AOH :: ISNQ5825.HTM

Cooper may have political immunity in breach




Cooper may have political immunity in breach
Cooper may have political immunity in breach



http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080628/NEWS02/806280370/1009/NEWS01 

By Bill Theobald
Tennessean Washington Bureau
Tennessean.com 
June 28, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The question is whether Rep. Jim Cooper broke the law when 
he logged on to a Web site of a trade group he is accusing of 
wrongdoing.

And the answer is that he could have, but he may be protected from legal 
action because he is a member of Congress.

What's more, Cooper contends that the flap over his perusing the Web 
site is a "smokescreen" intended to deflect attention from the 
activities of the organization he is investigating. And he is backed up 
by a powerful California congressman who described the actions of the 
trade group as "antics."

The Nashville Democrat was accused this week by the National Rural 
Electric Cooperative Association of breaking the law when he used a 
password he said was given him to access a members-only association Web 
site and download documents.

Cooper showed and discussed the documents during a hearing on problems 
within the electric cooperative industry held by the House Government 
Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday. The documents, he 
said, included legal advice given by the trade group to member 
utilities.

Cooper has declined to identify the person who gave him the password. A 
statement from his office Friday described the person as an "industry 
whistleblower" who helped Cooper gain access to internal documents that 
show the national group "knew about the many problems plaguing its 
industry."

The issue of potentially illegal access to the site was raised Thursday 
at the conclusion of a hearing on electric cooperatives held by the 
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Cooper long has 
contended that some cooperatives are mismanaged.

Nick Akerman, a legal expert on computer crime who was hired by the 
cooperatives' trade association, said Friday that Cooper violated a part 
of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The law says that "whoever ac 
cesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access'' 
and "obtains information from any protected computer'' may be committing 
a crime.

[...]


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