HomeU.S.Supreme Court judges used private emails to send sensitive messages, reports said

Supreme Court judges used private emails to send sensitive messages, reports said

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Supreme Court justices used personal email accounts in their work and left burn bags open in hallways, a CNN report alleged.

The report claims judges often use personal email accounts to send sensitive messages – avoiding using secure servers to keep information secure. These, and several other safety hazards, were not included in the report that the court released last spring after the draft opinion on Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion was leaked.

Staff used printers that did not log printouts, could print sensitive files off the premises without being tracked, and “burn bags” filled with sensitive documents for destruction were left open in the hallway.

“This has been going on for years,” a former staff member told CNN.

Some judges were slow to start using the new technology for data protection purposes, and some staff were reportedly nervous about taking measures to protect the information they shared, a source told the outlet.

Judges were not “masters of data protection protocol”.

Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley said in her report last month that “there are weaknesses in the court’s current approach to destroying sensitive court documents that should be addressed”.

Three former staff members told CNN about the lax security regarding the burn bags, with one source noting that it would not be difficult for someone with access to non-public areas of the courthouse to keep sensitive files.

A source familiar with the courthouse’s security system told CNN that if an employee uses a burn bag, the materials are typically taken to the basement, emptied into a locked bin, and then taken away by a shredding company.

Additionally, a former employee told CNN that employees with VPN access were able to print documents from any computer, meaning tracking copies was made difficult. Ms. Curley noted in her report that the printers logged the last 60 files printed.

An initial draft of the opinion overturning Roe, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was shared internally on February 10, 2022, prompting a leak investigation in May after Politico published the opinion. Some print logs may no longer exist because the 60-file limit has been exceeded.

Marshall suggests that courts “institute tracking mechanisms”.

The report states that court information system user guidelines prohibit attempts to “leave facilities with sensitive court information (hard copy or electronic) without proper authorization.”

But during the pandemic, many of those rules were relaxed. A source told CNN that while the rule was in place, there was no way to check what was removed from the premises.

The Independent has reached out to the court for comment.

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