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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 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.