In yesterday’s (Saturday) Washington Post is a brief article in its Metro section, responding to well-attended press conference the previous day in front of the newspaper’s offices.
The press conference accused the Post of violating the privacy rights of certain individuals on the website FreeRepublic.com This exchange, printed by the Post, explains the charge, and the newspaper’s response to it, so far:
"How in good faith could The Washington Post access a private Internet account without the express permission of the account holder?" Kristinn Taylor, a spokesman for the conservative FreeRepublic.com, asked in a morning news conference in front of The Post's offices in Northwest Washington.
"In response, R.B. Brenner, The Post's Maryland editor, said: ‘As part of our reporting, we needed to verify that the chat room postings were authentic. We were authorized to view them, and it was appropriate to do so under the circumstances.’ [Sic: This was not a "chat room." This was a private e-mail exchange between two individuals.]
"The claims relate to a series of Internet chats in October and November 2004 between Joseph Steffen, then an aide to the governor, and a person using the screen name MD4BUSH. In those postings, MD4BUSH coaxed Steffen into revealing his role in spreading rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, now a Democratic candidate for governor."
The Post asserts that it obtained the password to enter this private area from "an intermediary who was acting on behalf of MD4BUSH." But at the same time, the Post claims it does not know who MD4BUSH is, much less that he may have been at that time the Communications Director of the Maryland Democrat Party.
How could the Post claim it had valid permission, without knowing who was granting that permission? This may be a violation of the federal internet secrecy statute. It is certainly a violation of the website’s privacy rules, which are presented to all users.
For the kind of information that MD4Bush posted while posing as a red-meat Republican and trolling for like-minded responses, see the fullest reporting which as been done by WBAL radio, which broke the story of this "anonymous"poster at the center of this Maryland political scandal.
Their story is complete except for their editorial judgment to ignore the sexual charge against Senator Barbara Mikulski, which was included in the materials the Post accessed from the private source.