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Whosarat.com exposes identities of witnesses cooperating with the government

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Justice Dept. and the Courts grapple with issues of Public Access and Protection of Witnesses & Informants in this NY Times article, Web Sites Listing Informants Concern Justice Dept.

Frank O. Bowman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Missouri, disputed that. “It’s reprehensible and very dangerous,” Professor Bowman said of the site. “People are going to die as a result of this.”

Defendants who choose to go to trial will, of course, eventually learn the identities of the witnesses who testify against them. But the site also discloses the identities of people engaged in undercover operations and those whose information is merely used to build a case. The widespread dissemination of informants’ identities, moreover, may subject them to retribution from friends and associates of the defendant.

Still, Professor Bowman, an authority on federal sentencing law, said he would hate to see the routine sealing of plea agreements. “It certainly is terribly important for the public ultimately to know who’s flipped,” he said.

Professor Bowman added that he was studying the deals prosecutors made in the aftermath of the collapse of Enron, the energy company. “To do that effectively,” he said, “I really need to know who flipped and the nature of their plea agreements.”

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