A former FBI official agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information about a counter-terrorism operation and to child pornography charges, according to court papers in separate investigations filed by the U.S.
Donald Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Indiana, faces a combined 11 years and eight months in prison for the two sets of offenses, the U.S. Justice Department said yesterday in a statement. Both cases were brought in federal court in Indianapolis.
Sachtleben was being investigated for involvement with child pornography when he came under suspicion in a national-security case involving a leak to the Associated Press of classified information about an intelligence operation in Yemen that foiled a plot to blow up an airliner.
The AP reported on the disrupted plot on May 7, 2012. Sachtleben admitted being the source of the information in the report, according to the U.S.
“I am deeply sorry for my actions,” Sachtleben said in an e-mailed statement released through his lawyers. “While I never intended harm to the United States or to any individuals, I do not make excuses for myself.”
Sachtleben filed a petition to plead guilty to unlawfully disclosing national defense information in court documents filed yesterday, according to the Justice Department. He earlier agreed to plead guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography.
Sachtleben was implicated in the leak investigation after authorities subpoenaed a reporter’s phone records and compared them with other evidence gathered in the inquiry. Investigators linked Sachtleben to the case through computer, mobile-phone and other records already in their possession because of the child-pornography investigation.
“The prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information,” District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement.
Media groups and government watchdogs had said the Justice Department interfered with press freedom when it secretly collected the records from AP reporters and editors over a two-month period in 2012.
Sachtleben worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1983 through 2008 and was a special agent bomb technician, according to the Justice Department. After leaving the bureau, he worked as an FBI contractor until May 2012. He was arrested on the child-pornography complaint the day after leaving his contractor’s position, the department said.
He was charged in the child pornography investigation after he was linked to trafficking in explicit images based on information traced to him from the computer of another man arrested for a similar offense.
The child pornography case is U.S. v. Sachtleben, 12-cr-127, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (Indianapolis).