Patterico's Pontifications

11/28/2008

Federal Judge Wrote That Software Disabled by Kozinski Was “Integral Part” of Court’s “Security Apparatus”

Filed under: General,Kozinski — Patterico @ 12:07 pm

In 2002, a federal judge chairing a committee on information technology wrote that software disabled by Judge Alex Kozinski was an “integral part” of the “security apparatus” of the federal courts’ data communication network, and that its disabling caused considerable “security risks” to court computer security.

For those of you who are interested the recent ethics complaint against Judge Kozinski, accusing him of disabling court security software in 2001, Howard Bashman has posted the complaint online here. The complaint was filed by L. Ralph Mecham, former head of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

In connection with that complaint, Cyrus Sanai passes along to me a letter that he says was sent to him by Mecham. The letter is dated May 10, 2002. It is from the late Edwin Nelson, a federal judge who was the chair of a 14-judge committee called the “Committee on Information Technology.” The letter is addressed to U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, then the chairman of a House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

The most interesting part of the letter is at page 4, regarding Kozinski’s disabling of the intrusion detection system for the judicial branch’s Data Communications Network (DCN):

Note that Judge Nelson says the disabling was authorized by the “Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council.” Exactly who was on that Executive Committee is not clear.

I’m not aware of this letter having been published before.

12 Responses to “Federal Judge Wrote That Software Disabled by Kozinski Was “Integral Part” of Court’s “Security Apparatus””

  1. So that 2002 committee is COITUS Courts? (Committee On Information Technology United States
    Courts)?

    eaglewingz08 (c46606)

  2. “Another Shot Fired in Alex Kozinski Ethics Investigation”…

    “Another Shot Fired in Alex Kozinski Ethics Investigation”: Nathan Koppel has this post today at WSJ.com’s “Law Blog.” And today at “Patterico’s Pontifications,” Patterico has a post titled “Federal Judge Wrote That Software Disabled by Kozins…

    How Appealing (fe88c1)

  3. With Cyrus, you are never certain you get a complete picture of events. I am surprised he revealed the Nelson letter, which debunks the urban legend maintained by both himself and Mecham Kozinski took unilateral action against the computer security of the Ninth Circuit. The letter also makes it clear that the actions taken were the product of lengthy ongoing debate and that any security concerns were addressed by reestablishing the firewalls in short order. This sequence of events is consistent with quotes from Kozinski’s lawyer responding to the new Sanai ethics complaint in a story on Bloomberg News on October 1, 2008:

    ” “Disconnecting the servers was unanimously approved by order of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council,” Holscher, Kozinski’s lawyer, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “This false rehash is part of 79 pages of false attacks on 11 esteemed federal judges.”

    The deactivation of parts of the monitoring software was unanimously approved by the Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit, according to Judge Sidney Thomas, who has served on that court since 1996 and is now the acting head of its ethics committee.

    “The bottom line is that this is an old matter that was settled at the time to everyone’s satisfaction,” Thomas said in an interview.”

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  4. daleyrocks,

    You that the letter makes it clear that “any security concerns were addressed by reestablishing the firewalls in short order.” I don’t agree that the letter makes that clear at all. If there were any security breaches during the time the firewall was down, those wouldn’t be addressed by re-establishing the firewall — any more than closing the barn door after the horse is gone would “address” the issue of the lost horse.

    Patterico (b400c5)

  5. I don’t say this in defense of Judge Kozinski because I don’t know enough to feel like defending him. However …

    I suspect the general attitude toward internet security in early 2001 was more lax and less knowledgeable than it is now. And we’ll probably learn things in the next 8 years that will make some of our current procedures seem reckless, but that doesn’t make us reckless now for doing them based on our current knowledge.

    DRJ (a50047)

  6. Patterico – I agree with your statement about security breeches while the firewalls were down. I was thinking more about future breeches.

    Mecham’s ethics complaint sounds almost as unhinged as a Cyrus rant about Kozinski. I would have thought it unusual for a former Judge to make many of the definitive statements about Kozinski and his conduct that he does. He claims Kozinski committed felonies, not alleges that he committed felonies or committed alleged felonies. He psychoanalyzes his conduct and relies on extensive second hand quotations. He could have cut the size of the complaint way back and made it sound much less like a personal vendetta without too much trouble. Then again, skimming Mecham’s biography, I didn’t see any evidence that he actually practiced law.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  7. I don’t 100 percent understand your comment, daleyrocks. Mecham filed the complaint, and was never a judge. Judge Nelson wrote the letter and was a judge, but died.

    I thought Judge Nelson’s letter shed some light on the nature of what Kozinski did.

    Patterico (7578c3)

  8. Patterico – I thought there were places in prior posts which referred to Mecham as a Judge. I am mistaken.

    He’s an administrator. If he is of the opinion that people committed felonies he should have had the appropriate people bring charges. Obviously nobody wanted to listen to Ralphie rant about Judge Alex and his felonies prior to his retirement. My guess is that somebody talked him into filing this ethics complaint as a way of getting even instead.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  9. I’m getting more convinced that the Ninth Circuit thought that the IT folks were snooping on chambers’ internet and email traffic and were not getting the answers that they thought they were entitled to. So they pulled the plug on the parts they were suspicious of.

    When I first heard these stories of Meacham’s, I just thought that they acted out of ignorance of what filtering S/W was, but now I’m less sure of that … and getting more sympathetic to the judges.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. “Mecham filed the complaint, and was never a judge. Judge Nelson wrote the letter and was a judge, but died.”
    – – – –

    Were this part of Mecham’s diatribe, it would be followed by “Nelson’s death, Judge Rehnquist told me privately, was conclusive proof that Kozinski was a pedophile.”

    (As I read Mecham’s early letter, I couldn’t get the picture of Frank Burns out of my head.)

    bobby b (4baf73)

  11. Seems to me all of this could be avoided if there were uniform Federal guidelines governing security of federally owned computers. Why would any judicial committe be allowed to rule on this to begin with? How about uniformity within other Federal Courts or even the Supreme Court itself? Is the SCOTUS firewalled against porn?

    GoDaddy (6ed79d)

  12. GoDaddy, separation of powers. The judiciary is independant of the other two branches.

    SPQR (26be8b)


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