Alleged hacker of Bush e-mails charged in U.S. court

An international hacker who U.S. authorities say accessed and distributed personal e-mails and photographs belonging to the family of former President George W. Bush was charged in federal court Thursday with several crimes stemming from his computer intrusions.

Marcel Lehel Lazar — perhaps better known by the moniker “Guccifer” that he is said to have affixed to the materials he stole — was charged with cyber-stalking, aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access of a protected computer in a nine-count indictment filed in federal district court in Alexandria.

The indictment alleges that the 42-year-old Romanian national hacked into the e-mail, Facebook and other online accounts of several high-profile people, including a member of the Bush family, a former Cabinet member and a former member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He then set about inciting cyber-mayhem, blasting messages with personal information from those accounts to media organizations or congressional staffers, according to the indictment.

The indictment does not name any of the people whose accounts were compromised. But much of the alleged hacking was already public because the hacker shared some of the materials he had accessed with media organizations.

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell acknowledged last year that he was aware that his Facebook and personal e-mail accounts had been breached, and the Secret Service had confirmed previously that it was investigating the theft of numerous personal e-mails from members of the Bush family. Those e-mails briefly became the subject of gossip because they included paintings by George W. Bush, including apparent self-portraits in the shower and bath.

The indictment claims that Lazar was behind both intrusions. The Smoking Gun, a Web site, has reported that whoever was using the moniker Guccifer also claimed to have victimized comedian Steve Martin, editor Tina Brown and actress Mariel Hemingway, among many others. The news organization reported that Guccifer had given it a bevy of documents to support that claim.

Lazar, a cabdriver who also went by Marcel Lazar Lehel, had already been charged in a Romanian court in connection with the hacking, according to the Reuters news agency. He was sentenced this month to four years in jail, Reuters reported. The U.S. charges could pave the way for Lazar to be extradited to answer his crimes here.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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