Sunday, March 27, 2005

Weekend update: Other things found this week:
It's been nothing but Terri Schiavo all week. For best resource lists:

And, an interesting article in CJR Daily on the difficulty of reporting the Schiavo case.
I've been posting links to blogs and more on my Herald blog.

More links....

  • The Unveiling of Britain: a collection of ancient maps from the British Library.
  • The Pocket Guide to Higher Education from Educause. Has stats, etc.
  • Inside Higher Ed: a new website for educators, includes current studies.
  • World oil market and oil price chronologies covering 1970-2004, from DoE.
    Governments, Politics:
  • TRACFed now allows browsing of its data without subscription. The free version of TRAC also gives you lots of data on performance of government agencies.
  • Impact of the erosion of retiree health benefits on workers and retirees, study from Employee Benefit Research Institute.
  • Opinion Source: a daily newsletter summarizing op-ed pieces (and some blogs) from around the world.
  • Survey of Mexican Migrants from Pew Hispanic Center.
  • State of the World Population 2004 from UN.
  • Yahoo!'s creative commons search finds content that is resuable for commercial use, or may be modified. Includes stories, photos, images, etc.
  • Media Coverage of the war in Iraq, survey results from American U. journalism school.
  • From Meet the Press to BE the Press: new column on how the government is 'decertifying journalism' from Jay Rosen.
  • FAA Aerospace Forecasts, covers economy, traffic, etc. thru 2016.
  • ZoomInfo: a new version of Eliyon Technologies' business people search engine. Finds people connected to companies by way of press releases, news stories, etc.

    Some Interesting stories/Weblogs:
  • National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of legislatures with RSS feeds, or legislators with blogs. In Florida: 0.
  • Ourmedia: the new site from JD Lasica, Marc Canter and others highlighting individuals' writings and performances. Includes MP3s, stories, and articles.
  • NowPublic is another new 'wemedia' collaboration, where bloggers can request a photo on a subject and photographers provide it.
  • The Media 100 most influential list from Media Post. Included: Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox.
  • Garlicster: a blog with recipes.
  • The Food Section: a blog with recipes and photos.
  • This is strange: Who's a Rat? calls itself 'the largest online database of informants and agents'. (Via Doc Searls.)


    • Interesting news story about

      Website rouses informants' fear, investigators' ire

      By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff  |  March 21, 2005

      When a team of police, federal agents, and a drug-sniffing dog burst through the front door and scoured every corner of the house, the woman and her boyfriend figured they knew who had turned them in. So she struck back: In the shadowy realms of cyberspace, she publicly identified the informant who she suspected had ratted on her boyfriend, landing him in court on drug possession charges.

      On a website launched seven months ago from the North Shore, the woman posted a note saying her alleged informant, a 27-year-old man from the Tewksbury area, was a ''narc" who made a practice of snitching on others to minimize his own legal problems.

      ''In this day and age, you can't be a rat and not have people know," said the woman in an interview, speaking on the condition that her name not be used. ''I think it kind of opens up people's eyes in town to people who are doing shady deals."

      The website, which was launched by Sean Bucci, who is battling his own marijuana charges, has quickly become the largest online database of its kind. It currently holds more than 800 profiles of alleged informants, and new additions appear frequently, posted by people who want to take revenge on federal agents, former friends-turned-snitches, and others who they believe have informed on them to law enforcement agencies.

      Law enforcement officials worry that the site will impede their ability to use undercover agents and informants, who often provide information critical to criminal cases, especially those involving drugs. And they worry that criminals might use the site to find out the names of informants, which could imperil the people whose information is posted there.

      The Globe is not naming the website because it is impossible to verify whether all the people listed there are informants, and because publicizing access to their identities could jeopardize their safety.

      In Boston, a paid informant for the FBI has been living on the run, afraid for his life, since his profile appeared on the website about seven months ago. The informant had been working undercover on a case when he got an ominous phone call from one of the men he was investigating.

      ''I'm looking at your information on the website," the suspect told him, recalled the informant, who spoke on condition that his name not be used. ''You're an informant."

      The FBI informant said he immediately hung up the phone, fear coursing through his body, and fled his apartment. ''I ran as fast as I could," he said.

      Now, he never carries identification, worried that someone might learn his true name. He has not worked for the FBI since his cover was blown, but hopes he can soon return. In the meantime, he said, he spends his days walking around Boston. 

      Page 2 of 2 -- Since it debuted last August, the website has grown popular, both among people who want to unburden their anger at those they believe have wronged them and others who peruse the profiles of alleged informants. The site has about 7,000 registered members and has received an estimated 1.5 million hits, said Anthony Capone, a spokesman for the site who said his day job is in marketing.

      The site's home page includes a disclaimer, which notes that information posted ''may not be 100 percent accurate and should be used for information/entertainment purposes only." It also states that the website's administrators do not condone violence against alleged informants.

      Capone said that websites such as his are protected by law. He cited the website of Leon Carmichael Sr., a Montgomery, Ala., businessman charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering. Carmichael had posted the pictures and names of government agents and informants who were scheduled to testify at his trial, and asked for information about them. Last year, a federal judge in Alabama ruled that Carmichael's website was protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

      Capone said the administrators of the North Shore website use a computer server in India, to ensure further protection.

      The website contains information about suspected agents and informants across the country and overseas. The lists suggest that informants come from all walks of life: the Massachusetts files include a plumber from Worcester, a 17-year-old swimmer from Belmont, a tanning salon owner from Peabody, and a stripper from Revere.

      The Department of Homeland Security has warned its employees to stay away from the site, since even visiting it could provide website administrators information about government computer networks.

      The department has issued an advisory, warning that ''danger exists for exploitation by criminal and/or terrorist entities."

      Law enforcement officials in Oklahoma have also issued a warning that the website could jeopardize the work of undercover agents and informants.

      The site does not contain the profiles of notorious informants such as Salvatore ''Sammy The Bull" Gravano, who turned state's evidence against Mob boss John Gotti.

      Many of the alleged informants on the North Shore site have been posted on the site by people who got in trouble with the law for buying or selling drugs, or by their own relatives.

      ''We specifically ask people not to add any information that's related to violent crimes, because we don't agree with violent crimes," Capone said. ''But as far as drug problems, and people setting people up just to get out of their own problems, that's a no-no in our books."

      The woman who posted information about the Tewksbury man said she believes the website performs a service by warning others away from informants.

      ''This punk has bragged on several occasions about doing a controlled buy to bust a known local dealer so he could get a lesser sentence for getting caught with shrooms, ecstasy, steroids, and funny money," she posted on the site about the man she believes had informed on her now ex-boyfriend to the police. ''He has admitted to being a snitch to various people."

      Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti's husband, former Springfield chiropractor John Bisanti, was sentenced last year to 41 months in federal prison for income tax evasion. After she saw a magazine ad for the North Shore site, she posted information about a car dealer and a tax attorney she believes cooperated with federal authorities, who then, in her opinion, wrongly brought charges against her husband.

      ''We put it on there, kind of just in a little way, to make a difference," said Bisanti, a flight attendant. ''Honestly, I'm angry that this injustice took place and nothing will be done about it."

      Another local poster turned to cyberspace after her brother was arrested and charged with helping plan a bank robbery. One of his friends, she argues, exaggerated her brother's role in the plot in his testimony to the police to bargain down his own sentence.

      ''I think people should know, he's not a man of his word," she said.

      So she posted his name on the website, promising to add affidavits from the case.

      ''This kid can be out of jail, but he'll never have a life," she said. ''He's known within the whole entire city as a black sheep."

      Kathleen Burge can be reached at 

      © Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

      Federal caselaw that protects the site:

      1 of 2 DOCUMENTS


      CRIM. ACTION NO. 2:03cr259-T


      2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13742

      July 22, 2004, Decided

      PRIOR HISTORY: United States v. Carmichael, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675 (M.D. Ala., July 20, 2004)

      DISPOSITION: [*1] Request for protective order denied.


      PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant was charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering. Shortly after his arrest, defendant set up an internet website and newspaper advertisement related to the case. The Government renewed its motion for a protective order directing defendant to remove the website from the internet. The government's motion was denied, and it appealed.

      OVERVIEW: An exact reproduction of the website as it existed as of late April 2004, the third version, appeared as a full-page newspaper advertisement in a local weekly newspaper. The Government's requested relief went beyond the internet, as it asked the court to restrain defendant from taking any action that would harass, intimidate, or threaten any witness or prejudice the proceedings in the case, including, without limitation, placing the photographs or personal information of any prospective witness or informant on a poster, advertisement, or website. The Government indicated that its concerns about the website would apply equally to newspaper advertisements containing the same content. Defendant's website and newspaper advertisement were constitutionally protected speech because they fit within neither the "true threat" nor the "incitement" exceptions to the First Amendment's protection. Also, the Government did not show that its proposed protective order was the least restrictive means of eliminating the possible effect on jury members.

      OUTCOME: The motion was denied.

      COUNSEL: For Leon Carmichael, Sr. aka Beaver Leon Carmichael, Defendant: Amardo Wesley Pitters, A. Wesley Pitters, P. C., Montgomery, AL. Lisa Monet Wayne, Denver, CO. Mary Elizabeth Anthony, Anthony & Pratt LLC, Birmingham, AL. Ronald Wayne Wise, Law Office of Ronald W. Wise, Montgomery, AL. Stephen Roger Glassroth, The Glassroth Law Firm, PC, Montgomery, AL.

      For United States of America, Plaintiff: A. Clark Morris, U.S. Attorney's Office, Montgomery, AL. Matthew S. Miner, U.S. Attorney's Office, Montgomery, AL. Stephen P. Feaga, U.S. Attorney's Office, Montgomery, AL.


      OPINIONBY: Myron H. Thompson

      Defendant Leon Carmichael, Sr. is charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering. Shortly after his arrest, Carmichael set up an internet website related to this case. The government argued that Carmichael's website is threatening to witnesses and government agents [*2] and renewed its motion for a protective order directing Carmichael to remove the website from the internet. In an order issued two days ago, on July 20, 2004, the court denied the government's renewed motion. United States v. Carmichael, F. Supp. 2d , 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446 (M.D. Ala. 2004) (Thompson, J.).
      The dispute in this case is not limited to the internet, however, and the court writes separately to address the government's motion as it applies outside of cyberspace. An exact reproduction of the website as it existed as of late April 2004 (the third version) appeared as a full-page newspaper advertisement in the Montgomery Westside Weekly, a local weekly newspaper that targets primarily the African-American community; n1 also, there is no reason to doubt that the advertisement has appeared again repeatedly in that paper and in other similar papers. The government's requested relief, therefore, went beyond the internet; the government asked the court to restrain Carmichael "from taking any action . . . that would harass, intimidate, or threaten any witness or prejudice the proceedings in this case, including, without limitation, placing the [*3] photographs or personal information of any prospective witness or informant on a poster, advertisement, or website." n2 Similarly, at the May 21, 2004, hearing, the government indicated that its concerns about Carmichael's website would apply equally to newspaper advertisements containing the same content.

      n1 See Order, filed May 7, 2004.
      n2 Government's renewed motion, etc., filed April 27, 2004, p. 18 (emphasis added).

      The court's reasoning regarding Carmichael's website applies with equal force to his newspaper advertisements. Accordingly, to the extent that the government's renewed motion includes a request for an order that Carmichael cease publishing the content of his website as newspaper advertisements, the motion is due to be denied.
      Carmichael's website is constitutionally protected speech because it fits within neither the 'true threat' nor the 'incitement' exceptions to the First Amendment's protection. Carmichael, F. Supp. 2d. at , 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. [*4] There is no reason to reach a different conclusion regarding Carmichael's newspaper advertisements because the First Amendment analysis does not turn on the medium involved. The court explicitly declined to find the fact that a website was at issue constitutionally significant. 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. Carmichael's newspaper advertisements are neither a 'true threat' nor an 'incitement' under the First Amendment.
      The court also held that it could not order Carmichael to take down his website because the government did not meet its burden to show that a prior restraint on Carmichael's speech rights was warranted. Carmichael, F. Supp. 2d., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. The government did not show that its proposed protective order was the least restrictive means of eliminating the website's possible effect on jury members. 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. The same is true of Carmichael's advertisements. A juror or potential juror is more likely to come across Carmichael's newspaper advertisements inadvertently than to come across his website inadvertently, so [*5] a jury instruction not to view the advertisements will be somewhat less effective than an instruction not to view the website. Nonetheless, voir-dire questions and clear jury instructions will adequately address any possible impact that Carmichael's newspaper advertisements might have on the jury. Second, the government did not show that the website posed a serious and imminent threat to its witnesses and agents. 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. The government has not shown that the newspaper advertisements pose such a serious and imminent threat.
      Finally, the harm posed by the website did not warrant restricting Carmichael's Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to investigate his case. Carmichael, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, 2004 WL 1616446, at *. Not only is the same true in the case of Carmichael's newspaper advertisements, but his Fifth and Sixth Amendment interest is actually entitled to more weight here. Carmichael's website is hard to find on the internet even if one is looking for it, and it is very hard to imagine that someone could stumble upon his website by accident. Thus, to the extent that there exist people [*6] who have material information beneficial to Carmichael and who would be willing to share that information with him but do not know about this case or do not already know how to contact Carmichael, it is unlikely that the website will reach those people. On the other hand, Carmichael's newspaper advertisements are more likely to attract the attention of a person who has--perhaps without being aware of it--material information useful to Carmichael's defense. Accordingly, the newspaper advertisements are more likely to lead to information, and this tilts the balance yet further in Carmichael's favor. n3

      n3 Moreover, if the newspaper advertisements (which essentially reproduce the internet site) are allowable, surely the internet site is also.

      Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the request for a protective order barring defendant Leon Carmichael, Sr., from publishing his website as a newspaper advertisement, which request was included in the renewed motion for a protective order filed by the government on April 27, 2004 (doc. [*7] no. 181), is denied as well.
      DONE, this the 22nd day of July, 2004.
      /s/ Myron H. Thompson

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:40 PM  

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