Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hammer's big lie

"Last week we reported that Greensboro had given out confidential police reports to Yes! Weekly." -- John Hammer, Rhinoceros Times 
"Information that falls under the criminal investigation or criminal intelligence exception to the public records law is not public record, but it is not confidential." Frayda S. Bluestein, North Carolina School of Government, to Ben Holder.
As he is so very good at, Rhino Times editor and publisher John Hammer has begun constructing a narrative through his tried and true tactic of the firm and steady repetition of a claim he never bothered to explain or substantiate in the first place.

This time, Hammer is attempting to implant the notion in the public conciousness that the emails released by the City of Greensboro to his competitor Yes!Weekly were "confidential." (From here, it's an easy slide into Hammer's favorite past time of berating city staff as incompetent, which seems to be his real objective.)

One problem: The records are not "confidential." (They are not "reports" either, as Hammer says. They were emails. "Confidential police reports," sounds more sinister, I suppose, but it was emails that were released, not reports and Hammer surely knows that.)

As Frayda Bluestein of the North Carolina School of Government explains, courtesy of Ben Holder, "confidential" has a specific meaning in regard to government records and the documents to which Hammer is referring don't meet the test.

City employees, even police, cannot simply slap the word "confidential" on an email and make it off limits. These records fall into the area where cities have some discretion about their release. The records the City released are of the kind that Bluestein explains:
"[T]he statute leaves it to the public agency to decide whether and when to release this type of material."
The city legally released this information. It offered a glimpse of the way local police conduct surveillance on law-abiding citizens and revealed that at least one police lieutenant considered a city council person to be a "confidential informant."

I would argue that it's good for civilians to have this kind of insight into their police force and elected representatives. Others may disagree, but it's a big lie to express that disagreement by pretending that that such records are "confidential." They are not and Hammer should stop saying they are. He's misleading his readers.


Billy Jones said...

So as I asked this morning? "What is the official definition of "confidential informant"? " Are police officers simply slapping words on Marikay? You seem to have made my point for me...... again. Thank you.

Roch Smith, Jr said...

That's a good point, Billy.

Billy Jones said...

And I found the answer. Now the City of Greensboro is facing another potential lawsuit.

Billy Jones said...

As I ended this post:

"So in other words: If Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter is in-fact a confidential informant as claimed in the e-mails published by Eric Ginsburg and Yes! Weekly in an effort to discredit Councilwoman Abuzuaiter then someone with GPD and/or the City of Greensboro has in-fact committed a felony.

So which is it? Is Marikay a confidential informant or not? Mayor? Ms City Manager? Chief Miller? Mr City Attorney? Perhaps one or more of you would like to comment below before this blog post buries all of you? Like I keep telling you, the longer you wait the more people believe me."

Marikay wins!

Roch Smith, Jr said...

What law was broken?

Anonymous said...

A confidential informant implies that she is a criminal that has opted to cooperate with police to avoid jail time. An undercover agent is an agent of the police that is secretly surveilling the criminal element. Again all of this only serves to put people's lives in danger. Hope it's worth it to sell newspapers and increase blog traffic.

And before you mention that this is to protect citizens - which ones and in what way? And which ones does it harm? And what serves the greater good of the people?

Billy Jones said...

It's against the law for governments to put people's lives in danger. Marikay has received death threats thanks to the actions of the City of Greensboro. The City broke the law. Yes Weekly exercised the worst of judgement in publishing that article.

Also, since Clarey won't answer me, perhaps he will answer you.

Were ALL the police who sent those e-mails interviewed?

Did those officers admit to sending ALL of those e-mails?

Does GPD have an official policy on what constitutes a confidential informant or is this just words tossed around?

Billy Jones said...

Oh, and Roch, what did Brian tell you on the telephone when you asked about the redacted paragraph?

Roch Smith, Jr said...

Brian told me, as he did you, that the City made no redactions, that the redactions in the posted documents were made by Yes! He also told me that the specific large block of redacted space I asked about was to redact a list of individuals' email addresses that were cc'd on that particular message.

Anonymous said...

"I worked for two social-justice nonprofits including the
Beloved Community Center" - Eric Ginsburg

p. 27 of the docs where the emails were blocked out is the one that references BCC. So he hid the identities of his friends, but no one else.

That's pretty selective and we all know why.

Billy Jones said...

Roch wrote:
"He also told me that the specific large block of redacted space I asked about was to redact a list of individuals' email addresses that were cc'd on that particular message."

And that was so sensitive he couldn't post it to the comments on his own Yes Weekly blog? Piss poor journalism at its best...

Roch Smith, Jr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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