Friday, April 23, 2010


Perhaps it is a sign that I am not technologically curious, but I never would have thought to search for what turned out to be a glitch that makes public many details that federal prosecutors wanted to keep secret in the criminal case of Rod Blagojevich.

Attorneys for the former Illinois governor on Thursday filed the paperwork requesting that President Barack Obama be subpoenaed so as to force him to appear for the defense at Blagojevich’s trial – likely to take place this summer and fall.

WHEN THE U.S. attorney’s office made copies of the motion public, prosecutors went so far as to “black out” several portions so as to make them unreadable. The document includes allegations related to Blagojevich’s criminal case, and claims of why Obama himself would have personal knowledge that would be considered relevant.

Because these are allegations and not fact, they could be considered damaging to personal reputations.

But anybody is now capable of reading these things because of a glitch I don’t quite understand (although I am sure there are technologically-oriented people who could explain it to me in great detail).

But try calling up the document, then defining it and copying the content into a Microsoft Word document. I did just that, and all of a sudden, all of that blanked out copy turned into bold-faced type.

I CAN NOW read every word, including the parts that the U.S. attorney’s office didn’t want me (or anyone) to see. I know I am not alone in doing this, because I became aware of this glitch by reading the website affiliated with the Capitol Fax newsletter.

I am sure that many hundreds of the newsletter’s readers will do exactly what I did, and they are probably scouring every hidden word for all the little tidbits, which Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller describes on his site as, “the most explosive allegations.”

I am not about to go through what the content was of those blacked-out provisiions of the document that anyone can now read, mainly because anyone who truly cares can “read all about it” elsewhere – and probably from someone who will put their preferred political “spin” on the material instead of my preference, which would be a more rational analysis.

But this moment is going to stick in my mind because it is such a gaffe for “the feds.” What good is it going to do them to “black out” portions of the material when any amateur can undo their “editing” on any computer?

THE QUESTION I have is whether or not someone will wind up losing their job because of this – or will a mere suspension suffice as punishment for the federal employee who is supposed to understand computer technology enough to do such editing, yet couldn’t figure out that the redacting could be undone so easily?

In my time as a reporter-type person, I have come across the occasional gaffe by law enforcement types while in the comission of their jobs. It happens. But none seem so clumsy or awkward as this moment.

This moment alone will put the Blagojevich trial in the ranks of one of the most unusual political corruption cases ever held in Chicago. I’m only hoping that this gaffe doesn’t somehow get construed as tainting the case to the point where any resulting verdict gets overturned – and we would wind up having to go through this whole prosecutorial circus all over again.

Not that I expect Blagojevich would have any problem doing a repeat. Turning these proceedings into a raucous mess would work to his advantage. Anything bizarre might have the effect of making Blagojevich’s behavior during his six years as Illinois governor appear to be the norm – particularly if that jury (likely) will get filled with people whose intellectual curiousity is such that they go out of their way to ignore the activity of state government.

AFTER ALL, MAKING things bizarre is why one would want to drag Obama to the Dirksen Building to be put on the stand and have to testify about what he knew – particularly related to the activities in Illinois to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

Make this a case about Obama, and Blagojevich becomes irrelevant and acquitable. If the prosecutors get their way and are able to zero in on Milorod and define on their own terms what is (and is not) appropriate, then Blagojevich goes down – along with his brother and all the other people facing criminal charges in this case.

If anything, Rob Blagojevich is the one I sort of feel sorry for. He is going to have to go through a trial with his brother and will be such a minute part of the case, yet in the end he probably will be regarded in public as being an equal.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy. Those are the presidents named by Rod Blagojevich as having been defendants in civil cases prior to becoming president. Which attorneys for Rod Blagojevich say justifies their dragging Barack Obama into court to testify in their client’s criminal case.

I stand by my past thoughts that there is nothing Obama could contribute to this criminal case, other than turning the proceedings into a legal freak show.

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