Ratting Out the Rats

Back when I worked as an editor at the New York Times Magazine, it was a pretty regular occurrence to send an article up to the legal department for vetting. One of the lawyers that I dealt with there was named Adam Liptak. I liked him a great deal for two reasons: as with the other lawyers there, he always fought hard to keep the article as strong as possible; but he also had a great feel for the article itself — its construction, its language, its nuances and hidden payoffs and sharp observations.

Several years back, the Times did the smart thing and moved Liptak out of Legal and onto the reporting staff. He has since become an extremely proficient and well-regarded legal reporter. His article in today’s paper is exceptionally interesting: a profile of the website Whosarat.com which, as Liptak writes, has been devoted to “exposing the identities of witnesses cooperating with the government. The site posts their names and mug shots, along with court documents detailing what they have agreed to do in exchange for lenient sentences.”

Liptak reports that Federal prosecutors are “furious” about this site, and that the D.O.J. is pushing to quell public access to court records that detail plea agreements. In fact, as of around 11:30 this morning, it appears that the site is down, and possibly already removed from its server.


lethian

whosarat.com was posted on slashdot (a community driven news website with a quite large following.) Generally speaking if a site, such as whosarat.com, is linked from the main page of slashdot they get so much traffic in such a short amount of time it can bring down a website, if not on pretty strong server. This is the more likely reason why whosarat.com is down currently.

wiki link on the so called "slashdot effect": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect

Cyril Morong

My local paper, the San Antonio Express-News did a Sunday front page story on this last October. It is at

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/crime/stories/MYSA100806.01A.whosarat.30ee26f.html

I guess that the NY Times has more influence or impact than the San Antonio Express-News.

Catch-22

here's a mirror (from ~ 1 year ago)
http://web.archive.org/web/20060424234648/http://www.whosarat.com/

Ken D.

Site appears to be up as of 9:30 a.m. CDT 5/23/07.

Tardis1963

CBS Evening News did a report in it. With all this coverage the website's server was probably overloaded for a time.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/22/the_skinny/main2834752.shtml

Ken D.

The link still works for me as of 11:30 CDT 5/23/07.

Jeffery Faulk

I'm wondering if a certain ex-family member might be on this site and if he is, it would explain how he has escaped incarceration for multiple drug felonies and been able to harass is ex-wife with impunity, dispite a court order to leave her alone. There's more than one reason why these folks are called rats. They are criminals themselves and have escaped prosecution for crimes that often exceed the ones they get other criminals busted for.

Bruce Hayden

Site is back up, and blaming its downtime on the heavy volume of new memberships.

Which brings up the point that this is an interesting internet business idea. Time and effort are spent ferretting out the "rats", and that is rewarded by essentially selling that information to members. Many of the costs of running the site and signing up members are fixed, as with many Internet businesses, so it should scale up economically. It would be interesting to see a profile of the membership of this site.

lethian

whosarat.com was posted on slashdot (a community driven news website with a quite large following.) Generally speaking if a site, such as whosarat.com, is linked from the main page of slashdot they get so much traffic in such a short amount of time it can bring down a website, if not on pretty strong server. This is the more likely reason why whosarat.com is down currently.

wiki link on the so called "slashdot effect": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect

Cyril Morong

My local paper, the San Antonio Express-News did a Sunday front page story on this last October. It is at

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/crime/stories/MYSA100806.01A.whosarat.30ee26f.html

I guess that the NY Times has more influence or impact than the San Antonio Express-News.

Catch-22

here's a mirror (from ~ 1 year ago)
http://web.archive.org/web/20060424234648/http://www.whosarat.com/

Ken D.

Site appears to be up as of 9:30 a.m. CDT 5/23/07.

Tardis1963

CBS Evening News did a report in it. With all this coverage the website's server was probably overloaded for a time.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/22/the_skinny/main2834752.shtml

Ken D.

The link still works for me as of 11:30 CDT 5/23/07.

Jeffery Faulk

I'm wondering if a certain ex-family member might be on this site and if he is, it would explain how he has escaped incarceration for multiple drug felonies and been able to harass is ex-wife with impunity, dispite a court order to leave her alone. There's more than one reason why these folks are called rats. They are criminals themselves and have escaped prosecution for crimes that often exceed the ones they get other criminals busted for.

Bruce Hayden

Site is back up, and blaming its downtime on the heavy volume of new memberships.

Which brings up the point that this is an interesting internet business idea. Time and effort are spent ferretting out the "rats", and that is rewarded by essentially selling that information to members. Many of the costs of running the site and signing up members are fixed, as with many Internet businesses, so it should scale up economically. It would be interesting to see a profile of the membership of this site.