Supreme Court has adopted lax security protocols for years: report
Shaken by news that a draft notice had been secretly shared with the media in the case that would overthrow Roe against Wade last spring, the Supreme Court ordered an internal investigation to find the backer. After more than six months, investigators came back empty-handed.
According to a CNN report on Saturday, a lax security culture may be to blame for the matter.
Supreme Court justices reportedly used their personal email accounts for sensitive court cases instead of secure accounts created by government professionals. Staff members were able to print documents on machines that did not produce activity logs and could even use offsite printers via VPN access, CNN reported. (VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, allow someone to access data over a secure network from their home or anywhere.)
In the hallways of court offices, “burn bags” were left open for staffers to place sensitive documents destined for destruction, according to three former employees who spoke to CNN.
The draft opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe decision and restrict abortion rights in the United States was written by Judge Samuel Alito in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Politico published it in May.
Staff members would have been nervous about telling judges that they should take information security more seriously. As one former CNN employee put it, “It’s been going on for years.”
The 23-page investigators’ report into the leak, written by Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley and released last month, criticized poor security practices in more general terms. Curley acknowledged that some printers had “very little logging capability at the time”, saying that the logs that did exist often only tracked the printing of the most recent 60 documents. Months passed between the time the draft notice was circulated internally and the day it was published by Politico.
“Whether [the leaker] …was an employee of the Court, or someone who had access to an employee’s home, that person was able to act with impunity due to insufficient security with regard to the movement of the paper documents of the Court home court, lack of mechanisms to track print jobs on court printers and copiers, and other security or policy deficiencies,” Curley’s report said.
She then made recommendations on improving security, which were not made public.
Investigators, however, have come under heavy criticism for not asking each of the judges to sign sworn affidavits about it, unlike regular court employees.