Infiltration of files seen as extensive

    Date26 Jan 2004
    CategoryGovernment
    3418
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Depending on how this goes, this might well have a strong influence on future computer privacy and anti-hacking laws. It appears as though, due to security negligance on the Democrats' part and weak ethics on the Republicans, the GOP side of the isle has been reading Democrat internal memos for at least a year. On the other hand, the information was highly embaressing for the Democratic victims, who may want to avoid calling further attention to the stolen memos. . . . WASHINGTON -- Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

    From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

    The office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle has already launched an investigation into how excerpts from 15 Democratic memos showed up in the pages of the conservative-leaning newspapers and were posted to a website last November.

    With the help of forensic computer experts from General Dynamics and the US Secret Service, his office has interviewed about 120 people to date and seized more than half a dozen computers -- including four Judiciary servers, one server from the office of Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and several desktop hard drives.

    But the scope of both the intrusions and the likely disclosures is now known to have been far more extensive than the November incident, staffers and others familiar with the investigation say.

    The revelation comes as the battle of judicial nominees is reaching a new level of intensity. Last week, President Bush used his recess power to appoint Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, bypassing a Democratic filibuster that blocked a vote on his nomination for a year because of concerns over his civil rights record.

    Democrats now claim their private memos formed the basis for a February 2003 column by conservative pundit Robert Novak that revealed plans pushed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to filibuster certain judicial nominees. Novak is also at the center of an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA agent whose husband contradicted a Bush administration claim about Iraqi nuclear programs.

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