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40 Million Calls Searched in P&G Leak Probe, Publisher Says

August 15, 1991

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Cincinnati Bell checked nearly 40 million telephone calls at the request of police investigating news leaks about the Procter & Gamble Co., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal said.

P&G had asked police to investigate possible violations of an Ohio law against revealing trade secrets after a series of leaked stories to publications, including the Journal, the nation’s biggest newspaper.

The Dow Jones & Co. news service said Wednesday that Cincinnati Bell, at the request of police, searched 655,297 home and business telephone lines and nearly 40 million calls made in a 15-week period.

Dow Jones, which publishes the Journal, said the area covered nearly 2,400 square miles in all or parts of four southern Ohio counties.

As part of the inquiry, police used a grand-jury subpoena to obtain the telephone records. Dow Jones said Hamilton County Common Pleas Court ordered Cincinnati Bell to identify ″all 513 area code numbers″ that dialed the office and home phone number of Wall Street Journal reporter Alecia Swasy between March 1 and June 15.

The order was given in a subpoena issued by the court June 17, Dow Jones said.

P&G previously has said it was interested in probing employees who might be involved in alleged disclosures of company secrets. The Dow Jones report said the subpoena was issued four working days after a June 10 article in the Journal about the company’s troubled food and beverage division.

A P&G spokeswoman said the company does not know the details of the police investigation.

Sydney McHugh said P&G went to the police after its own internal investigation didn’t turn up any sources.

″We advised the local Cincinnati police department of the matter because we thought it was possible that a crime had been committed in violation of Ohio law,″ Ms. McHugh said. ″They decided to conduct an independent investigation.″

Hamilton County and Cincinnati law enforcement officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The home phone number of Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur M. Ney is unpublished. Gary Armstrong, special investigator in Cincinnati’s fraud division, was not at the Cincinnati Police Department Wednesday evening.

Several lawyers specializing in First Amendment issues said the broad scope of the subpoena may be an invasion of privacy.

″There’s no reason for the subpoena to be this broad. It’s cause for alarm,″ said Robert Newman, a Cincinnati attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues. ″P&G doesn’t have to intrude in the lives of P&G employees, let alone everyone else.″

Jim Rogers, regional coordinator of Cincinnati’s American Civil Liberties Union Office, agreed.

″The subpoena is invasive for anyone in the 513 area code. If I called (The Wall Street Journal), what possible interest should P&G have in that?″

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