Applying Occam’s Razor: Fed’s are Most Likely Source of Leaked Transcripts of Blagojevich Tapes
Former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office was the source of 1,800 pages of court-sealed federal wiretap transcripts that two Chicago Tribune reporters cited in their recent book about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
That’s the only logical conclusion to be drawn after John Chase and Jeff Coen revealed to me in a phone interview that there was “no legal ban on us publishing” excerpts while they were on tour promoting “Golden: How Rod Blagojevich Talked Himself Out of the Governor’s Office and Into Prison.”
During that interview, Chase and Coen admitted they did not get exclusive access to material that has never been made public, even during both of Blagojevich’s two trials, by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
Citing vague “sourcing and reporting” efforts and the “need to protect our source,” they refused to be more specific about the origin of the material, pointing out that “there’s a world of people who have access” to it.
However, the actual number of people with access to wiretap evidence gathered during a high-level FBI public corruption investigation is quite small, as the chain of custody must be preserved in case the evidence is ever used in court. And the prosecutor knows exactly who they all are.
The “Golden” authors then referred me to the protective order signed by Fitzgerald’s office, Blagojevich’s defense attorneys and federal Judge James Zagel on April 19, 2009, in which both sides agreed that the wiretaps, which contain the identities of government witnesses, would remain confidential.
Blagojevich’s attorneys were not even allowed to play tapes they publicly claimed would exonerate their client in court. They were also forbidden from copying or reproducing any materials “that are not in the public record or public domain” and were subject to “civil and criminal sanctions” – including the loss of their law licenses and jail time if they did.
And as I reported earlier, Blago’s attorney even had to give all their copies of the transcripts back to the government after the second trial.
But as the ninth provision of the protective order makes clear, Fitzgerald’s office
could do whatever it wanted with the transcripts, including slipping them to two Tribune reporters: “The restrictions set forth in the Order do not apply to the United States and nothing in this Order limits the government’s use and/or dissemination of these materials.”
Receiving court-sealed transcripts from any members of the defense team or anybody outside of Fitzgerald’s office would have been a federal crime.
So in order to claim that they legally published excerpts in their book, Chase and Coen could only have gotten the transcripts from the feds.
Barbara Hollingsworth is a columnist for the Washington Examiner
image St. William of Occam, the namesake of Occam’s Razor which states that one should proceed to simpler theories until simplicity can be traded for greater explanatory power.