Referring to the improper access and leaks of Democratic memos regarding President Bush's judicial nominees from the Senate Judiciary Committee computer systems, The Washington Post contradicted its own previous coverage in reporting that Republican staffers "found misplaced" electronic memos. In fact, as the Post noted last year, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms found that Republican staffers improperly and secretly accessed more than 4,600 memos over a period of more than a year.
A May 19 article on the current Senate debate over judicial filibusters stated the dispute "gained momentum after Republicans found misplaced computer memos by Democratic staff members." In fact, the memos were not "misplaced"; rather, Republican staffers improperly accessed them from the computers of Democratic staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and then leaked them to conservative groups and media outlets. As the Post itself noted in a March 5, 2004, article on a report into the incident by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle:
A three-month investigation by the Senate's top law enforcement officer found a systematic downloading of thousands of Democratic computer files by Republican staffers over the past few years ... 4,670 files had been downloaded between November 2001 and spring 2003 by one of the aides -- 'the majority of which appeared to be from folders belonging to Democratic staff' on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Post also reported on March 12, 2004, that the Justice Department, at the request of Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was investigating "whether criminal laws were violated" by the staffers, who include Manuel Miranda, a former staffer to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). The probe by U.S. Attorney David Kelley is still active, and a grand jury has been impaneled as part of the investigation, according to a March 7 article in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the Post: "Regardless of whether any criminal law was broken, the improper access was wrong and unjustifiable. ... It will go down as a sad chapter in the Senate."