BusinessFriday, March 28, 2008
Last updated 1:18 a.m. PT

Eastman says safety was only motive

Media contacts detailed at trial

By ANDREA JAMES
P-I REPORTER

Boeing inspector Gerald Eastman told police detectives that he didn’t want money. And he didn’t want power over one of the world’s largest corporations. Acting as a lone employee, Eastman wanted to force The Boeing Co. and the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that new airplanes are fully inspected before taking flight.On Thursday, 46-year-old Eastman sat in King County Superior Court, where he is on trial on 16 felony counts of computer trespass. His new employer, Bothell-based Accra Manufacturing Inc., promptly fired him for a conflict of interest with one of its main customers, he said he was told.“It’s taken a great toll on me and my family,” Eastman said after the proceedings. “My marriage is on the rocks. I’ll probably have to sell my house now, just to get by.”Eastman says he is a whistle-blower who wanted to expose that Chicago-based Boeing did not do a thorough job of inspecting planes in production. During his time as a quality assurance inspector in Tukwila, he wrote to Boeing management, the FAA and even Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell about what he viewed as fraud in Boeing’s airplane production. But, according to the prosecutor, he also took thousands of sensitive documents and provided The Seattle Times with information for exclusive articles on Boeing-related topics that had nothing to do with plane safety. After a 2006 investigation led to his arrest, two Seattle police detectives questioned Eastman about the Boeing files found on his home computer. The jury listened to a tape of that questioning Thursday, and Eastman tried to tell his story. For much of the recording, Eastman sighed heavily into the microphone and rambled from event to event as he relayed a disjointed tale of what he sees as years of crusading against corruption at Boeing.The detectives demanded to know if Eastman received money for the documents.“My intent has never been to make money on this at all,” Eastman told them, sounding defeated after nearly an hour of questioning. “I have no desire for power; I have no ego to speak of. Boeing knows exactly why I did what I did.”The detectives pointed out that Boeing and the FAA disagreed with most of Eastman’s complaints, and asked him why the supposed airplane defects weren’t making headlines and leading to crashes.“Does a defect necessarily mean that a plane falls out of the sky?” Eastman responded. “Maybe it means it turns over the ocean, or (inaudible) at an airport longer than it should.”Though the detectives asked him numerous times about contact with the media, Eastman would not confirm that he had ever spoken with a reporter. But Detective David Dunn from the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force, in taped testimony played Thursday, said he’d found e-mails on Eastman’s computer that confirm contact with reporters. Dunn found seven pages of e-mails between Eastman and Times reporter Dominic Gates, and four pages of e-mails between Eastman and Seattle P-I reporter James Wallace. The e-mails were submitted as evidence Thursday.The reporter-source relationship between Gates and Eastman began around September 2003, with an e-mail.“Would any major outsourcing plans by BCAG (Boeing Commercial Airplanes group) be news to you?” Eastman wrote to the reporter. “If so, please contact me. I, of course, would have to be assured total anonymity.”In his response, Gates wrote, “As for confidentiality, I protect that absolutely. It’s part of the ethics of my job here.”In another e-mail, Gates told Eastman, “Let me urge you again to work with me to make this happen. You can do that by feeding me whatever you can to substantiate the information and by keeping it between us.”A couple of months later, P-I reporter Wallace thanked Eastman for help and wrote, “I had to confirm with other sources” information about how Boeing awarded work on 787 Dreamliner wings to Japanese companies. The P-I published a story Nov. 14, 2003, about that award.Dunn said he did not find attachments with any of the e-mails. The e-mails suggest that Gates and Eastman met at least once in person.The Times declined to comment Thursday. “We don’t discuss confidential sources,” said Times Executive Editor David Boardman.P-I Managing Editor David McCumber said the e-mails speak for themselves.The trial resumes Monday.

Eastman says safety was only motive
A former Boeing inspector, accused of computer trespass, told police he simply wanted to make sure Boeing airplanes were safe. But newly revealed e-mails show he provided information to media unrelated to safety.

What do you think?

#397960Posted by IanMost at 3/27/08 10:18 p.m.Boeing employees know that many things at the company are limited and that even casual discussion is prohibited. This guys sounds like one of many who love to talk to the media about internal issues and don’t realize that they are violating company policy. Its not just about whistle blowing. #398011Posted by Iblis at 3/27/08 11:41 p.m.I agree. I was almost with him, until he allegedly started sneaking out articles unrelated to his safety concerns… #398267Posted by NAYSAYING TROLL at 3/28/08 8:41 a.m.Boeing employees know that many things at the company are limitedThis fine man has stood up and revealed what he believes to be fraud. This act was against company policy, but was not criminal in nature. He was given authorization to the documents, so how could he be trespassing? Shame on this judge and prosecuter, this case should never have come to trial.Where is the public outcry for Boeing to reveal their inspection methods? Where is the investigation by the DOT?

I would like to know how many errors their inspection records have. What is the percentage of missing or improperly stamped inspection records??? How many errors are there, just on the paperwork? -not including what has not been documented on the new 787, by suppliers as well as this company? (as was reported in the media)

Who is going to protect the flying public? #398409Posted by The Last Inspector at 3/28/08 10:36 a.m.Thanks, “Naysaying Troll.” I knew it was my duty to try and protect the public from the fraud I witnessed in Boeing QA placing so many lives at risk, so I did so to the best of my ability while others that should have also stood up to this fraud turned a blind eye to it, including the FAA, who in fact are enablers of it as opposed to doing their real jobs in an unbiased way of ensuring Boeing actually follows their required quality system and airplanes are indeed properly inspected before delivery to customers in order to protect public safety.The errors on the paperwork are not the issue. Boeing spends more time ensuring the paper looks like the airplanes were inspected than actually inspecting them, I believe. In fact, they have moved for the most part to electronic “paperwork” that ensures an inspector, under pressure from their QA management to get the product out of the door rather than actually inspecting it and documenting and getting reworked or repaired defects in the airplane components before they are delivered, rollerstamps in all the right locations before the job can be closed out. So the rollerstamping is not as evident as it once was by just looking at the “paperwork.” #398934Posted by handsome at 3/28/08 5:00 p.m.To The Last Inspector!!I feel that your heart is in the right place but I also feel for the pain that a major corporation can inflict on a lone employee.All you can do is tell the truth, defend yourself to the best of your ability.

Ultimately you have to get up in the morning and look at yourself.

Pulling for you emotionally. It took 10 years for me to get over a major fraud in a company that I worked for. I just burned the notebooks last year – that proved my case – but ultimaltely a company can inflict so much damage!!

Feel the pain brother!! Keep your chin up!!!! 

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