- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

The computer glitch that let Republican staffers see internal memos on Democratic staffers’ computers was widely known and reported to officials long before the memos were obtained by journalists and published, a former Republican intern on the Senate Judiciary Committee said.

“I tried to give people a heads-up about it,” said the former intern for Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The unpaid staffer, who worked on the committee for Mr. Grassley from October 2001 to September 2002, wrote and signed a sworn affidavit attesting to his memory of the situation.

“In little time, it became apparent to me that security protocols for the use of the Judiciary shared network were inconsistently applied, and so far as I was aware, largely unsupervised,” wrote the staffer, referring to the computer server shared by Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

“One could intentionally or unintentionally open folders containing files that were clearly not password-protected.”

The staffer recalled clicking on the icon “My Network Places” followed by “Network Connections” to open a computer screen that showed the electronic folders of Judiciary staffers, both Republican and Democrat.

The intern’s account is similar to those of two other Republican staffers who say they went through similar steps to access memos written by Democratic staffers. Those memos, which showed a close relationship between some Democrats on the committee and liberal interest groups, were eventually reported by The Washington Times and other publications.

At the request of Senate leaders, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle began an investigation into the matter and two staffers came forward saying they had accessed the memos, but denied leaking them to reporters. Both of those staffers have since resigned.

“Today’s news will regrettably leave some senators with egg on their face,” wrote Manuel Miranda, a former staffer to Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, and Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. Mr. Miranda resigned last month after acknowledging he had viewed the memos.

Mr. Miranda said he was particularly disappointed with Mr. Hatch who, soon after discovering that Democratic computer files had been accessed by Republican staffers, called the actions “improper,” said he was mortified and ordered an investigation.

“[T]his investigation was contaminated from the outset when Senator Hatch threatened to fire any staffer with mere knowledge of the open server,” Mr. Miranda said in a statement. This produced “an exercise in terror, and not fact-finding.”

“The consequence is that the investigation has produced scapegoats and focused on two people who were forthcoming.”

The former Grassley staffer, who came forward at the behest of Mr. Miranda, said he recalled telling fellow staffers about the lack of security in the computer system.

“I let my office colleagues know that the shared server was open and not secure, and that files were unprotected, and I occasionally suggested that they password-protect their folders and files,” he wrote in his affidavit.

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