The shocking report released by the Supreme Court on Thursday regarding its inability to identify the source of a draught decision that would have reversed abortion rights last year exposed weaknesses in the nation’s highest court’s technology, confidentiality protocols, and overall institutional safeguards.
Furthermore, the inability to identify the offender increases the risk of a future security breach. It already seems likely to increase the public’s mistrust of the judges and fuel the partisan hostility that already exists around the court.
The 20-page report by Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley and the justices’ two-page statement appear to be meant to show how comprehensive the inquiry was, with the number of people examined (126 formal interviews of 97 employees) and the forensic procedures used.
However, there are restrictions and dead ends on every page. Additionally, it alludes to staff investigation and offers certain restrictions on who could be under investigation. Interviews with the nine individual justices or their wives were not mentioned.
Furthermore, it seems ironic that a group that exalts itself above other Washington organisations and hides behind secrecy would be exposed as such a sieve.
The report conveys bluntly how easy private information could have leaked, whether on purpose or by mistake. The report’s specifics state that initially, about 100 persons had access to the document. According to the report, many staff “printed out more than one copy.”
Routine office security measures were missing in a significant case involving a half-century of precedent defending women’s private rights. When the breach was found, which the court called “a grievous attack,” it was nearly hard to track back internal activities.
The study effectively exonerates the legal clerks who work for the justices for a year, but it also made note that some of them admitted to breaking the rule of conduct for the clerks by disclosing information about the opinion and vote count to their wives.
Conservative activists blamed leftist clerks of the revelation in the days following Politico’s publication of the draught. Meanwhile, conservatives on the court who could have been trying to solidify the 5-4 split to overturn Roe v. Wade were targeted by liberal supporters. Once the decision was made to undermine reproductive rights nationwide, the partisan animosity only became worse.
The inconclusive report released on Thursday did little to reduce these tensions and raised concerns about how seriously the court pursued those responsible for the leak.
The draught was leaked to Politico, who published it on May 2. Outside critics had expected that it would be challenging to identify the leaker since they reasoned that they would not have left a trace.
But now that the court has outlined its procedures, it seems as though avoiding discovery might have been relatively easy.
The printing and computer technologies were not secure. If copies of the draught decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been secretly copied or sent to unauthorised devices, it was impossible for officials to say with certainty.
According to the analysis, many print operations were probably simply not recorded because some networked printers had very limited logging capabilities at the time. Additionally, investigators discovered that the justices’ staff’s printers were only locally connected, not part of a broader network that could monitor printing activity.
According to the study, there was no written protocol on how to store or get rid of draught opinions and other sensitive papers.
A climate where it was too simple to remove sensitive information from the building and the Court’s IT networks was created by the pandemic and the ensuing expansion of the ability to work from home, as well as gaps in the Court’s security policies, according to Curley. This increased the risk of both intentional and unintentional disclosures of Court-sensitive information.