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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prosecutor faces news lawsuit

Lawsuits may loom in the case of a Virginia prosecutor who seized the digital records of James Madison University's student newspaper, the Breeze.

In an open letter, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reprimanded Marsha L. Garst, commonwealth attorney, for the seizure of the paper's records, which included journalist photographs of a demonstration that turned unruly.

Lucy A. Dalglish, committee executive director, said prosecutors would do better to obey federal law than risk a lawsuit. She didn't say whether the committee would file suit, but it seems likely the committee would take a strong interest in a student suit.

Virginia authorities infringed on everyone's press freedom, she argued. Also Dalglish cited a federal law prohibiting newsroom searches without an appropriate warrant, as well as constitutional safeguards.

My comment: this sort of hubris is a logical outcome of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's jailing of reporters in order to coerce them to disclose their sources.

What about anti-Googles? Establish nets of parallel processors to establish big data bases spread among large numbers of time-shared systems, such as university computers. Might work, and it could be a strong alternative to Google and others -- with decentralization tending to counteract the censors.

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