Sunday, October 28, 2007
Did GOP Operatives Expose Whistleblowers?
...This summer the House Judiciary Committee launched an effort to collect tips from would-be whistleblowers in the Justice Department. The U.S. attorney firings scandal had shown that much was amiss in the Department, and with the danger of retaliation very real, the committee had set up a form on the committee's website for people to blow the whistle privately about abuses there. Although the panel said it would not accept anonymous tips, it assured those who came forward that their identity would be held in the "strictest confidence."
But in an email sent out today, the committee inadvertently sent the email addresses of all the would-be whistleblowers to everyone who had written in to the tipline. The committee email was sent to tipsters who had used the website form, including presumably whistleblowers themselves, and all of the recipients of the email were accidentally included in the "to:" field -- instead of concealing those addresses with a so-called blind carbon copy or "bcc:".
Only the email addresses were exposed; none of the names or other identifying information of the whistleblowers was revealed. The blunder, however, was noticed by a number of people who had used the website form and received today's email. One disgruntled recipient replied to the entire list of whistleblowers angrily complaining about the snafu; two others forwarded the committee email to TPMmuckraker with similar complaints.
Compounding the mistake, the committee later sent out a second email attempting to recall the original email; it, too, included all recipients in the "to:" field, according to a recipient of the emails.
A committee spokesperson emailed the following statement in response to TPMmuckraker's questions:
The tip line was created to be a confidential method for Justice Department employees to provide the Judiciary Committee with information that might aid the Committee in its ongoing investigation of politicization at the Justice Department. Because of the confidentiality agreement, the Committee will not discuss any emails sent on this tip line. A technological error in a recent communication inadvertently disclosed certain email addresses. The Committee has not begun its review of the emails, and does not know if any of them are in fact from Justice Department employees as opposed to private citizens expressing more general views. The Committee apologizes for any concern this error may have caused, and is making every effort to protect the confidentiality of those who chose to provide information on the tip line.
It's not immediately clear whether the mistake will lead to the exposure of those who had contacted the committee. There are more than 150 recipient addresses revealed in the email. Some of the email addresses appear to be transparently fake, but there's also, much more troubling, a firstname.lastname@example.org carbon copied on the email, which is the public email address for Vice President Dick Cheney. In other words, an email containing the email addresses of all the whistleblowers who had written in to the committee tipline was sent to public email address of Vice President Cheney... [emphasis added]
It matters not that only the email addresses were exposed. The Reich is more than capable of tracing email addresses. If it was an error at all, it was not technological. It was human. I forward items to friends daily, and I always use the Bcc: field, with a dummy address in the To: field. This is not rocket science folks! The committee replying that they are making every attempt to protect the confidentiality of those who chose to provide information on the tip line is meaningless. The cat is already out of the bag. But was this a blunder?
When I first saw this, I thought "What Idiots!", but the more I mull it over, that explanation makes no sense to me. Why would a professional in the Judiciary Committee staff not use Bcc: as automatically as I do? And why would they Cc: Cheney? I don't think so. I think this is a deliberate attempt by a Republican on the Judiciary committee to derail the DOJ investigation by leaking the identities of whistleblowers to Cheney to expose them to intimidation and revenge.
Here is the list of suspects:
Sensenbrenner Jr. (R) Wisconsin, 5th
Coble (R) North Carolina, 6th
Gallegly (R) California, 24th
Goodlatte (R) Virginia, 6th
Chabot (R) Ohio, 1st
Lungren (R) California, 3rd
Cannon (R) Utah, 3rd
Keller (R) Florida, 8th
Issa (R) California, 49th
Pence (R) Indiana, 6th
Forbes (R) Virginia, 4th
King (R) Iowa, 5th
Feeney (R) Florida, 24th
Franks (R) Arizona, 2nd
Gohmert (R) Texas, 1st
Jordan (R) Ohio, 4th
Posted by TomCat
Labels: Ethics, GOP Hypocrites, Investigations, Oversight, Politics, Scandal