United States government security breaches

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This page is a timeline of published security lapses in the United States government. These lapses are frequently referenced in congressional and non-governmental oversight. This article does not attempt to capture security vulnerabilities.



The 33 convicted members of the Duquesne spy ring (FBI print)
Main article: Duquesne Spy Ring
  • June 1941 - Fritz Joubert Duquesne (also known as "The man who killed Kitchener") was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with two associates, on charges of relaying secret information on Allied weaponry and shipping movements to Nazi Germany. On January 2, 1942, 33 members of the Duquesne Spy Ring, the largest espionage ring conviction in the history of the United States, were sentenced to serve a total of over 300 years in prison. William G. Sebold, a double agent, was instrumental to the capture and conviction. One German spymaster later commented that the ring’s roundup delivered ‘the death blow’ to their espionage efforts in the United States. The 1945 film The House on 92nd Street was a thinly disguised version of the uncovering of this spy ring.



  • January 1977 - Christopher John Boyce (born February 16, 1953) was convicted of spying against the United States for the Soviet Union. He was arrested in January 1977 for selling U.S. spy satellite secrets to the Soviet Union. Boyce was convicted in April of espionage and sentenced to 40 years in prison at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California. On January 21, 1980, Boyce escaped from Lompoc. While a fugitive, Boyce carried out 17 bank robberies in Idaho and Washington state. Boyce did not believe he could live as a fugitive forever and began to study aviation in an attempt to flee to the Soviet Union, where he would accept a commission as an officer in the Soviet Armed Forces. On August 28, 1981, Boyce was arrested while eating in his car outside "The Pit Stop," a drive-in restaurant in Port Angeles, WA.


  • October 1980 - David Henry Barnett, a retired CIA officer pleaded guilty to espionage charges, admitting that he had sold CIA secrets to the Soviets. He was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment and was paroled in 1990. He died on November 19, 1993.
  • May 1985 - John Anthony Walker, a retired United States Naval Chief Warrant Officer was arrested for selling encryption information and other classified documents to the Soviet Union, starting in 1967. He was convicted of espionage and died in prison in 2014.[1]
  • June 1986 - Jonathan Jay Pollard, a United States Naval civilian intelligence analyst was convicted on one count of spying for Israel, receiving a life sentence with a recommendation against parole.
  • August 1988 - Clyde Lee Conrad, a member of the United States military was arrested for selling NATO defense plans to Hungary from 1974 to 1988. He was convicted by a German court of treason and espionage in 1990 and died in prison.


  • June 1990 - Ronald Hoffman was arrested for exporting unclassified software that he developed for Science Applications International Corporation under a contract for the United States Air Force to foreign companies. He was convicted in 1992 of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.
  • February 1991 - Charles Lee Francis Anzalone, a Corporal in the United States Marines, was arrested for attempted espionage after passing documents and a security badge to an FBI agent posing as a KGB intelligence officer. He was convicted in May and sentenced to 15 years in prison for this and other charges.[2]


  • April 2003 - A security officer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory loses an electronic access badge. The loss is reported to an immediate supervisor, but senior Livermore managers are not notified until late May, at which point the badge was deactivated.[6]
  • April 2003 - Security officers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discover that a set of keys to the gates of the laboratory are missing. Locks are changed.[6]
  • February 2004 - Ryan Gilbert Anderson, a member of the Washington National Guard was charged with 5 counts of attempting to provide aid and information to Al Qaeda. A court martial sentenced him to life in prison.[2]
  • 16 July 2004 - Sandia National Laboratories announced that they had located a classified floppy disk that had been discovered missing on June 30 during a routine inventory. It was missing because it was improperly transferred to a different organization at the lab.[7]
  • October 2006 - A drug-related investigation at a private residence found classified documents and a thumb drive containing classified information, all from Los Alamos National Laboratory, at the home of Jessica Quintana, a former subcontractor to the laboratory.[8]
  • December 2006 - Petty Officer Ariel Weinmann of the United States Navy pleaded guilty to espionage, desertion and other charges. His case is notable as an espionage case where the Navy and trial court officials have denied access to basic information, including the court docket.
  • February 2007 - The Department of Justice Inspector General reported that "over a 44-month period the FBI reported 160 weapons and 160 laptop computers as lost or stolen."[4]


  1. ^ "The John Walker Spy Ring and The U.S. Navy's Biggest Betrayal - USNI News". USNI News. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Defense Personnel Security Research Center, Espionage Cases 1975–2004, archived from the original on February 4, 2006, retrieved 2006-02-19 
  3. ^ L. Britt Snider; Daniel S. Seikaly (2000-02-18), Improper Handling of Classified Information by John M. Deutch (1998–0028–IG), Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General 
  4. ^ a b U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Audit Division (February 2007), The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers Follow-up Audit (PDF) (Audit Report 07–18) 
  5. ^ "Man Pleads Guilty to Sandia National Labs Breach", SANS Newsbites, The SANS Institute, 5 (11), 2003-03-14 
  6. ^ a b "DOE REVIEWS LIVERMORE LAB: SECURITY UNACCEPTABLE", HPCwire, Tabor Communications, 12 (22), 2003-06-06, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on September 28, 2007 
  7. ^ Sandia Corporation (2004-07-16), Sandia Labs locates floppy disk 
  8. ^ U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services (2006-11-27), Selected Controls over Classified Information at Los Alamos National Laboratory (PDF)