he did approach a reporter from the Seattle P-I about safety issues at Boeing but that the reporter was not interested. He then contacted Seattle Times reporter Dominic Gates. Eastman would neither confirm nor deny he provided any documents to Gates.

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

David McCumber, managing editor of the Post-Intelligencer, said his newspaper did not receive any documents from Eastman.

Eastman, an 18-year employee who worked as a quality-control inspector at Boeing, was arrested at work in May 2006, briefly held in the King County Jail and fired about that time.

Eastman is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges next Tuesday. If convicted of all the charges, he could face up to nearly six years in prison.

Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said he couldn't recall another recent case of computer trespass.

E-mail points to Eastman

In spring 2006, Boeing received an e-mail titled "Leaks to the Seattle Times" that identified Eastman as an employee who had been downloading highly sensitive computer files for more than 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.

As part of efforts to obtain a search warrant, a Boeing official estimated the company stood to lose $5 billion to $15 billion if even a portion of the documents allegedly copied by Eastman were "released to the wrong hands," according to a written declaration provided to police investigators.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale declined comment and also wouldn't say whether the company has suffered economic losses as a result of Eastman's alleged activity.

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 detective Nick Bauer wrote in a police report.

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 that he could do his job, according to the charging papers.

But Eastman violated a company policy that limits access to areas relevant and necessary to perform work duties, the papers allege.

Contacts list found

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

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

Wallace said he does not remember being contacted by Eastman and never received documents from Eastman.

Wallace wrote about Eastman's arrest and spoke to him only for that story, McCumber said.

Police searched Eastman's home May 17, 2006. They removed computers and storage devices that held more than 320,000 pages of Boeing-related documents, Bauer wrote.

More than 2,600 documents were marked "Boeing limited" and more than 5,700 as "Boeing proprietary," Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott Peterson wrote in the charging papers.

Police also found on Eastman's computer software to crack passwords, along with files he cracked or tried to crack, the charging papers said.

Police also recovered e-mails between Eastman and reporters about files he had given them, and about meeting with them, Peterson wrote.

He did not identify the reporters.

In an interview with police, Eastman referred to himself as a 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.

The FAA determined Eastman's claims were unfounded, the charging 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 police detective Bauer.

Eastman told The Times on Tuesday that he had tried to negotiate his departure from Boeing, but only to escape harassment and retaliation he faced for questioning Boeing's quality-control systems.

In Peterson's statement, he noted the e-mail that accused Eastman of leaking documents to The Times came after a series of articles in the newspaper that disclosed sensitive internal information about Boeing aircraft design and business plans.

Some of the news articles cited "internal Boeing documents," Peterson wrote.

He did not list any specific articles.

Days after the e-mail alerting Boeing officials to leaks, Times reporter Gates contacted the company about "green" planes, wrote Bauer in his statement.

Soon after, Gates did an article about the planes being developed by Boeing, Bauer wrote.

The story Bauer mentioned did describe Boeing research into low-cost airplanes and environment-friendly planes and cited internal Boeing documents obtained by The Times.

But the charging papers don't say Eastman provided documents about "green" planes to Gates.

Eastman said Tuesday that Boeing officials accused him in May 2006 of providing confidential documents that allowed Gates to write six stories on Everett's site selection for final assembly of the 787 Dreamliner. Gates broke the story about the site choice.

Eastman said company officials also accused him of leaking a speech by a Boeing lawyer outlining potential damage from the company's ethics scandals.

Gates wrote about the speech in January 2006.

Eastman would neither confirm nor deny he provided information to Gates for those stories, citing the pending criminal case.

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

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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