It seems to happen way too often. Despite policies and laws that forbid law enforcement officials from mentioning the names of suspects who are not yet formally accused or even arrested, leaks invariably seem to happen. The leaks can wreak havoc in the lives of those whose names are mentioned. Many of these people wind up never being charged with any crime, yet their reputations are destroyed by the leaks and resulting media attention.Continue Reading
In 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.
Over at choof.org, my friend Chris Hoofnagle (Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center West Coast Office) points out a rather unusual new government database consisting of lactating mothers participating in the “Workplace Lactation Program.” This database is regulated by the Privacy Act of 1974, which requires that the government provide notice in the Federal Register about its plans for the database and how the data will be used. According to the notice, the data will include the “[p]articipant’s name, employing office and office symbol, work and home telephone numbers, signed agreement forms, dates and times of lactation room use, and physician’s approval slips and forms (if applicable).”