Fallout from an inside job

No doubt this will sound like sour grapes. No journalist — or blogger — wants to get beaten on any story. And there’s no question that blogger Eric Black “owned” (as we like to say in the news business, but only when it happens to us) the Rachel Paulose story. He did a great job on the story start to finish, he reports accurately.

Paulose resigned at 3:13 Tuesday afternoon. At 3:18, Black’s Web site posted Paulose’s letter of resignation. This came hours after Black reported that more supervisors were about to resign in protest.

Black, it would appear, had a source in the U.S. Attorney’s office and there’s nothing wrong with that from a journalist’s perspective. Paulose, by some accounts, was a terrible administrator who got her job based on her allegiance to the Bush administration. That’s a legitimate story and an office leak was required for you to eventually find out about it. Besides, it’s difficult for any journalist to argue that what happens in a U.S. Attorney’s office stays in a U.S. Attorney’s office. Even though, perhaps, it should.

Paulose is gone, and, quite possibly, the people who leaked information can breathe a sigh of relief. Even though no law was broken, there’s still a nagging question: What is their view on how confidential information should be handled in the U.S. Attorney’s office from here on?

See Bonds, Barry. He’s a guy who, by most accounts, is a jerk, and perhaps deserved the indictment a grand jury handed up against him, three years after he testified before a grand jury investigating BALCO for supplying drugs to ballplayers. They never could get him on the drug charges, but that didn’t stop someone in the justice system from leaking allegations and testimony from a grand jury for more than four years.

The grand jury sieve made two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle famous. As it turned out, the testimony was leaked regularly by a lawyer.

Federal prosecutors have a way of taking leaks seriously. Those two Chronicle reporters were ordered to jail for refusing to identify who leaked the confidential information from the sanctity of the courthouse.

A New York Times reporter went to jail rather than reveal who leaked confidential information in the Valerie Plame affair

What are the boundaries of revealing of confidential information in a U.S. Attorney’s office, and also enforce, let alone adhere to, the protections to privacy that the law requires? How does the next U.S. Attorney for Minnesota run an office knowing, that he — or she — has a staff willing to leak when its in their self interest? What happens if that self interest collides with the law?

The new U.S. attorney’s first job is to ask one question: Who here can be trusted?

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