Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Hack Watch Tuesday edition of The Hill carries a report promising "new information" about the Judiciary Committee hacking controversy. But there's less to this story than meets the eye.

Here's the opening graf:

The Senate sergeant at arms' final report on whether Republican aides hacked into Democratic Judiciary Committee files has been delayed as a former committee aide stepped forward with new information that seems to undercut Democratic claims that a criminal investigation was warranted.

And later:
A former aide assigned to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Friday signed a sworn affadavitt [sic] stating that between October 2001 and September 2002, Republican and Democratic staffers on the Judiciary Committee could easily access each other's private documents on the committee's shared computer server.

So where (aside from the fact that the report's been delayed) is the new information?

We've known from the start that the files were accessed on Republican computers. And we've known from early on that the GOP's "clean-hands" defense would hinge on the lack of password protection on the Democratic documents.

Neither of those points has been in question for some time. The Republicans argument has always been that Democrats' failure to secure their files was, as the former Grassley aide tells The Hill, "sort of like leaving a memo face up on your desk and leaving for the weekend."

The real question is whether Sergeant at Arms Pickle will buy into that Republican line of reasoning.

So--is pointing and clicking your way into files you know aren't yours more like stumbling upon a secret memo that's been left in plain sight? Or is it more like walking into an unlocked office and scanning everyone's desk for revealing documents?

It's a stickier question than Republicans affiliated with the Judiciary Committee--or The Hill, it seems--would have us believe.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.