Tag Archives: confidential

Court orders reporter to testify in leak case re: Sterling

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 188-page decision that there is no journalist protection of sources.  The decision can be viewed here.

In this case, ex-CIA officer Sterling worked for the CIA from 1993 to Jan. 2002.  During his tenure, he provided classified information to a NT Times reporter Risen.  In 2001, Risen published two articles based on classified information provided to him by Sterling.  After Sterling’s employment was terminated, Sterling attempted to publish a book but was denied ultimately because it contained classified information.

Afterwards, and while Sterling was pursuing legal action against the CIA, Sterling again gave Risen classified information.  NY Times Reporter met with senior administration officials to discuss the impact of the story.  The recommendation was to not publish, which the NY Times agreed to.  Nevertheless, NY Times reporter Risen published his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” which disclosed classified information.

As a result, the Attorney General sought to compel Risen’s testimony about the identity of his source.  Risen motioned to quash the subpoena on the basis that he was protected under the First Amendment or/and the federal common-law reporter’s privilege.

 

The Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.  The court held that Risen did not have a reporter’s privilege.  The Circuit Court of Appeals relied heavily on Supreme Court cases.

In Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), the Supreme Court in no uncertain terms rejected the existence of a reporters’ privilege.   In Univ. of Pa. v. EEOC, 493 U.S. 182, 201 (1990), the Supreme Court explained that the “First Amendment does not invalidate every burdening of the press that may result from the enforcement of civil or criminal statutes of general applicability.”  In Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663, 669 (1991), the Supreme Court again stated that the First Amendment does not “relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation shared by all citizens to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation, even though the reporter might be required to reveal a confidential source.”

Pointedly, the Circuit Court of Appeals refused to apply a “balance test” approach when deciding whether a reporter can be compelled to testify in criminal proceedings.  The court noted that in civil matters, the court recognized a reporter’s privilege which could be overcome if the 3-part test was met.

The Circuit Court of Appeals noted why this line is so important.  In criminal cases, there is a fundamental and comprehensive need for every man’s evidence.  For this reason, any shield to information has to be narrowly construed.  In a civil matter, however, the need for information does not share the same urgency or significance.

For these reasons, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered NY Times reporter Risen to testify in the criminal trial of former CIA official Sterling charged with providing the reporter with classified information.  In so doing, the Court of Appeals held that the First Amendment does not protect reporters who receive unauthorized leaks from being forced to testify against the people suspected of leaking to them.

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July 22, 2013 · 13:45

Proposed “Cloud Computing Act of 2012”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced a new bill, the “Cloud Computing Act of 2012” (S.3569), that purports to “improve the enforcement of criminal and civil law with respect to cloud computing.”

The Cloud Computing Act seeks to amend 18 USC 1030 by purporting:

  • It is a separate offense to have unauthorized access (including exceeding the authorized access) to a cloud computing account, or even conspiring to have unauthorized access.
  • Defining “cloud computing account” as “information stored on a cloud computing service that requires a password or similar information to access and is attributable to an individual”
  • Defining “cloud computing service” as a service that “enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (including networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or interaction by the provider of the service.”
  • The losses are (1) the value of the loss of use, information, or aggregated loss to 1 or more persons; or (2) the product obtained by multiplying the number of cloud computing accounts accessed by $500.”

As a reminder, 18 USC 1030, a person who acts or conspires to act in violation of the Act is to be

  • (1) fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years or both, when the conviction does not occur after another offense under the section; or
  • (2) fined or imprisoned for not more than 20 years or both, when the conviction occurs after another offense

 

The problems with this proposed bill are alarming due to the vagueness of the definitions.  In employment, I can see this Act (if it goes through) being used against employees.

For example, say if your authorized access is limited to “work” use.  If an employee uses the computer network to go to a social network, how would this pan out?  The employee, in this case, uses a password to get into the network of the employer.

Or say that authorized access is limited to using email for work purposes only.  What if the employee sends a personal email or an email to an attorney using the work email?  The email account is, after all, protected by a password and it is in the alleged protected network of the employer.

Or say that authorized access is limited to accessing the email at work.  Yet, the employee and other employees, and say even management, use their smartphones to keep up with work.

I can see potential issues in employment law, where the situation does not arise out of the purported intent of the Act.  None of these cases involve a person getting into a network or service to steal information.  None of these cases involve a disgruntled employee accessing information they are not supposed to have access to.

It is my guess that if the Act gets through, there will be a need for a lot of updates on employee policies, manuals, and trainings.

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Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege

This is an illustrative case as to why attorneys want to take precautions when producing discovery.  The case is Inhalation Plastics, Inc. v. Medex Cardio-Pulmonary, Inc., No. 2:07-CV-116, 2012 WL 3731483 /0S.D. Ohio Aug. 28, 2012).

In this case, the court held that privilege had been waived as to 347 pages of inadvertently produced emails where, among other things, Defendant failed to establish the reasonableness of the precautions taken to prevent the disclosure and “failed to take adequate measures to rectify or mitigate the damage of the disclosure.”

Here, Defendant did not stamp any documents as confidential.  Upon reviewing the documents at issue, the court held that those documents were covered under the attorney-client privilege.  However, the court found that the privilege had been waived.  The court highlighted the following facts:

  • Defendant’s lack of specificity as to who conducted the review and how the review was conducted.  The general assertion that multiple lawyers reviewed it was not enough.
  • Defendant failed to produce a privilege log during discovery;
  • 4.6% of the documents were inadvertently produced, which the Court found to be “relatively high.”

In sum, the Court opined:

After balancing the required factors, the Court concludes that Medex waived the attorney client privilege otherwise applicable to the 347 documents in the May 30 production.  To summarize, the Court finds that Medex did not take reasonable precautions to protect its privileged information, the number of documents disclosed is significant, no privilege log was provided at the time of disclosure, the contents of some of the documents may be relevant to the heart of the dispute, and Medex made insufficient attempts to mitigate its damage even after it learned of the disclosure.

via Inadvertent Production Results in Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege as to 347 Pages of Emails : Electronic Discovery Law.

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Filed under attorneys, courts, discovery, electronic discovery, legal decision, sanctions, waiver