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Supreme Court unable to identify person who leaked draft abortion ruling

Officials with the Supreme Court said on Thursday that investigators have yet to identify the person who leaked the court’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade.

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The announcement came in a report issued by the court on the investigation into the leak.

In May, Politico published a draft opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito that struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that decriminalized abortion nationwide. The court issued its official ruling in June.

Officials launched an investigation into the leak, which the court on Thursday called “one of the worst breaches of trust in its history.”

“The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process,” the court said in a statement. “It is no exaggeration to say that the integrity of judicial proceedings depends on the inviolability of internal deliberations.”

The Marshal of the Supreme Court and her staff spent months analyzing forensic evidence and conducting interviews with nearly 100 employees as part of the investigation into the leak. They failed to find “a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence,” according to the court.

In the court marshal’s report, investigators said they determined it was unlikely that someone hacked into the court’s system and gained improper access to the draft opinion. They said they could not eliminate the possibility that the draft might have been inadvertently leaked by someone who left a copy of the opinion in a public space.

“After examining the Court’s computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs, investigators have found no forensic evidence indicating who disclosed the draft opinion,” according to the report. “Investigators continue to review and process some electronic data that has been collected and a few other inquiries remain pending. To the extent that additional investigation yields new evidence or leads, the investigators will pursue them.”

Investigators said changes to the court’s processes prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and gaps in security policies “created an environment where it was too easy to remove sensitive information from the building and the Court’s IT networks.” The report outlined several recommendations aimed at tightening security around highly sensitive documents like draft opinions.

The court also consulted former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to conduct an independent review of the investigation. In a statement, Chertoff said he could find no other useful investigative measures to help identify a culprit.

“My review assessed that the Marshal and her experienced investigators undertook a thorough investigation within their legal authorities, and while there is not sufficient evidence at present for prosecution or other legal action, there were important insights gleaned from the investigation that can be acted upon to avoid future incidents,” he said.

Chertoff recommended that the court restrict the distribution of sensitive documents in print and through email.