On January 15, 2013 U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Cleland issued a key ruling in support of Justice Department whistleblower Richard G. Convertino in his longstanding Privacy Act lawsuit against the DOJ. The Court ordered the Detroit Free Press to produce all documents related to how the Justice Department smeared its former star prosecutor, Richard Convertino, after Convertino exposed serous flaws in the government’s “war on terror.”
Convertino, one of the Justice Department’s most successful prosecutors, obtained the first guilty verdicts in a post-9/11 terrorism prosecution. However, instead of lauding the Justice Department’s counterterrorism program, Convertino testified that it was fundamentally flawed and administered by incompetent and politically motivated officials. The Justice Department, led by officials appointed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, struck back and leaked false and highly derogatory information about Convertino to the Detroit Free Press. The leak was designed to discredit Convertino before his peers and force his resignation from the Department.
In response, Mr. Convertino filed a Privacy Act lawsuit. Although a subsequent investigation confirmed that the leak came from DOJ officials, the Justice Department has stonewalled efforts to learn who was behind the smear.
In a key ruling, Judge Cleland has ordered the Detroit Free Press to produce all of its documents related to the “leak” and to produce a witness to testify as to the DFP’s knowledge of the DOJ source. This order follows on the heals of a major victory for Convertino at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On June 22, 2012, that Court ruled that Mr. Convertino was entitled to discovery in order to learn what DOJ officials illegally leaked information in retaliation for Convertino’s whistleblowing.
Mr. Convertino’s attorney, Stephen M. Kohn, issued the following statement: “The public has a right to know what official within the Justice Department willfully violated the law and illegally smeared a distinguished and highly respected prosecutor. DOJ officials are not above the law. It is the completely hypocritical that the Justice Department actively prosecutes whistleblowers whom they accuse of leaking information, but when the shoe is on the other foot, the DOJ actively cover’s up for the leakers who serve their interests.”
To learn more about Mr. Convertino listen to the show on This American Life.
District Court Decision linked here.
Appeals Court Decision linked here.