But it relates to an old allegation:
A retired federal court executive alleged Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, broke into a judicial computer security system to restore access to pornographic Web sites, according to a filed complaint.
Ralph Mecham, who headed the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington for 21 years until retiring in 2006, made the allegations in a complaint yesterday to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. . . . Mecham said U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist became “enraged” because a committee of federal judges disobeyed his recommendation to discipline Kozinski after he disabled computer filter software meant to block sexually explicit Web sites in 2001, according to the complaint.
“Tell Kozinski to watch pornography at home and not in his own court,” Rehnquist told Mecham, according to his complaint. Mecham said he wants Kozinski to resign or be impeached by Congress because he allegedly destroyed government property and bragged about it.
I have been fascinated by this complaint since June, when I first read Mecham’s letter regarding the incident. To me, the issue comes down to this: was Kozinski merely disabling a filtering system? or the court’s security system?
If he was merely disabling a filter that prevented judges and court employees from downloading porn, as Kozinski has claimed, then he’s a libertarian hero. Judges and their employees need to be able to access all kinds of material to do their jobs.
Analogously, my office flirted with blocking MySpace access, but ultimately reversed its decision — and that’s a good thing. I don’t screw around on MySpace for fun at work, but I have used MySpace to pull pictures of gang member defendants throwing gang signs — thus strengthening gang allegations in shooting cases.
If court employees are abusing their access to porn or other inappropriate materials, that’s a problem and should be dealt with — but filtering is not the answer.
If, by contrast, Kozinski was disabling the security firewall, as Mecham claims, then Kozinski’s actions were incredibly reckless and merit discipline. Courts deal with some of the most sensitive national security secrets that the government possesses. It is paramount to have unbreachable security for court computers.
I’ve never been able to figure out which is true. Did he disable a filtering system, or the security firewall?
I know it’s an old allegation, but I still hope it gets investigated and resolved. It’s that important.