Skip to comments.Intern Backs Miranda, Says Senate Computers Were Not Hacked
Posted on 03/04/2004 3:52:38 AM PST by kattracks
(CNSNews.com) - A former Senate Judiciary Committee intern with extensive experience as a computer network security administrator has denied that anyone broke into committee computers, a charge leveled by Democrats who say a key Republican stole their political strategy memos.
The intern said the memos - detailing efforts by Judiciary Committee Democrats and allied liberal special interest groups to derail President Bush's conservative judicial nominees - were not stolen, but rather were freely available to anyone authorized to access the committee's computer network.
Judiciary Committee Democrats, upset about release of their strategy memos to the media, compared former GOP committee counsel Manuel Miranda to the infamous Watergate burglars for reading the documents.
"In those days, break-ins required a physical presence, burglar's tools, lookouts and getaway cars," Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said last month. "Today, theft may only require a computer and the skills to use it and the will to break in."
Other prominent Democrats, and the liberal special interest groups that support them, also accuse Miranda of committing a "crime" by allegedly "hacking into" their computers. But the former intern disputed such allegations
"Based on my computer experience, I believe that the accessibility of these folders and files was most likely the result of negligent management and administration of security protocols, and the lack of standard security protocols, and not a hacking," wrote the intern, whose identity is being protected by CNSNews.com because he fears retaliation by Democrats and the liberal groups supporting them.
The intern said most of the committee's staff was aware of the lax security policies and open access to files.
"I let my office colleagues know that the shared server was open and not secure, and that files were unprotected," the intern wrote in his affidavit, "and I occasionally suggested that they password-protect their folders and files."
The intern also informed the Secret Service agents assigned to the committee about the lax computer security. Despite those warnings, and cautions Miranda issued to his Democratic counterparts, the shared access to the network folders and files was left intact.
Democrats were unwilling to discuss the affidavit or its potential impact on the investigation being conducted by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle.
"We're not commenting on it," Tracy Schmaler, press secretary to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, told CNSNews.com Wednesday.
Pickle was scheduled to deliver a report on his investigation to Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday afternoon. The report is confidential and can only be released to the public in full or redacted form with the committee's permission.
Miranda says 'control of information' abused by Republicans and Democrats
The intern's sworn affidavit supports Miranda's claim that he did not break any laws or Senate rules by looking at the Democrat memos.
"These documents are not confidential under Senate rules, they're not protected in any way," Miranda told CNSNews.com . "They were readily available on our [computer] desktops."
As CNSNews.com previously reported, Miranda resigned from his job as judicial confirmations advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in February 2004 amid accusations that he "hacked into" committee Democrats' computers and "stole" documents. Miranda said those Democrats and their allied liberal special interest groups had conducted "a very clever move ... to create this impression that there was another 'Washington leak' investigation when, in fact, there was no leak."
The intern, who worked on the Judiciary Committee for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) in 2001 and 2002, said computer security there was so lax that passwords were readily available to almost anyone who wanted one.
"[I]t was common practice that intern passwords for the shared server were taped on walls," the intern wrote, "so that any number of people could see them, including visitors."
Senate computer staff members are not, according to the intern, solely to blame for what he views as flawed policies.
"I believe the Judiciary Committee hired network administrators on the basis of salary, and that salary probably was one-half to one-third of comparable private-sector wage rates," the intern wrote. "I do not believe that these low-price administrators had the initiative, the authority, or the organization required to co-ordinate a successful partition between the files of various users, offices and political parties."
Miranda, who has previously criticized Republicans for not defending him more forcefully, said he feels vindicated by the intern's revelations.
"It shows how the control of information has been abused, on the one part, by Republicans who have not defended [me on] this issue," Miranda said, "and by Democrats who have used it aggressively for their partisan purposes."
The investigation should now shift, Miranda said, from his actions to the content of the Democrats' memos, which he said should be released to the public.
"Republicans have made a grotesque error in allowing Democrats to treat their partisan documents as confidential and protected," Miranda argued. "The Senate has no power to protect such unethical conduct as the Democrat documents describe from the eyes of the American people."
Miranda also said he is even more convinced that he should be hearing from certain unnamed senators after the publicity from the incident subsides.
"I am owed an apology," Miranda concluded, "for me and my wife."
E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.
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Well, I started that file last November, and I've heard a number of talk radio hosts discuss it... but the Jackal Pack Mainstream Media? No way. Like Enron, once they started looking into it they decided to just not talk about it anymore. Makes the 'rats look too bad.
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