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NOAA Scientist Accused of Stealing Sensitive Government Documents

24 Oct 2014, 12:56 pm

Photo credit: Spencer Thomas/Flickr

An employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been arrested by the FBI, accused of — on numerous occasions in May 2012 — accessing and downloading information from the National Inventory of Dams (NID). That database contains guarded information about thousands of dams in the United States — including potential causalities in the wake of a dam failure.

Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59, of Wilmington, Ohio was taken into custody, by the FBI, at her workplace — the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, Ohio. Chen was employed as a hydrologist at the office.

In addition to the alleged database intrusions, Chen is accused of providing false statements to members of the the Commerce Department’s Office of Security. All of this, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice in Columbus, Ohio.

Chen has been indicted on numerous federal charges; including theft of government property, illegally accessing a government computer database and two counts of making false statements to federal agents.

All of the alleged crimes carry lengthy prison sentences and fines of $250,000 per count.

Background checks on Chen reveal no previous criminal or financial issues.

This isn’t the first time the NID has been compromised. Last year, the International Business Times reported that hackers were able to gain access to the same database Chen is accused of entering. Those hacks occurred in January 2013 and went unnoticed for three months. They were subsequently determined to have originated from inside of China.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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