House Passes Act To Protect Police Officers & Others On Web
The House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation last week authored by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D- Brooklyn & Queens) which protects police officers, undercover agents, informants and witnesses in a criminal investigation or prosecution from having their personal information posted on the Internet. Posting personal data with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or harm these people is now illegal under Weiner's legislation.
Recent news reports have shed light on a new website devoted to identifying some 4300 informants and 400 undercover agents, complete with photos, court documents, employment information and city of residence. Weiner's office found another active website with home addresses of New York City police officers.
The Justice Department is concerned that the site is enabling witness harassment, a department official wrote in a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system, "We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment."
"The posting of sensitive witness information," the letter continued, "poses a grave risk of harm to cooperating witnesses and defendants."
This isn't the first time sensitive personal information of those protecting Americans has been exposed online. In 2005, in reaction to a series of deadly court related incidents, including the murder of a federal judge's relatives, whose home address and family photographs were posted on the web, the Judicial Conference called on the Justice Department and U.S. Marshals Service to review judicial security, particularly security at judges' homes.
Weiner's legislation is part of the Court Security Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill to protect the courts, which would make it illegal to possess dangerous weapons in a federal court facility, increase funding to Marshals Service for the protection of judges and extend Marshals protection to tax court judges and some retired senior judges.
"New York City cops put their lives on the line every day to protect this city," said Rep. Weiner. "Intimidating or threatening a cop or witness to a crime cannot be tolerated and must be stopped, whether it's done in person, over the phone, or on the Internet."