Courtesy of Bloomberg:
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russian intelligence services still have active “interference operations” into U.S. elections and that handing over certain evidence in a criminal case could imperil ongoing investigations.
Mueller on Tuesday asked a federal judge in Washington for an order to protect voluminous evidence sought by lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting LLC, one of three companies and 13 Russian nationals charged in a February indictment alleging election meddling via social media. Prosecutors have uncovered evidence of other individuals and entities who are “continuing to engage” in similar activities.
The legal battle between Mueller and Concord’s attorneys highlights the tension between intelligence-gathering, which is cloaked in secrecy, and the U.S. legal system, which entitles criminal defendants to review evidence against them. Lawyers for Concord, a company linked to a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have been negotiating to obtain documents from the special counsel to mount a legal defense.
Unauthorized disclosure of such evidence would help foreign intelligence services in Russia and elsewhere while undermining U.S. law enforcement and national security investigations, Mueller’s prosecutors wrote in Tuesday’s request for a protective order.
U.S. documents identify “sources, methods, and techniques used to identify the foreign actors behind these interference operations,” Mueller wrote. Improper disclosure of that information would tip foreign intelligence services about how the U.S. operates and let them “adjust their conduct, thus undermining ongoing and future national security operations.”
Well that’s a sticky wicket now, isn’t it? (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of British TV shows.)
On the one hand our open legal system allows defendants access to the evidence being used against them in court, but in this case, that evidence could be used to out intelligence agents, undermine the investigation, and potentially increase the Russians ability to interfere in our political system.
Actually, Mueller is offering a solution:
Under Mueller’s proposed plan, any foreign national who wants to disclose sensitive materials would have to go through a “firewall counsel” for the government, which would be separate from the prosecution team.
Sounds fair, let’s see what the judge says.