[ISN] State seizes newspaper's hard drives in leak probe
isn at c4i.org
Fri Mar 17 03:34:10 EST 2006
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA -- The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has seized
four newsroom hard drives as part of a probe into alleged leaks by a
county coroner, after the state Supreme Court denied the newspaper's
challenge to the search.
The attorney general's office, which is conducting a grand jury probe,
rebuffed offers from the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster to provide
the information sought through less intrusive means or to search the
computers in the newsroom, newspaper officials said.
Harold E. Miller Jr., the president and chief executive of parent
Lancaster Newspapers Inc., said the ruling dismayed his reporters and
could have a chilling effect on newsgathering.
"You get to the point where sources have confidence that we'll do the
right thing and that our industry's protected. They'll talk to us,"
Miller said yesterday. "Without that confidence, we lose our ability
to do our job."
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for state Attorney General Tom Corbett,
declined to comment, citing grand jury rules.
The state Supreme Court, upholding a lower court ruling, last week
rejected the paper's effort to quash the subpoena for the hard drives.
The newspaper has not filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, in
part because they were told the search would start the next morning,
lawyer George C. Werner Jr. said.
Under terms of the lower court's ruling, the newspaper had given the
hard drives conditionally to the attorney generals' office before the
Supreme Court ruling.
The attorney general's office is investigating whether Lancaster
Coroner G. Gary Kirchner gave reporters his password to a secure
law-enforcement Web site, according to a brief filed in the case.
Kirchner has denied doing so.
The attorney general's office has pledged to limit its search to usage
related to the Web site in question, which is run by the Lancaster
County-Wide Communications' Computer Assisted Dispatch Web site.
"Once you turn your hard drives over to a government entity and they
have your computers, they essentially have access to the newsroom,"
said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press in Washington.
"It's not like it was in the days when we were all typing out on
manual typewriters. It's like going into the brain of the newsroom and
dissecting it. I find that horrifying," she said.
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