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US Democrats Accidentally Publish Whistleblowers' Email Addresses 352

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the oh-whoops-our-bad-honest dept.
iluvcapra writes "The US House Judiciary Committee recently emailed all of its potential whistleblowers information about how it was restructuring its whistleblower program. Unfortunately for its sources, it emailed them this information with their addresses in the "To:" field (and not the Bcc: field) It also cc:'d this email to the Vice President. I'd like to think think this is some sort of ingenious subterfuge, but I'm doubtful."
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US Democrats Accidentally Publish Whistleblowers' Email Addresses

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  • by HotdogsFolks (1145369) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @10:22AM (#21139837)
    This reminds me of that Army guy who "anonymously" complained about the torture of Iraqi prisoners, only be thanked by name by the Secretary of Defense on TV while in an Army canteen in Iraq. The message is clear: if you are a whistleblower, you will regret it.
  • by gambolt (1146363) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @10:22AM (#21139841)
    Tips were submitted from a web form with no email verification. Some joker likely thought it would be funny to use the public address for the VP's office when submitting a tip. When the mass mailing was sent it out, it got sent to that address as well.
  • Re:Could be worse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @11:00AM (#21140061)
    It boils down to no options at all: Grey's law [blogspot.com].
  • I am not surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

    by microcars (708223) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @11:41AM (#21140313) Homepage
    I participate in a Product Testing group maybe once or twice a year and I had to sign a strict Non Disclosure Document and was assured in return that my Identity would also be kept private.

    One day I get an email FROM: The President of the Company thanking me for my help in the past year.

    The TO: field also had the emails of EVERYONE else who had apparently participated.

    Some of the email addresses were work emails or similar with things like: john.smith@example.com
    Not difficult to figure out who they were.

    After replying and tearing the President a new one, I got a polite email back saying there had been an "error" and they apologized.
    "They would never intentionally disclose my personal information."

    So I replied again and said that if this was not intentional then it was incompetence and if it was incompetence what plans did they have for ensuring this would not happen again?
    If I happened to "accidently" disclose what products I was testing would I be able to use the same excuse? Or would I get sued?

    I got no answer to that one.
  • by rbrander (73222) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @12:56PM (#21140785) Homepage
    A new organization called "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition" ( leap.cc ) was organized to give a way for (sometimes former) law enforcement and justice personnel to voice their opposition to the "drug war".

    Anybody can join, you get a newsletter and you get asked to contribute so that they can afford to send volunteer speakers around to various conferences or on speaking tours to talk about the pointlessness and active harm they saw the "drug war" causing when they were part of it.

    Well and good, but they were clearly amateurs at first with the Internet side; the first newsletters were plain text and HTML expertise came slowly. And on November 15, 2006, they sent an E-mail to 5000 addresses with all of them in the TO: line, blowing out the capacity of my webmail service at least to even process it properly; about 3000 of the addresses wound up in the text of the E-mail itself.

    Just for grins, I spent about half an hour cutting and pasting the list into a file, and using simple Unix text tools to organize them into a nice sorted text database, revealing how many of them were outright duplicates, how many were obviously for the same guy at two addresses, did a few simple stats on locations and agencies.

    I thought of sending them the benefits of my work, so they could clean out the dupes, but decided they'd probably (a) not be pleased and (b) weren't smart enough to use the help anyway.

    A good number of people gave addresses that didn't reveal their name outright, others were fully named, along with the government service they worked for, after the "@". I'm sure a number of them were uncomfortable with the thought of their boss or chief knowing they were not solidly behind department policy. Many would not have been law enforcement types, just rank & file citizens like myself - but also not comfortable with the idea of it getting out they were part of an organization that many bosses would tend to assume was joined by stoners. (As opposed to civil libertarians, certainly MY only reason for joining!)

    "Only Nixon could go to China", and only 50-something narcotics cops can speak out against the drug war without automatically falling under suspicion of being on drugs.

    I haven't donated LEAP any money yet, though I've received a few letters; I'm only slowly coming to the belief that they are bright enough to pound sand.
  • by _ivy_ivy_ (1081273) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @01:01PM (#21140819)
    Your list: Gulf of Tonkin, Rolling Thunder, 1968 Democratic convention, J Edgar Hoover's decades of antics, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Bay of Pigs. As for habeus corpus, Bill Clinton signed the first limitation since the civil war. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habeas_corpus [wikipedia.org]
    This does not absolve the present junta of any of its misdeeds, however. But it does refute your point.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @02:04PM (#21141299) Journal
    As for misdeeds by the Democrats, it wasn't in the 80s, but apparently you're forgetting about that debacle the Vietnam War.

    And more than the war:

      - The draft was really a social-planning operation, trying to stave off a depression when the boomers graduated high-school and hit the unskilled job market by "channeling" them into government-preferred carreer paths with the threat of conscription if they didn't go on to full-time higher education and/or get work in particular jobs that carried deferments. (See the "channeling memo".)

      - The FBI was used to infiltrate antiwar, civil rights, and other outside political organizations (such as civil rights groups) and not merely surveil them for violent/illegal activity, but sabotage their legal activities (for instance: By stirring up marital strife with faked reports and evidence of infidelity, planting evidence of crimes, agent provacateurs, etc.). (See COINTELPRO.) (Other agencies, such as BATF, were also involved.)

    I could go on. (Like by describing Title II of the McCarran Act (since repealed) and the perparation for its use...) One of the few good things to be said about both parties of the time is that they didn't actually pull that trigger.
  • by porpnorber (851345) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @03:28PM (#21141929)

    But you see, doing nothing (at least, doing nothing very visible to the public) was the correct response to the first WTC incident, and would have been a better response to the second. Haven't you noticed how much more crap everyday life is, this time around? That's the effects of the crazy, exaggerated response that you're feeling. The attack itself was just part of an ongoing pattern where the US gets its terrorist attacks (and yes, every country suffers them routinely, and always has) in rarer, larger lumps. It was (in the statistical sense) expected, and need have changed nothing.

    To fight terrorism, you need to avoid instilling fear. Because terrorism is the instilling of systemic fear. I understand that the word was originally coined for the case where the government is doing it, and I'm not sure that isn't what's happening now....

    ...At this point they are x-raying your shoes and stealing your drinks, to my mind for political gain. They figure that in dangerous times, you will vote for dangerous people. Statistically, the only thing that's measurably dangerous about the 21st century is the state of the environment - and I'm not trying to be a scaremonger myself; it's just that now that a significant portion of the earth's surface is under aggressive active 'management,' it's an obvious recipe for disaster that we are not, in fact, managing it. But it seems like Al Gore is the only person in politics who has figured out how to articulate this effectively as a source of fear, so everyone else is starting wars and x-raying footwear to, as they say, 'scare up the votes.'

    At a deeper level, this may all be a reflection of party politics, as a phenomenon. After all, in times of calm, we're less inclined to think in us-versus-them terms, so, logically, we're less inclined to support parties over policies. To get the majority of frankly sensible people to vote for their parties without question, regardless of any unsavoury planks in party platforms, perhaps a level of freaked-out-ness is required. It's a sobering thought.

  • by mabu (178417) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @03:54PM (#21142145)
    Seriously, the notion that this was accidental is amusing.

    I remember years ago when I worked on the recall campaign for an infamous governor (who is currently in prison) - we tried to oust him from office and had to collect 10% of the voting public's signatures on petition in order to force a recall election. The governor laughed at the recall effort going on television saying, "I do not think these signatures are legitimate. I plan to look over each and every name of whoever signed these petitions just to check" *wink* *wink* This kind of subtle intimidation of activists and people who take a stand against wrongdoing is nothing new. I wouldn't be surprised if the exposure of the whistleblowers was intentional.
  • Re:Shift the blame (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stefanlasiewski (63134) <slashdot@@@stefanco...com> on Saturday October 27, 2007 @06:46PM (#21143555) Homepage Journal
    "A technological error in a recent communication inadvertently disclosed certain email addresses."

    Gee, did that technological error happen twice? It sounds like someone tried to activate Microsoft Outlook's 'Recall' feature afterwards, which is only intended for MS Exchange networks (And even on Exchange, recall rarely works).


    Compounding the mistake, the committee later sent out a second email attempting to recall the original email; it, too, included all recipients in the "to:" field, according to a recipient of the emails.


    "Yes, our top secret "Whistleblower database" is really just Outlook running on the Admin Assistant's laptop."
  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday October 28, 2007 @04:44AM (#21146597) Journal
    You just learn what you can trust your relatives/friends/colleagues/employees/subordinates/bosses with.

    Nobody can be trusted in everything. Nor is everyone competent in everything.

    I do get impatient/annoyed/angry with stupidity and ignorance, but it's malice and dishonesty I find hard to accept in a friend.

    So, even dogs could be my friends as long as they're not too malicious or dishonest (stealing a dog treat and pretending not to have done so is tolerable ;) ).

    Anyway on the subject of competence and trust: publishing whistleblowers email addresses really does a lot of damage. Doesn't just affect the present ones. There are already lots of disincentives to be a whistleblower, so in the future more people will just "shut up" and go with the flow.

    So the main problem I see is why were people likely to be incompetent in this area allowed access to such addresses? If you want to keep a secret you should minimize the number of people who know that secret.

    A sufficiently high level of incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

    I believe this case qualifies. They put the whistleblower addresses in To field _TWICE_ (RTFA). The people responsible should be jailed because they are an obvious danger to too many people.

    If I'm not a qualified bus driver I don't pretend to be one or even try driving a bus when other lives depend on me doing things correctly.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

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