US gov't e-mail snafu exposes addresses of whistle-blowers

House Committee forced to apologize

The House Committee on the Judiciary last week apologized to would-be government whistle-blowers for accidentally exposing their e-mail addresses to other individuals who, like them, had used a committee Web site to secretly submit tips about alleged abuses at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The snafu occurred when a clerical employee accidentally included the addresses of all the whistle-blowers in the "To" field of a message that was sent to inform them of changes in the panel's policy on who could access their information.

Many of the more than 150 e-mail addresses in the distribution list included portions of the names of the whistle-blowers. Also on the list was the public e-mail address of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a statement released by the Judiciary Committee.

The Web site tip line was set up in June to give DOJ employees a way to confidentially provide the Judiciary Committee with information that could aid its ongoing investigation of the alleged politicization of the agency.

A posting on TPM Media's TPMmuckraker blog called the gaffe a "whoops with a capital W." The blogger, who claimed to have been forwarded copies of the e-mail, wrote that the original message was followed by another one recalling it a few hours later. But the recall notice also had all of the addresses exposed in the "To" field, he said.

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Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld

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