Ex-intelligence analyst who faked reports on makeshift bombs overseas gets probation

A National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency contractor who forged his timecards and wrote in sensitive military reports that he had nothing significant to say without actually reviewing any materials was sentenced to two years of probation Friday — a penalty more lenient than even what his defense attorney had sought.

U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said that it was only by “grace” that Thomas Cicatello — who was supposed to review information to help identify improvised explosive devices, sometimes for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — did not cause any harm to befall U.S. soldiers abroad. But he said the 33-year-old contractor, who himself had served two tours in Iraq, had “earned the court giving you some leniency,” noting his many Army commendations.

“You’ve already been humbled with a felony conviction and losing your security clearance, and losing your income,” Lee told Cicatello.

For his part, Cicatello apologized to his employers, U.S. taxpayers and the troops who received his reports, saying that he knew from his Army service how significant the intelligence he faked could be to soldiers in the field.

“I have a firsthand understand of how important that information can be, and I let them down,” Cicatello said. “I’m just thankful nobody was hurt, and I just beg for your forgiveness, your honor.”

Cicatello, of Woodbridge, Va., pleaded guilty in March to submitting false claims to the U.S. government, admitting that he was paid for about 465 hours he did not work and that he sometimes submitted intelligence documents indicating there was “NSTR” — or nothing significant to report — when he had not actually reviewed materials to make that determination.

Court filings show Cicatello worked at the Washington Navy Yard for SAIC — a company that later became Leidos — doing contract work for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He was fired in November 2011 after co-workers complained about him, court filings show.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle asked that Cicatello spent somewhere between six months and a year in jail — the penalty recommended by federal sentencing guidelines — and argued that his apathy “could have put our troops in harm’s way,” even if prosecutors did not have evidence anyone got hurt because of it.

Aamra S. Ahmad, Cicatello’s defense attorney, asked for a sentence of only probation with a small period of community confinement, calling her client’s misdeeds “truly aberrant behavior for him.”

“He acted out of laziness, immaturity and irresponsibility,” Ahmad said.

Lee seemed most moved, though, by Cicatello’s Army service and the degree to which his life had already been affected by his actions. Lee noted that Cicatello’s $80,000 salary had evaporated to nothing, and he would likely never be able to work again as a government contractor.

Ahmad said her client had unsuccessfully sought jobs at McDonald’s, Burger King and Macy’s, and he planned to attend culinary school. She declined to comment after the hearing.

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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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