by Andrew Chung and John Kruzel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After an eight-month investigation, the U.S. Supreme Court was unable to identify who leaked the draft on Thursday of the blockbuster ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe-Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but the investigation revealed numerous loopholes in security measures. In America’s highest judicial branch.
The leak, which emerged when news outlet Politico published the draft resolution on May 2, sparked an internal crisis in the court, sparked a political firestorm, and prompted abortion rights supporters to hold rallies in and around the courthouse, in front of the homes of some of the nine judges. country.
The investigation, detailed in a 20-page report, found that 82 court workers and judges had access to electronic or hard copy copies of the draft opinion written by conservative Judge Samuel Alito, which differed only slightly from the final verdict. June 24
The investigation, led by the court’s chief security officer, Gail Curley, and chaired by Chief Justice John Roberts, did not identify the source of the leak, stating that none of the 97 court workers interviewed had confessed to the disclosure. The report did not clarify whether the judges were interviewed in the investigation.
According to the report, some employees admitted to talking to their spouses or partners about the draft opinion and how judges vote, which was a violation of the court’s confidentiality rules.
The leak represented an unprecedented breach of the court’s tradition of confidentiality in the behind-the-scenes process of decision making after listening to oral discussions in cases.
The report criticized some of the court’s internal security protocols.
After examining court computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs, investigators found no forensic evidence identifying the leak, the report said. The report accused the court of maintaining systems of trust with little measure to limit access to sensitive information.
“The pandemic and the resulting increased ability to work from home and loopholes in court security policies have created an environment in which it is all too easy to extract sensitive information from the building and from the court’s IT (information technology) networks. There is a risk of both deliberate and accidental disclosure of sensitive court information,” the report said.
The report said the investigation will continue to pursue new leads to identify the culprit. Investigators added that they found “nothing to confirm” the speculation that circulated on social media following the leak that the leaker was a specific person or legal officer.
The report recommended that regardless of whether the leaker was identified, the court “must establish and enforce better policies to manage the handling of court-sensitive information and determine the best IT systems for security and collaboration.”
The investigation was conducted at a time when the court’s scrutiny was increasing and its legitimacy was being eroded. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on January 13-15, only 43% of Americans had a positive opinion of the court, up from 50% last May.
A “court statement” accompanying the report described the disclosure as one of the worst breaches of trust in its history.
“The leak was not just a misguided protest attempt. It was a heavy attack on the judicial process,” the statement said.
Roberts and the court came under criticism for failing to solve the mystery.
“So the Supreme Court arbitrarily examines the Google histories of law clerks, downloads phone data and fingerprints a few? And despite these intrusions, they essentially have nothing to report? My question is: How closely have the judges themselves been scrutinized? Being the possible culprit of the leak?” asked Gabe Roth, head of the Fix the Court group, which advocates for reform in court.
Carrie Servino, head of the Conservative Judicial Crisis Network, wrote on Twitter that the report “reflects the utter failure of the chief justice from an administrative standpoint”.
Brian Fallon, co-founder of liberal law group Demand Justice, said some and their spouses may be the prime suspects, saying the court should disclose whether judges were consulted in the investigation.
“The idea that the judges themselves may have been left out of the investigation undermines the credibility of the entire initiative. Ultimately, the Supreme Court seems more interested in protecting its own members than actually solving this mystery,” Fallon said.
Former US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who was heard to evaluate Curley’s investigation, described the investigation as “extensive.”
The resolution upheld Mississippi law that outlawed abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and ended the recognition of a woman’s right to abortion under the U.S. Constitution. Several republican states quickly enacted abortion bans.
In November, Alito found himself in the middle of another leak controversy after the New York Times reported a former anti-abortion leader’s claim that he had been told beforehand how the court would decide on a major 2014 lawsuit involving women’s insurance coverage for birth control.
Alito said any allegations that he or his wife leaked the 2014 decision were “completely false”.
(Reported by Andrew Chung in New York, Nate Raymond in Boston and John Kruzel in Washington; additional reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; edited by Will Dunham)