msnbc.com and NBC News
updated 3/10/2010 5:04:33 PM ET 2010-03-10T22:04:33

Federal prosecutors have charged a former Transportation Security Administration employee with attempting to sabotage terror watch list computers by attempting to introduce a virus into the computer system, according to NBC News and NBC affiliate KUSA-TV in Denver.

Douglas Duchak, 46, of Colorado Springs, Colo., faces two charges of attempting to damage protected TSA computers, according to federal prosecutors. He is expected to appear in Denver federal court Wednesday afternoon, and could face 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

The Justice Department said Duchak was told last Oct. 15 that he would be losing his job. A week later, the government says, Duchak uploaded some computer code into a terrorism database, which includes the government's "no-fly" list, attempting to damage the computer and corrupt the database. Investigators say the malicious act was quickly discovered and damage was minimized.

Duchak worked from August 2004 to Oct. 23, 2009 as a data analyst at the TSA's Colorado Springs Operation Center. The center is where the government loads computers with data received from the federal government's Terrorist Screening Database and the U.S. Marshal's Service Warrant Information Network, a U.S. Attorney's office spokesman told KUSA-TV.

If Duchak had been successful in introducing the virus, it "would have caused damage affecting a computer used by the United States government in furtherance of national security," the U.S. Attorney's Office told KUSA-TV.

"Prosecution of the defendant is critical to protecting the integrity of the government's security databases," said U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette.

This case was investigated by the TSA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

"While this threat was an attempted internal attack on a cyber-based system by a U.S. citizen, the FBI will invest the time, resources, and hard work necessary to pursue prosecution of these cases," FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Denver office Jim Davis said in an interview with KUSA-TV.

"The tampering with a computer that is used as a tool to protect National Security of the United States will not be tolerated," he said.

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