Supreme Court Narrows Cybercrime Law

Last week the Supreme Court decided an important case concerning the scope of the federal government’s main cybercrime law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I wrote this post about the case, Van Buren v. United States, late last year when it was argued. As I expected, the Court has ruled in favor of the defendant and rejected the government’s sweeping interpretation of the CFAA. That was a welcome development — but the Supreme Court’s Van Buren decision leaves unresolved at least one important question concerning what kinds of computer-related misconduct might still be subject to prosecution.

Van Buren’s Prosecution

This case involves a particular subsection of the CFAA, 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2)(C). Under that subsection, a person commits a crime if he “accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains information” from that computer. The term “exceeds authorized access” is further defined to mean, “to access a computer with authorization and to use such access to obtain or alter information in the computer that the accesser is not entitled so to obtain or alter.” §1030(e)(6). The key issue in the case was what it means to “exceed authorized access” under this provision.

Nathan Van Buren was a police officer in Cumming, Georgia.  In exchange for a bribe, he searched a police database for a vehicle license plate number. The person who paid the bribe, Andrew Albo, told Van Buren the car belonged to a woman he had met and he wanted to be sure she was not an undercover police officer. Van Buren knew that, pursuant to police department policy, he was allowed to use the database only for legitimate law enforcement purposes. What he didn’t know was that Albo was actually cooperating with the FBI in an undercover investigation.

Van Buren was convicted for violating section 1030(a)(2). There was no question he was authorized to access the police database. But the government argued Van Buren had exceeded his authorized access, and thereby obtained the license plate information, by performing the search for an improper purpose – namely, in exchange for a bribe.

Van Buren argued that the CFAA is primarily a computer hacking statute. He claimed the prohibition against exceeding authorized access criminalizes obtaining information from a computer only when a person has no right at all to access that information. It does not apply to obtaining otherwise accessible information for an improper reason – which is what Van Buren did when he ran the license plate number, in a database where he was authorized to be, in exchange for a bribe.

The government had argued for a broader interpretation. It claimed the prohibition against exceeding authorized access applies whenever a defendant was not entitled to obtain the information under the circumstances in which he did — even if he could have properly obtained that same information under other circumstances. Here, Van Buren was authorized to access the database to obtain license plate information for legitimate police purposes. But, the government argued, he exceeded his authorized access when he searched that same database in exchange for a bribe.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

The Court’s Decision

Writing for a 6-3 majority, Justice Barrett found that Van Buren had the better of the argument. Much of the opinion is devoted to a detailed parsing of the statutory language. But in the end, it mostly came down to the meaning of one little word: “so.” 

The statutory definition of “exceeds authorized access” prohibits obtaining information that the defendant is not entitled “so to obtain.” The word “so,” Barrett wrote, requires an antecedent; it necessarily refers back to a “word or phrase already employed.” In this statute, she wrote, the antecedent is the act of accessing of a computer. “So to obtain” therefore refers to obtaining information by accessing a computer, as opposed to by some other means. Because Van Buren was authorized to obtain license plate information from this database, he was authorized “so to obtain” the information that he did. Doing so for an improper reason did not exceed his authorized access within the meaning of the statute.  

The government had argued that “so to obtain” prohibits any obtaining of information under circumstances or conditions that were not authorized. The problem with the government’s approach, Barrett wrote, is that  “the relevant circumstance—the one rendering a person’s conduct illegal—is not identified earlier in the statute. Instead, ‘so’ captures any circumstance-based limit appearing anywhere—in the United States Code, a state statute, a private agreement, or anywhere else.”  But, she wrote, the word “so” is not a “free floating term that provides a hook for any limitation stated anywhere.” Van Buren’s approach, which links the word “so” to a specific statutory provision, is the more logical reading of the statute.

Hackers and Gates

The majority agreed with Van Buren that this portion of the CFAA is concerned with “hackers” — a term that the Court uses rather loosely. The prohibition against accessing a computer without authorization applies to “outside hackers,” those who break into a computer system from the outside. The prohibition against exceeding authorized access complements this provision “by targeting so-called inside hackers—those who access a computer with permission, but then ‘exceed’ the parameters of authorized access by entering an area of the computer to which [that] authorization does not extend.” Van Buren was not an “inside hacker,” however, because he did have authorization to be in that database.

The majority also described this approach as a “gates up or gates down” analysis: “one either can or cannot access a computer system, and one either can or cannot access certain areas within the system.” The CFAA is violated when an individual breaches one of these “gates” without authorization. It is not violated when an individual is authorized to open the gate but does so for an improper reason.

The Parade of Horribles

Justice Barrett concluded by noting that the government’s position, if adopted, “would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.” Much of the oral argument last November had focused on this so-called “parade of horribles.” Van Buren argued that under the government’s interpretation an employee would violate the CFAA by using a work computer for personal emails or online shopping if that was prohibited by company policy. Violating a website’s terms of use policy might also qualify, which could criminalize conduct such as lying in an online dating profile. In short, she concluded, “If the ‘exceeds authorized access’ prohibition criminalizes every violation of a computer use policy, then millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are criminals.”

“In sum,” Barrett concluded, “an individual ‘exceeds authorized access’ when he accesses a computer with authorization but then obtains information located in particular areas of the computer— such as files, folders, or databases—that are off limits to him.” Because Van Buren did have authority to be in this police database, his use of that database in a way contrary to police department policy did not violate the CFAA.

Justice Thomas
Justice Clarence Thomas

The Dissent

Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. He argued that the plain language of the statute resolved the case. “An ordinary reader of the English language,” he wrote, would agree that Van Buren exceeded his authorized access when he used the police database for an improper purpose. Thomas also argued the majority’s interpretation was contrary to traditional common-law property rules that criminalize the behavior of someone authorized to use another’s property who then exceeds the scope of that authorization.

Thomas noted that the majority’s interpretation placed a great deal of misconduct out of reach of the CFAA. Suppose, he argued, a scientist was authorized to obtain blueprints for atomic weapons under some circumstances. According to the majority, that scientist would therefore be “immune” if he obtained those blueprints for the improper purpose of helping an enemy power.

Finally, Thomas rejected the parade of horribles argument, suggesting that such concerns were speculative and far-fetched: “I would not give so much weight to the hypothetical concern that the Government might start charging innocuous conduct and that courts might interpret the statute to cover that conduct.”

Analysis of the Opinion

As I argued in my earlier post, I think the majority got it right here. Its interpretation is most in line with the overall purpose of the CFAA: preventing unauthorized intrusions into computer files owned by others. And it avoided the interpretation that would have made unwitting criminals of the vast majority of computer users – whether or not such cases would ever be prosecuted. Ruling against Van Buren would have turned the CFAA into a draconian personnel regulation.

I was surprised that the rule of lenity did not come into play in the majority’s decision. Frequently invoked in white collar cases, the rule provides that if there is any ambiguity in a criminal statute the court will err on the side that favors the defendant. It’s based on the rule that due process requires criminal prohibitions to be clear so people can know what is and is not permissible. The majority dismissed the rule of lenity as unnecessary, stating its interpretation was so clearly correct reliance on the rule was unnecessary. In a complex statutory case decided 6-3, I think that displays a certain — lack of humility.  Shocking, I know.

Scene from Casablanca

As for Justice Thomas’s arguments about property law, the majority reasonably pointed out that common law property doctrines – many of which have their roots in medieval England – don’t necessarily adapt well to the area of cybercrime. Better to focus on the precise definitions in this particular statute, which deals with a very specialized area.

Thomas’s concern about the nuclear scientist who sells weapons blueprints being “immune” from liability is not well-founded. Such wrongdoers are not immune; other statutes, such as those against espionage, would easily cover that criminal conduct. There is no need to stretch the boundaries of the CFAA to cover it as well. Van Buren engaged in misconduct and deserved to be punished, but a conviction under the CFAA is far from the only way to do that.

When it comes to the parade of horribles, here I am more inclined to agree with the dissent. Many white collar statutes potentially encompass relatively trivial conduct that, in the real world, is never prosecuted. It’s unlikely that if the case had gone the other way we would have seen a wave of prosecutions of employees for unauthorized Facebook use at work. But here Thomas was swimming against the tide of a Supreme Court trend. In a series of recent decisions the government has argued for broad interpretations of criminal statutes by saying essentially, “trust us – even if this interpretation might criminalize some trivial conduct, we won’t bring those cases.” The Court has refused to go along. Van Buren is in accord with this line of cases.

The 6-3 Breakdown

The breakdown of the Justices in the majority and dissent is interesting.  The newest, Trump-appointed Justices – Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch – joined with the liberals – Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan – to form the majority. The other three conservatives – Thomas, Roberts, and Alito – were the dissenters.

Most of the conservatives on the Court profess to be textualists, whose decisions are driven primarily by the plain words of a statute. Indeed, Justice Barrett began her analysis by stating: “we start where we always do: with the text of the statute.” Both of the opinions seek support from the same book on statutory interpretation, which was co-authored by the late Justice Scalia, the father of modern textualism. The competing opinions are an interesting study in how even committed textualists can disagree over what the statutory language actually requires.

Some might also have expected the Trump appointees to vote to expand prosecutorial power, not to restrain prosecutors and free a criminal defendant. But decisions in criminal cases frequently do not break down along such ideological lines. Scalia, who is revered by today’s conservative Justices, was a strong voice against the expansive reading of criminal statutes and often ruled in a defendant’s favor. The Van Buren majority’s approach to the case is in the finest Scalia tradition.

gate

What Kind of Gate Will Suffice?

The Van Buren decision does leave one major question unanswered. As noted above, the majority adopts a “gates up, gates down” analysis: the question is whether the defendant was authorized to be inside a particular file, database, or folder, or whether that area of the computer was off limits. But it did not answer a key question: what kind of “gate” will satisfy the statute?

Computer crime expert professor Orin Kerr argued in an amicus brief that the CFAA requires a technological gate. The information must be protected by a password or similar electronic barrier that the defendant breached, or “hacked,” without authorization, even if he was otherwise authorized to be inside the computer system that contained that information. But there are other possible kinds of gates as well, such as those imposed by a contract or office policy.

For example, consider an employee at a large company who works in the purchasing department. He is authorized to access the areas of the company’s computer system that relate to his job, but is not authorized to access employee personnel records that are contained within the same system. If those personnel records are contained in a separate folder that requires a unique password, that would be a technological “hard gate.” If the employee steals that password to access the records, he would exceed his authorized access by breaching that gate.

Now suppose the personnel folder does not require a separate password but is potentially accessible to anyone already inside the company’s computer system. But company policy and the employee handbook clearly prohibit any employee not working in human resources from accessing the personnel folder. If our employee in purchasing accesses the personnel records in violation of that policy, he has breached a “soft gate” – in this case, one imposed not by technology but by a written requirement.

In footnote eight of the opinion, the Court (while citing Professor Kerr’s brief) expressly says it is not resolving this question: “For present purposes, we need not address whether this inquiry turns only on technological (or “code-based”) limitations on access, or instead also looks to limits contained in contracts or policies.” But for now it appears either kind of limit would qualify under the majority opinion. The dissent also interprets the majority opinion that way, arguing that under the majority’s approach an employee could be prosecuted for playing a game of solitaire if company policy prohibited him from opening the “games” folder on his work computer.

The majority opinion and the metaphor of a “gate” suggest there does have to be some kind of barrier or partition, even if that only consists of storing the information in a separate file or folder. It envisions a computer system with different compartments or areas of data. Exceeding authorized access would mean the information obtained would not automatically be accessible to the employee based on his level of access, and he would have to take some additional step to reach it – which could mean simply clicking on a different folder. But exactly what kind of barrier would suffice, and whether some more significant steps by the employee would be required, is left unclear.

Portions of the majority opinion, such as the reference to those who exceed authorized access as “inside hackers,” do imply some kind of technological barrier or hard gate. The majority also criticized the dissent’s interpretation of “so” in part because it could make criminality turn on external factors like office policies outside the statute itself. But if a soft gate is sufficient to define the limits of an employee’s access, then the same issue arises; it’s simply been bumped from the definition of “so” to the definition of “authorized.” That might suggest the majority would require a hard gate if confronted with a case squarely raising that question.

But all that being said, it’s hard to find the requirement of a password or other technological gate in the definition of “authorized.” If an employee opens a folder that his contract or office policy forbid him to open, his actions seem pretty clearly “unauthorized,” even if no stolen password is required.

A requirement of a technological gate to define the scope of authorization would be much cleaner and easier to enforce. But we will have to await future court decisions – or a clarifying amendment by Congress – to learn whether that is required by the statute.

Like this post? Click here to join the Sidebars mailing list

A Bridge Too Far? Supreme Court Agrees to Hear the Bridgegate Case

In a series of decisions over the past thirty years, the Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted federal public corruption statutes and made it more difficult for prosecutors to bring such cases. A common theme of those decisions is the Court’s fear of giving federal prosecutors too much power to police political misconduct through criminal prosecutions. Now the Court appears poised to act again: it has agreed to hear the appeal of two New Jersey officials convicted in the “Bridgegate” scandal, and is likely to reverse their convictions. Although I disagree with some of the Court’s earlier rulings in corruption cases, in this case that’s probably the right result.

Chris Christie

The Bridgegate Scandal

The George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, NJ to New York City over the Hudson river, is the busiest bridge in the world. On a normal day, twelve lanes carry traffic inbound to New York City, with three lanes reserved for local commuter traffic from New Jersey. The bridge is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an interstate agency that controls bridges, tunnels, and other transportation infrastructure  in the NY/NJ area.

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, was running for re-election in 2013. Bridget Ann Kelly was Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff. In the months leading up to the election,  she was responsible for seeking endorsements of Christie from local elected officials. Despite repeated requests, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee told Kelly that local political considerations would not allow him to endorse Christie, a Republican.

William Baroni was the Executive Director of the Port Authority and David Wildstein was his Chief of Staff. Both had been appointed by Christie. Wildstein suggested to Kelly that the Port Authority could shut down the inbound access lanes on the bridge in order to put pressure on Fort Lee’s mayor. Kelly responded in an email, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein then told Baroni that Kelly wanted the lanes shut down to “punish” the mayor for his refusal to endorse Christie.

To justify the lane closures, Wildstein and Baroni made up a cover story that the Port Authority was conducting a traffic study on the bridge. They also agreed that the closure would begin on September 9, the first day of school in Fort Lee. Because there would only be a single lane of traffic open from New Jersey, the Port Authority would have to pay an extra worker to back up the sole toll taker in that booth. Baroni approved that extra expense.

When the lane closures took place, they created massive gridlock across all of Fort Lee. In addition to being a nightmare for commuters and school buses, it created a public safety issue because fire fighters, paramedics, and police could not travel to areas where they were needed. The mayor of Fort Lee made frantic efforts to contact the Port Authority about the closure and the safety hazards it was creating, but Baroni refused to take his calls. The closures lasted for four days until the Executive Director of the Port Authority learned about them and ordered the regular traffic lanes restored.

The Criminal Charges

 Federal prosecutors indicted Kelly and Baroni on federal charges including wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and theft from a federally-funded entity, 18 U.S.C. 666. Wildstein agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors. He testified that the traffic study was a pretext and that the true reason for the lane closures was to punish Fort Lee’s mayor.

The government’s criminal theory under both statutes is essentially the same. Prosecutors argue that the defendants deprived the Port Authority of its property through the lane closure scheme. That property allegedly included wages paid to the workers required to execute the lane closures, including the salaries paid to the extra toll both worker and even the salaries of Baroni and Wildstein themselves. The government also argues the defendants deprived the Authority of the intangible right to control the physical assets of the bridge lanes and toll booths. And these alleged deprivations of property were fraud, the government claims, because the defendants lied about the true reason for the lane closures.

Baroni and Kelly were convicted at trial. Kelly was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Baroni to 24 months, although they were allowed to remain free pending appeal. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions. The defendants asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that their convictions were inconsistent with a long line of Supreme Court precedents concerning political corruption prosecutions. On June 28, in the final week of its term, the Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari. The case should be argued this fall.

Image of US Supreme Court, which decided the Bob McDonnell case

The Supreme Court and Public Corruption

Kelly and Baroni’s main argument is that the prosecutors in their case have tried to do an improper end run around the Supreme Court’s public corruption precedents, particularly those concerning honest services fraud. I think the Court is likely to agree.

Honest services mail and wire fraud became a very popular public corruption theory in the post-Watergate area. Fraud typically requires that the defendant deprived the victim of money or property. But in an honest services fraud case, the defendant is charged with depriving the victim of the intangible right of fair and honest services that the victim was owed by someone. Most honest services fraud cases involve political corruption, because politicians owe a duty of fair and honest services to their constituents. Although less common, the theory applies in private sector relationships as well; for example, an employee may deprive his or her employer of its right to the employee’s honest services by taking some action against the employer’s interests.

Federal prosecutors used honest services fraud to prosecute a wide range of political misconduct that was corrupt, sleazy, or dishonest, even if it did not clearly violate other criminal laws. It was particularly useful in cases involving state and local corruption, because the key federal bribery statute does not apply to state and local officials. But in the 1987 case of McNally v. United States, the Supreme Court brought this to a screeching halt. In a surprise decision, the Court threw out the honest services fraud theory as too vague, even though it had been upheld by every lower court to consider it. Due process requires that criminal laws provide fair notice of what is prohibited, but no defendant, the Supreme Court held, could be sure what qualified as honest services fraud. The sweeping ability to prosecute any potentially “dishonest” behavior gave prosecutors too much authority to set “standards of good government for state and local officials.” The Court held that to “defraud” someone in federal criminal law meant to deprive them of money or property, not of intangible rights like the right to honest services. If Congress wanted fraud to include the honest services theory, the Court said, it needed to “speak more clearly.”

Congress responded the following year by passing 18 U.S.C. 1346, which explicitly says that honest services fraud is a valid theory under federal fraud statutes. But although Congress said its purpose was to overturn McNally, it didn’t further explain what it meant by honest services. This led to another two decades of confusion and inconsistency in the lower courts, as they tried to define the parameters of the sweeping theory. Finally, the Supreme Court stepped again in 2010 in Skilling v. United States, where Jeff Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, challenged his conviction for private sector honest services fraud. The Court declined Skilling’s request to strike down the theory completely, but it held that honest services fraud must be limited to cases involving bribery or kickbacks – core political corruption. Self-dealing, conflicts of interest, or other forms of sleazy political behavior will no longer support an honest services fraud prosecution.

The Court has narrowed public corruption law in other areas as well. In United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California the Court held that prosecutors in a gratuity case must prove a direct link between a particular gift to a politician and an identified official act. This struck down a popular prosecution theory known as a status gratuity, where someone gave gifts to an official because of his or her position and ability to benefit the donor in the future but not necessarily because of any particular official act. It also invalidated prosecutions based on relationships involving a string of gifts to an official and a series of official actions benefiting the donor, but not necessarily a one-to-one correlation between gift and action. This kind of ongoing relationship, where someone effectively has a politician on retainer, may be extremely corrupt. But it is now out of reach of federal corruption laws unless prosecutors can link a specific gift to a specific official act beyond a reasonable doubt.

Most recently  — and most dramatically — the Court limited the scope of federal bribery law in the 2016 case of McDonnell v. United States. In McDonnell the Court adopted a very narrow definition of what qualifies as an “official act” that will support a federal bribery conviction. Virginia governor Bob McDonnell had accepted about $170,000 in secret gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams, who was seeking benefits from the state government. But the Court held that the things McDonnell did in return – making some calls, setting up some meetings, and holding an event for Williams at the governor’s mansion – did not constitute “official acts” under federal bribery law. (For a more detailed critique of the Court’s decision in McDonnell and its implications, see my post here.)

(As an aside, it was kind of amusing to see that former governor McDonnell filed an amicus brief urging the Court to accept review of the Bridgegate case. He was joined on the brief by media mogul Conrad Black, whose honest services fraud conviction was reviewed and overturned at the same time as the Skilling decision. Those two former defendants argued that the Bridgegate prosecution is another example — supposedly like their own cases — of federal prosecutors who are running amok and need to be reined in. At least it’s good to know the former governor is keeping himself busy.)

The George Washington Bridge

The Defense Arguments

The Bridgegate defendants argue that prosecutors essentially have dressed up what might have been an honest services fraud case before McNally and Skilling to disguise it as a traditional fraud case. They couldn’t charge honest services fraud because no bribes or kickbacks were involved. So they charged traditional wire fraud, alleging the defendants deprived the Port Authority of property in the form of lost wages and the right to control the lanes and toll booths. And the reason this is fraud, the government argues, is that the defendants lied about their true reason for closing the lanes.

In their successful petition for certiorari, Kelly’s attorneys wrote that the appeal presents the following question:

Does a public official “defraud” the government of its property by advancing a “public policy reason” for an official decision that is not her subjective “real reason” for making the decision?

If the answer to this question is “yes,” they argue, then all of the Court’s precedents from McNally on down will be invalidated. Prosecutors would be free to charge a public official with fraud any time he or she lied about the true political motivation behind some official action. Almost any such case will involve the use of at least some government resources, particularly if those resources may include the salaries of the official himself or herself, as alleged in the Bridgegate prosecution. If lying about the true reason for some politically-motivated action constitutes fraud, they argue, potential criminal liability for political misconduct would become almost unlimited.

I think the Court is likely to agree with the defendants. The lane closure itself was not inherently unlawful. The Port Authority had the right to adjust the lanes, and no law or regulation required those three lanes to be kept open for Fort Lee. The defendants did not profit or line their own pockets through the scheme. In short, they did something they had the authority to do for a nakedly political reason, and then lied about that reason. It was a deplorable act that harmed the Fort Lee community. But I think the Court is likely to agree with the defendants that it should not be criminal.

The Court’s decisions have tended to limit criminal corruption to core, quid pro quo transactions where politicians are enriching themselves through abuse of their office. That’s not the case here. And all of the Court’s historical concerns about giving prosecutors the power to criminalize political misconduct that falls short of core criminality will come into play in this case. For better or worse, politicians routinely act for political reasons while claiming to act only in the public interest. They engage in “spin” or otherwise mislead or even lie to the public about their true motivations. But however distasteful or sleazy, that alone has never been considered criminal. The Court is not likely to sanction making such political machinations the subject of a federal prosecution.

The Court may decide the Port Authority was not really deprived of property and so was not defrauded. The alleged loss was relatively trivial; the salaries involved most likely would have been paid anyway, and the Port Authority did still maintain control of the traffic lanes. Or the Court may simply conclude that the definition of “fraud” in federal criminal law does not encompass a politician lying about the true reason for some political act that was otherwise lawful. But whatever the rationale, I expect a pretty resounding rejection of this prosecution.

Political Acts and Criminal Remedies

There is a tendency these days to reach immediately for criminal remedies in cases of misconduct by public officials. We have a president who led chants of “lock her up!” when talking about the supposed misdeeds of his political opponent. If an administration official says something untrue during testimony before Congress, there are immediate calls for a perjury prosecution. But as I always tell my students on the first day of class, there is a lot of sleazy, unethical, rotten, immoral stuff that goes on in the world that isn’t criminal. We should hesitate to embrace legal theories that make it too easy to punish political misconduct with criminal prosecutions.

This concern about over-criminalization is another theme in recent Supreme Court decisions.  In cases like Yates (fisherman charged with  obstruction of justice for throwing undersized fish overboard) and Bond (woman charged with chemical weapons violation for putting a caustic chemical on a doorknob, causing a minor skin irritation) the Court has demonstrated its unhappiness with prosecutors seeking harsh criminal sanctions for behavior that may not call for them. Such cases figure prominently in the Bridgegate briefs.

I think McDonnell was wrongly decided. I’d like to see Congress step in and amend the public corruption statutes to respond to the decisions in McNally, Skilling, and Sun-DiamondBut in this case, I think the Bridgegate defendants are right. They lost their jobs in disgrace. There could have been some appropriate civil remedies in the form of lawsuits by those harmed by the traffic snarls. Certainly their boss Christie suffered great political damage from the scandal and saw his presidential ambitions flame out in a hurry. All of these remedies and consequences, and probably more, are appropriate. But a federal criminal prosecution is not the appropriate remedy for this kind of political mischief.

Like this post? Click here to join the Sidebars mailing list