Category: Privacy

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Journalist Privilege and Law Enforcement Leaks

freespeech1.jpgIn a very interesting case, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer recently held a Washington Post reporter in contempt of court for not revealing the source of a leak in the investigation of Wen Ho Lee. [Click here for the court’s opinion.] The case involves a civil suit by Lee against a number of federal agencies for violating the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. Lee was a scientist employed by the Department of Energy and was being investigated by the FBI for espionage for China. Ultimately, the espionage case collapsed and Lee pled guilty to one count of mishandling computer files.

During the investigation, Washington Post journalist Walter Pincus published a few articles about the Lee investigation, identifying him by name and discussing extensive details of the investigation, including “his and his wife’s employment histories, their financial transactions, details about their trips to Hong Kong and China, details concerning the Government investigation and interrogation, and purported results from polygraph tests.” Pincus indicated that anonymous government sources supplied him with the information.

Lee has sued the government for violating the Privacy Act, which prohibits government agencies (including the FBI) from disclosing records about an individual. Lee sought from Pincus who his sources were. Pincus raised the journalist privilege, claiming he should be sheilded from being forced to disclose.

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Orin Kerr on the USA Patriot Act Compromise

My colleague Orin Kerr has gone through the nearly 100 pages of statutory text of the new USA Patriot Act renewal compromise bill. He offers his tentative conclusions here. The bill makes changes in Section 215 Orders, National Security Letters, and Sneak and Peek Warrants. Basically the changes are more recordkeeping and more judicial review — both laudable improvements. There are, however, many other problems in the USA Patriot Act as well as in the underlying electronic surveillance laws that still remain. Check out Kerr’s analysis, which is insightful and intelligent as usual. You could, of course, read the almost 100 pages of statutory code yourself, but I’m sure you’ve got a life. Thank goodness there are folks like Kerr to do it for us. That’s why we keep him around.

Related Posts:

1. Solove, National Security Letters

2. Solove, More on National Security Letters

3. Solove, The USA Patriot Act: A Fraction of the Problem

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Article III Groupie Groupie

Howard Bashman has yet more on A3G here, here, and here. If he keeps up this pace of blogging about A3G, I’m going to nickname Bashman “Article III Groupie Groupie.” And the story has now made the New York Times.

Hat tip: ECPA Groupie

Related Posts:

1. Solove, Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

2. Solove, The Mysterious Disappearance of Article III Groupie

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Does Anything Really Disappear from the Internet?

magician1.jpgI just posted about the Wayback Machine and that got me wondering whether anything really disappears from the Internet when it is deleted. Certainly, a ton gets archived in the Wayback Machine as well as in Google cache and in RSS readers. Of course, if something appears on the Internet, somebody could see it and copy it before it gets taken down.

But I was wondering to what extent information can vanish completely from the Internet. Thus, if a blogger posts something and then deletes it a minute later, can it escape from permanent fame? Maybe some ill-fated performances might be so brief that they can sneak on and off the Internet without being caught. What about a comment to a blog post that gets zapped quickly by the blog author? Can this escape becoming part of some permanent record?

The question, put another way: Can something posted briefly on the Internet, seen and heard by hardly anyone, not snatched up by anybody, and then deleted, be gone forever? Is there an Internet equivalent to a tree falling in the forest that nobody hears?

I don’t know the answer to this question, and I would like to hear from those with more technical expertise.

UPDATE: People with expertise have answered, and their replies are worth checking out if you’re interested in the issue.

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What’s On the Net Stays on the Net: Thoughts on the Wayback Machine

waybackmachine.jpgSteve Vladeck (law, Miami) visiting at PrawfsBlawg tells an interesting anecdote about the Internet Archive, otherwise known as the “Wayback Machine.” Steve writes about a student who discovered his childhood pictures:

Well, apparently that cute idea I had for a webpage when I was a freshman in college, including the fun pictures page, didn’t die quite the fiery death I had hoped for it upon graduating (or, to be more honest, one month after last updating it in the fall of my sophomore year).

So, new law prawfs, beware!! If there’s a cute, funny webpage all about you from somewhere out there in the Internet ether, your students will find it… what they do with it, well, I’m just glad I kept some of the college photos off the page.

Sobering thoughts for any blogger before clicking on the “publish” button.

According to the Wayback Machine’s FAQ:

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More on National Security Letters

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has a post about National Security Letters (NSLs) with comments by Michael J. Woods, former chief of the National Security Law Unit in the FBI. Woods was quoted in a recent Washington Post story that provided extensive information about NSLs. Check out Orin’s post, which quotes from an email Woods sent in response to Orin’s request for further comments.

Related Posts:

1. Solove, National Security Letters

2. Solove, The USA Patriot Act: A Fraction of the Problem

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Top 10 Tips to Protect Your Privacy

privacytop10.jpgChris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s West Coast Office has posted a list of the “top 10 things you can do with very little money or effort to protect your privacy.” There’s hardly anyone who knows more about consumer privacy than Chris, so his Top 10 tips list is definitely worth checking out.

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The Mysterious Disappearance Article III Groupie

underneaththeirrobes1.jpgHaving unmasked himself as Article III Groupie, David Lat has disappeared. We haven’t heard a word from him. His blog is now offline. Why? What’s become of David? Will his blog be back?

Howard Bashman is sleuthing out the case like Sherlock Holmes, so check out How Appealing for the latest news here, here, here, and here.

Bashman also has done some original reporting too, interviewing Judge Richard Posner, who says he feels vindicated because he thought A3G was male, and Jeffrey Toobin (the author of the New Yorker article), whose answer to practically every question is “I don’t know.”

Related Posts:

1. Solove, Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

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Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

A3G.bmp“Article III Groupie” is the pseudonym for the mysterious author of a wildly popular blog about the federal judiciary, Underneath Their Robes. The blog is a lighthearted and witty discussion of the federal judiciary, chronicling the lives of judges and law clerks. Article III Groupie (or A3G for short) describes herself as an attorney from a Top 5 law school who works at a “large law firm in a major city, where she now toils in obscurity.” She writes: “During her free time, she consoles herself through the overconsumption of luxury goods. Her goal in life is to become a federal judicial diva.” Her identity has long remained shrouded in secrecy.

As she describes her blog:

This weblog, “Underneath Their Robes” (“UTR”), reflects Article III Groupie’s interest in, and obsession with, the federal judiciary. UTR is a combination of People, US Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tigerbeat, focused not on vacuous movie stars or fatuous teen idols, but on federal judges. Article III judges are legal celebrities, the “rock stars” of the legal profession’s upper echelons. This weblog is a source of news, gossip, and colorful commentary about these judicial superstars!

Her blog has become a regular read among the legal blogosphere. Even federal judges enjoy it. According to a New Yorker article:

The blog has many fans, including Richard Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals-court judge in Chicago. “The beauty contests between judges can’t be taken very seriously, but I enjoy the site,” he said. “It presents good information about clerkships and candidates. It’s occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005.”

People have long wondered who A3G is. The drawing she supplies on her profile page is of an attractive Sex-in-the-City-type diva . . . and one who purports to be starstruck by the nerdy world of the federal judiciary. How exciting that someone–anyone–-is even interested in this lonely corner of the world in the same way that groupies are into rock stars!

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