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L.A. Scientist for Boeing Is Focus of Probe

Federal agents examine handling of secret data. A lawyer denies wrongdoing by his client, whose work has targeted threats to aircraft.

October 20, 2006|Greg Krikorian and Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writers

Federal authorities are investigating the handling of classified information by a Los Angeles scientist who works for the aerospace giant Boeing.

Though the FBI would not comment on the probe, spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed that agents served three search warrants within the last two months at the Valley Village home of Abraham Lesnik. The warrants remain under seal.

Lesnik's attorney, Marc Harris, also declined to talk about the case, other than to dismiss any notion that his client engaged in corporate espionage or turned over information about a U.S. government project to a foreign power.

"He has never improperly passed classified information over to anyone who shouldn't have seen it," Harris said, declining to elaborate.

Earlier this year, Lesnik sued Boeing after a supervisor seized his laptop computer because he was accessing the Internet website Mapquest during an office meeting.

In his lawsuit, Lesnik challenged the confiscation of his laptop on grounds that it contained personal information on his wife and four children. He also said Boeing's policies permitted use of the computer.

According to court papers in the case -- including Lesnik's resume -- he has a Defense Department security clearance of Secret, Special Access. The resume also said that Lesnik, who has worked for Boeing for two years, has been a physicist and engineer for more than 30 years, and that he previously worked for two other major defense contractors: Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

Lesnik's role at Boeing was not immediately known. At Northrop Grumman, according to his resume, his work included developing systems to detect and track threats to aircraft, particularly threats from missiles. Later, his resume suggests, he continued to work on the same types of surveillance and warning systems at Raytheon.

Lesnik's lawsuit also suggests that Boeing was concerned about data he carried on his laptop. On June 20, it says, Lesnik met two Boeing security officials who "advised me that the laptop computer was in their custody and had not yet been examined, but that Boeing intended to conduct a 'forensic examination' of the computer's contents."

Lesnik said in his lawsuit that he treated his laptop as an extension of himself, keeping personal diaries, e-mails concerning his children's school performance and records on his family's finances and medical histories.

"If I had known that Boeing could, on a whim and without any notice or reasonable basis, confiscate this laptop and claim the right to 'investigate' everything that I recorded on it, I would obviously not have used the laptop for my personal use," he said in the suit.

Several calls to Boeing seeking comment were not returned.

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