Web Sites Listing Informants Concern Justice Dept.

Web Sites Listing Informants Concern Justice Dept.
Posted by CN Staff on May 22, 2007 at 09:05:36 PT
By Adam Liptak
Source: New York Times
Washington, DC -- There are three “rats of the week” on the home page of a Web site devoted to exposing the identities of witnesses cooperating with the government. The site posts their names and mug shots, along with court documents detailing what they have agreed to do in exchange for lenient sentences.
Last week, for instance, the site featured a Florida man who agreed in September to plead guilty to cocaine possession but not gun charges in exchange for his commitment to work “in an undercover role to contact and negotiate with sources of controlled substances.” The site says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from documents obtained from court files available on the Internet.“The reality is this,” said a spokesman for the site, who identified himself as Anthony Capone. “Everybody has a choice in life about what they want to do for a living. Nobody likes a tattletale.”Federal prosecutors are furious, and the Justice Department has begun urging the federal courts to make fundamental changes in public access to electronic court files by removing all plea agreements from them — whether involving cooperating witnesses or not. “We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” a Justice Department official wrote in a December letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.“The posting of sensitive witness information,” the letter continued, “poses a grave risk of harm to cooperating witnesses and defendants.” In one case described in the letter, a witness in Philadelphia was moved and the F.B.I. was asked to investigate after material from  was mailed to his neighbors and posted on utility poles and cars in the area.The federal court in Miami has provisionally adopted the department’s recommendation to remove plea agreements from electronic files, and other courts are considering it and experimenting with alternative approaches.Judge John R. Tunheim, a federal judge in Minneapolis and the chairman of a Judicial Conference committee studying the issue, acknowledged the gravity of the safety threat posed by the Web sites but said it would be better addressed through case-by-case actions.“We are getting a pretty significant push from the Justice Department to take plea agreements off the electronic file entirely,” Judge Tunheim said. “But it is important to have our files accessible. I really do not want to see a situation in which plea agreements are routinely sealed or kept out of the electronic record.”Judge Tunheim said his committee was working on recommendations for a nationwide approach to the issue. He said he favored putting the details of a witness’s cooperation into a separate document and sealing only that document, or withholding it from the court file entirely.For those who want to read the details on cooperating witnesses, charges between $7.99 for a week and $89.99 for life. The latter option comes with a free “Stop Snitching” T-shirt. The site was started by Sean Bucci in 2004, after he was indicted in federal court in Boston on marijuana charges based on information from an informant. The site was initially modest and free, the seeming product of a drug defendant’s fit of pique. Over time, it attracted thousands of postings, many backed by court documents. Mr. Bucci was convicted in February and will be sentenced next month. Stylianus Sinnis, a lawyer for Mr. Bucci, who is incarcerated, would not say whether Mr. Bucci was still affiliated with the site.Contacted by e-mail, Mr. Capone called a reporter at an arranged time. He would not provide his phone number but insisted that his name was authentic. He said Mr. Bucci was no longer associated with the site.The site itself says it is “designed to assist attorneys and criminal defendants with few resources.”Defense lawyers are, in fact, hungry for any information about the nature of the case against their clients. “The more information out there, the easier it is for the truth to come out at trial,” said David O. Markus, a criminal defense lawyer in Miami.Lawyers and their investigators can, of course, check court files and gather other material featured on the site themselves. But the site makes it easier, cheaper and quicker to find information about informants who may be involved in several cases in several jurisdictions, the site’s spokesman said.Eliminating electronic access to plea agreements and related documents would represent a real hardship, Mr. Markus said.“It doesn’t advance any of the stated safety goals, and it just serves as a roadblock to the public’s constitutional right to access to their court,” Mr. Markus said. “If there is an issue in a particular case, then let’s address it, but to sweep everything under the rug isn’t right.”The site says that it “does not promote or condone violence or illegal activity against informants or law enforcement officers.”Frank O. Bowman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Missouri, disputed that. “It’s reprehensible and very dangerous,” Professor Bowman said of the site. “People are going to die as a result of this.”Defendants who choose to go to trial will, of course, eventually learn the identities of the witnesses who testify against them. But the site also discloses the identities of people engaged in undercover operations and those whose information is merely used to build a case. The widespread dissemination of informants’ identities, moreover, may subject them to retribution from friends and associates of the defendant. Still, Professor Bowman, an authority on federal sentencing law, said he would hate to see the routine sealing of plea agreements. “It certainly is terribly important for the public ultimately to know who’s flipped,” he said.Professor Bowman added that he was studying the deals prosecutors made in the aftermath of the collapse of Enron, the energy company. “To do that effectively,” he said, “I really need to know who flipped and the nature of their plea agreements.”Judge William J. Zloch, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Miami, said the move to bar electronic access to plea agreements there was supported by prosecutors and some defense lawyers. “It’s available to the public,” he said of the documents. “It’s just that you have to go the courthouse.” Judge Zloch added that his court would discuss whether to make the change permanent in the coming months. The existence of the site raises a First Amendment issue for its founder, Mr. Bucci. After his conviction, he filed a motion last month seeking a new trial, saying the government’s true purpose in prosecuting him was to shut down the site because “he dared to assert his First Amendment right” to post the information.In a response filed Thursday, prosecutors conceded that “various levels of government have long expressed concern that the Web site endangers the lives of informants and undercover agents, and compromises investigations.” But they denied that the government’s dismay about the site influenced their decision to prosecute Mr. Bucci. Most legal experts agreed that is protected by the First Amendment. In 2004, a federal judge in Alabama refused to block a similar site created by a criminal defendant, Leon Carmichael Sr., who has since been convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering.“While the Web site certainly imposes discomfort on some individuals,” Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote, “it is not a serious threat sufficient to warrant a prior restraint on Carmichael’s speech or an imposition on his constitutional right to investigate his case.”But Judge Thompson’s ruling was not categorical. “A few differences in Carmichael’s site could have changed the court’s calculus,” he wrote. And some law professors said that sites like might be subject to prosecution for obstruction of justice or aiding and abetting crimes.In its December letter, from Michael A. Battle, then the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Justice Department urged courts to put a statement on their Internet sites “warning against the republishing or the other use of official court records for illicit purposes such as witness intimidation.” Judge Tunheim said his Judicial Conference committee was awaiting legal advice on that possibility.For now at least, the Justice Department and the federal judiciary appear to be focused on keeping information from the sites rather than trying to stop the sites from publishing what they learn.Government secrecy, said Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, “ends up being part of the price you pay for having broad speech protection.”Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Adam LiptakPublished: May 22, 2007Copyright: 2007 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Justice Archives
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Comment #23 posted by afterburner on May 23, 2007 at 21:42:08 PT
Hope #20 
"The men here could all be serial killers, I guess, because they are all so nice, so sweet, so strong, and brave and smart and trustworthy. Can't help but love them."LOL!Aw, shucks. Thanks, Hope, we love you too. 
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Comment #22 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 10:52:14 PT
Off Topic
We will turn over to 23,000 articles in a couple more articles. I e-mailed Matt to let him know. We sometimes crash when it turns over if he doesn't do something. He hasn't let me know if he fixed it so we will see in a few more articles if we will have any trouble. Hopefully it will work ok but I thought I should mention it incase something messes up.
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Comment #21 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 10:37:20 PT
R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Yup Yup Yup! LOL!
I thought of that song after reading your comment! Thanks.
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Comment #20 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 10:32:59 PT
FoM Comment 17
Yes, it is mostly men, I think. I have to check DrugWarRant every time I'm on the computer, along with C-News, and Grits for Breakfast. It's a very good site and has good links. I'm pretty certain that some prohibitionists, maybe even some prominent ones, check out DrugWarRant regularly.It does seem dominated, as is this site, by men. I suspect that most of the men that post here must have mothers, sisters, Aunts, cousins, wives or female friends they are comfortable conversing with, because they seem comfortable here and we, the females, who write and post here are comfortable with them. Not that I'm not very fond of some of the regular men posters there and have conversed with them online for years and sometimes by e-mail, snail mail or in person or on the telephone. Men are different than women...and some can't or won't bridge the gender gap gracefully, at all. Women and's a bit political itself. Some women, like myself, don't like to hang around in a room or place where men are acting like they'd rather you not be there, or that you're stupid, because you are a female, or just kind of endure your presence, or even worse, seem to kind of relate to you as though you were a stupid piece of meat of somekind. (OOooh. I dislike that and have never seen a reason to tolerate it.)People here relate to people as people. I love that about this place. The men here could all be serial killers, I guess, because they are all so nice, so sweet, so strong, and brave and smart and trustworthy. Can't help but love them. Yeah, sure, you may not all be all that you seem...but I can see good things here, coming from the hearts of good men, decent, compassionate, and passionate men.I feel respected as a human here...and I respect everyone, the men and the women, here, even the lurkers. 
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 10:25:25 PT
I know what you mean. I can't be angry all the time because it does the same thing to me. I don't hate anyone including politicians. They will be held accountable in eternity for what they do I believe. I want to hope that some sanity returns to politics but if change comes it won't be easy. To get all frenzied about something I have very little control over is self defeating for me. I want to put my energy into something that will benefit someone, somewhere at sometime. I don't need to know it either.
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Comment #18 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 10:08:58 PT
I have a horrible feeling it's not We, the people, the rabble, who will decide who our leaders are. I'm not blaming my God either or meaning that being. I mean some bunch of people who "know better" than common people know.Thinking about it makes one angry, often. I can't afford to be angry all the time. It depletes me.The Drug War should end. The prisoners should be released. We can't hope for returning the "spoils of the war" to their rightful owners. I don't think that's possible...probably...but you never know. But first. The Law changed completely and the prisoners released. Yes.
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 09:24:00 PT
I check out drugwarrant and it's a good web site. It seems like it is mostly men though. I know we have a number of women here on CNews. I think women's opinions are important too. Women helped bring an end to prohibition because women look at the social implications more I think.Men seem to be more political and women more social but that's just my thoughts. 
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 08:46:19 PT
Thank you. One thing that I think is really important is not to be angry at people for what they think is important in politics. We are different and there is no perfect person running for President on either side. I want to look for the good in a person and not dwell on the negative. If who becomes president would assume the role of god almighty then I would pick maybe in a different way if that makes sense. Politics and religion are two subjects that can alienate friends and how can we have a sanctuary if that happens?
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Comment #15 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:22:50 PT
Forgive me, Mayan...or anyone,
if I sound like I'm lecturing, truly, I'm not. I'm speaking as a friend to a friend.Sometimes, I think, friends have to say things like that to people they care about.
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Comment #14 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:20:24 PT
that Pete can stand any political comments without suffering physical reactions like some of us are prone to. (Things hit me in the chest...or the head...or my the point of knocking the breath out of me, sometimes. It's where we are...but, next door, at Pete's place, as long as you make sense, you can say what you want, I've noticed...and even cuss and rear. We are where we are. This is a good place...but it's special because of the way it's run and who runs it, as is DrugWarRant. That sensitive person is carrying more than one gentle woman should have to carry as it is.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:14:41 PT
And Mayan
You've been here longer than I have and I sometimes think I was born here. If there's a burr under your saddle, best take a look at it and give the horse a break before it's down to what it could get down to. Please.
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Comment #12 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:11:06 PT
I have ideas about who I think would
make a good leader....but if it upsets someone I love enough to make them feel's a matter of what's most important and what I really....for sure....can do something about.
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:09:47 PT
Sometimes...on some level...
I have a sort of jealous admiration for those who live their lives never giving it a thought...although, because of my heart and what I see, I think that is a mistake....yet...the alternative...caring...can get skanky.
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 08:07:55 PT
It ain't that easy being political....
it's very hard, in fact.The key, seems to me, is to try very hard to keep from being a horse's ass about it.It is hard.It is difficult to tame the tongue (or the keyboard). The Big Book of Books finds writers who believe that it is "tame the tongue", that is.We are friends! All of us.
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Comment #9 posted by dongenero on May 23, 2007 at 08:00:10 PT
hi mayan
Easy does it with the jab there. 
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on May 23, 2007 at 07:06:33 PT
Lol! Bayou Boy
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Comment #7 posted by Bayou Boy on May 23, 2007 at 03:18:17 PT:
Can anyone say patriot act?
I think the courts and law enforcement will blame this site on the terrorists. As a matter of fact, I think there is a terrorist hiding in the bushes in my backyard.........nope it was a bunny rabbit. sorry
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Comment #6 posted by Dankhank on May 22, 2007 at 17:09:27 PT
doing 9/11 stuff, now ... and ...WTF is this mysterious Repug ...?
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Comment #5 posted by mayan on May 22, 2007 at 15:24:49 PT
Just how can they hold any credibility whatsoever? They will say anything to get some charges dropped or a sentence reduced! Our government has become our worst enemy and it's obviously only going to get worse. Be careful, NM. I don't know if it's safe to mention a certain republican's name around here. On an unrelated note, here we go...Bush could double force by Christmas: Anoints Himself as the Insurer of Constitutional Government in Emergency: WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...BYU Physicist Confirms Demolition Cutter Charges At World Trade Center: Debunkers Hide From Slam Dunk Evidence Of Controlled Demolition: Of 9/11 Inspires Crowd At Franklin Pierce: The elephant that will not leave:'s 9/11 Stories Contradicted By His Emergency Management Chief: Everyone Should Know About the 9/11 Truth Movement: FOR 9/11 TRUTH:
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on May 22, 2007 at 14:49:21 PT
informants and no knock
This is just dirty business. This kind of business leads to crazy no-knock raids and wrongful shootings.It puts law enforcement in business with criminals and leads to rampant corruption. Cops making deals with criminals, money and God knows what else exchanging hands. Really, is this better than abolishing Prohibition? In the '30s they wisely determined it was not. These days it seems those in power are on a much slower learning curve. That or they are willing and agreeable accomplices in the corruption and malfeasance. Hmmm, which do you suppose it is?
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Comment #3 posted by potpal on May 22, 2007 at 14:16:40 PT
I smell a rat is down...
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Comment #2 posted by nuevo mexican on May 22, 2007 at 13:57:02 PT
Just listened to Mike Jones live from Leap!
L.E.A.P. on my local Air America station KVOT!The host said Cannabis was basically legal in this county, where more people smoke Cannabis than anything else, and he isn't a Cannabis user, he is the editor of the Horsefly newspaper!More than booze, which is huge, and of course, the usual suspects! Now that's progress! Another truth-talker on the radio, like Gravel, Kucinich, Gore and Ron Paul!It was a great show, one hour long, and Mike Jones rocked, I called in AFTER the show to thank them, as they covered everything about prohibition anyway(except the above article)!It was great to hear someone repeat what I and so many have said here before, Cannabis is now as mainstream as bottled water, cable tv and the Internet!It seems we've all been driven to medicate to counter the effects of 26 years of Reagan/Bush/Clinton rule, and the last 6 years of bushies has demanded an extremely massive sense of humor to handle it all, and we all know how humor and Cannabis go together!The link posted doesn't work, so it must have a lot of traffic FOM!Thanks for posting the article, it is very relevant to the subject of Cannabis prohibition and it's side negative side effects.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on May 22, 2007 at 11:34:39 PT
Series of Tubes
It occurs to me that the Stasi wouldn't have liked the internet very much either.
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