Friday, June 23, 2006

An Oops on Redaction for DOJ

While the government was busy subpoenaing the reporters who they thought may have leaked confidential Grand Jury secrecy material in the steroid investigation, they must have been surprised to find out that they themselves were the source of a leak. Adam Liptak in a wonderful NYTimes article here details how 8 pages that the government thought had been redacted from a document filed in court was actually available to the public. And the government response to this -  well The San Francisco Chronicle notes here that the government calls this "an unfortunate error, one that we regret."   Some thoughts here:

  • The government needs to improve on IT.  That someone can simply copy/paste a redacted document into a word processing program and obtain the content is pretty frightening.  Will everyone who received redacted items from the government by email be pulling up the documents today to see if the same works for these items?  This is more than "an unfortunate error."
  • This gives us a clue into what types of things the government redacts.  Defense attorneys have been known to receive documents with less than a line on a page because the entire page has been redacted by the government.  Sometimes one has to wonder if all the items that were in fact redacted ought to have been - this allows us to judge the government redaction process.
  • Should this "glitch" be investigated and people indicted?  It is more than ironic that the government was investigating leaks only to find that they are leaking.   It kind of reminds you of the saying - People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • Grand Jury Secrecy is Important.  It is important for the prosecution as it allows them to investigate without being subject to public oversight.  It is also important for individuals, especially public figures - like sports figures and politicians, that they not be named until indictment (if there is one), as the mere mention of them being associated with a grand jury investigation can have a negative effect on their career. Leaks in grand jury secrecy cannot be tolerated.
  • Now if this were a corporation that had committed this misconduct, would someone from the government be looking to see if they had a proper corporate compliance program in place?  So was someone monitoring the IT department?

(esp)

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