FBI slammed over handling of hacker case

Tuesday, 7 October 2003, 9:52 AM EST

The Justice Department said Monday the FBI didn't follow proper procedure when it notified reporters their notes might be subpoenaed in the case against a hacker accused of breaking into The New York Times' computer system.

The department said the correct procedure is to seek material from reporters only after other investigative steps have been exhausted, and that subpoenas are to be used only as a last resort.

"There are very few instances in which media subpoenas are granted," said Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo. "In this case, as in any case, we expect the investigators to exhaust all other avenues before they seek approval for any subpoena or any formal requests for records."

The FBI agent did not notify the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and did not go through proper channels at the Justice Department, according to a Justice official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

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