Why are Michael Steele documents redacted?
The Washington Post broke a story last week about a federal investigation into Michael Steele’s 2006 Senate campaign finances, based in part on a confidential legal document the newspaper said it was inadvertently provided by federal prosecutors based in Baltimore.
The document was prepared by lawyers for Alan B. Fabian, who had been Steele’s Senate campaign finance chairman, as Fabian sought a reduced sentence after pleading guilty to unrelated fraud charges. It was intended to show, in part, that Fabian was willing to cooperate in other inquiries, and had knowledge of alleged wrongdoing that he believed was valuable.The Post reported that the judge did not give Fabian credit for agreeing to participate in any investigation that involved Steele. Fabian was sentenced to a nine-year term.
The Post said it was given the confidential document by federal officials after it requested a different one. The newspaper posted what it is calling “excerpts” of the document online.
But the online version has been electronically redacted. The Post has made available two pages of a document that appears to be more than 30 pages long (the Steele information is on pages 30 and 31). The condition of the document raises some questions:
a) Who did the redacting? If it was the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that raises serious doubts about whether the disclosure was “accidental.” If the feds wrongly included the document in response to a records request in error, one would imagine they would have given the whole thing.
b) Did the newspaper itself do the redacting? That’s hard to believe. The Post wants more information out there, not less. But if the paper redacted, it raises the possibility that newspaper managers and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had some kind of negotiations about what could be published, and what couldn’t.
c) What else does the document contain? If Fabian wanted to cut a deal, what other information did he provide?
To call up a PDF version of excerpts from the Post's site, click here.