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Naming Names -- Not!

A report by Boston Globe federal courts reporter Shelley Murphy is as interesting for what it omits as for what it reports.

The story involves what appears to be an allegation that Boston FBI Supervisory Agent Robert Callen either bullied, or harassed, or otherwise acted inappropriately toward an un-named “female federal prosecutor” at a meeting in the federal courthouse in 2006. Callen allegedly came up behind the unnamed prosecutor – who was assigned at the time to the Organized Crime Strike Force – put his arm around her in a headlock, and gave what the Globe article describes as “a Three Stooges-style noogie.”

This office incident – as anyone with an older brother can attest, undoubtedly one of the worst things that can be done to you at a tender young age – led to a year-long investigation and ultimately a recommendation that Callen and two other unnamed agents (let’s call them Curly and Larry) be fired. Of course, the “noogie” itself might not be the grounds for the dismissal recommendation. Rather, investigators from the FBI inspector general’s office concluded that Callen and the two other agents were not truthful when questioned about the incident.

Murphy reveals that her decision not to publish the name of the offended prosecutor was based on a request from Acting U.S. Attorney Michael K. Loucks. However, Murphy apparently learned the victim’s name for the story, and in fact reached the prosecutor, who “now handles drug cases,” by phone.

This instance of the Globe’s skittishness when it comes to publishing “sensitive” information comes on the heels of my recent Boston Phoenix Freedom Watch column. There, I complained about the Globe’s policy of not spelling out the actual four-letter words and other expletives involved in FCC censorship stories, where the actual words are crucial to the legal issues. So yet again I am astounded to see the Globe self-censor and sacrifice truth for style or political correctness – the refusal to publish the name of an alleged victim of harassment while naming the alleged harasser – an especially egregious violation of the public’s right to know since the alleged victim is a public servant and not an ordinary private citizen.

And, while we’re at it, there’s another aspect to the story that is troubling: When regular citizens are caught lying to the feds, the penalty is usually a “false statement” indictment under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which makes it a felony, punishable by five years in prison, to make a “material” misstatement to a federal official. Instead of being indicted, the three FBI agents are heading for mere dismissal even though they didn’t tell the truth when talking to investigators. This is just another aspect of the double standards that more and more characterize our culture.

We’re living in a Three Stooges world.

                                             Harvey Silverglate

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