Supreme Court says investigators have been unable to identify leaker of draft abortion opinion
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Thursday that a monthslong investigation into the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion in its abortion case last year has failed to identify who is responsible for the "grave assault on the judicial process."
The Supreme Court marshal, who led the investigation, reviewed forensic evidence and interviewed nearly 100 court employees, the statement said. Investigators recommended fewer employees be permitted access to documents and that the court update its security policies.
"But the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence," the court's statement said.
Supreme Court Marshall Gail Curley's report said it was unlikely the court's computers were hacked. Thirty-four court personnel printed out copies of the draft opinion, sometimes multiple times, the report said.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced an investigation into the leak to Politico on May 3, but the justices had said little about the progress of that effort until Thursday. Several congressional Republicans have complained about the lack of information and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has signaled a desire to launch his own review.
The announcement Thursday came eight months after the draft opinion in Mississippi's challenge to Roe v. Wade was leaked. The draft opinion, which revealed the reasoning behind the decision to overturn Roe, led to protests across the country. The court's final opinion, released in June, closely tracked the leaked draft.
In that opinion, five justices voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
The court asked former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to review the marshal's investigation. In a one-page statement about his review, Chertoff said he could not identify any additional "useful investigative measure." The statement said that Roberts had ordered a review of the court's information security protocols.
The marshal's report recommended that fewer employees have access to sensitive documents and said that the court's current method of destroying those documents had "vulnerabilities that should be addressed." The report also recommended an update to the court's information security policies.
But the response from both sides of the abortion debate was set off weeks earlier by the leak, which shifted the landscape in one of the nation's most divisive culture war issues, prompted a flurry of reaction and raised questions about the court's deliberative process.
The final opinion shifted the abortion debate to the states, where state lawmakers and state judges are still grappling with the implications of the decision.
Thursday's announcement came days after the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that investigators probing the leak had narrowed their inquiry to a small number of suspects including law clerks, but that officials had yet to conclusively identify the alleged culprit.