Shooting The Messenger In Massachusetts
So what happens if the state of Massachusetts gives a blogger some information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, and then discovers that federal law prohibits release of the information? You can’t very well demand that the blogger “unpublish” the information, can you? Well, um, that is exactly what Governor Deval Patrick is trying to do. The Governor recently sent a letter to Michael Morisy, the operator of muckrock.com, demanding that he remove from that Web site a story detailing the amount of money in food stamps had been spent at businesses around the state in the last 5 years. Despite the fact that the state provided the data, it now says that the data is required to be kept confidential under federal law. I’m not sure Governor Patrick is going to have much luck making Morisy abide by his demand. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in a case in 1989 that would seem to apply, — that case says you can’t sanction the publication of lawfully obtained, truthful information. Morisy didn’t steal this data, and it is apparently true. Next case. My friend Rob Bertsche has offered to represent Morisy for free. Morisy is in good hands. Governor Patrick may want to consider leaving this mess lie.