Federal Magistrate Orders Search Warrants Unsealed
HYATTSVILLE, Md. (AP) _ A federal magistrate has given the government 10 days to appeal his order releasing three search warrants and other documents related to an investigation of alleged fraud in Pentagon procurement.
U.S. Magistrate James Kenkel on Monday directed the public release of the warrants used to search the homes of a senior Air Force procurement officer and two consultants, as well as the inventory of items taken by agents.
Kenkel said the more sensitive affidavits used to support the request for the warrants could remain sealed another 45 days.
Also Monday, the government released documents in Los Angeles showing that wiretaps were used to gather information on Teledyne Electronics, Northrop Corp. and Litton Industries. No details of the wiretaps were disclosed.
U.S. District Judge David Kenyon ordered the release of four search warrants at the request of The Los Angeles Times and other media organizations who sought to unseal affidavits supporting the warrants. The government said it would also release a description of all premises searched, but three attorneys representing unidentified employees of the defense contractors objected on grounds that disclosure might lead to identification of their clients.
Meanwhile, The Hartford (Conn.) Courant argued in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Conn., that documents related to Norden Systems, a United Technologies Corp. subsidiary, should be unsealed.
The Courant asked for the release of warrants and other documents related to a June 14 of Norden offices and Bridgeport, Trumbull and Norwalk, Conn., and a June 15 search of the Shelton home of senior vice president James E. Rapinac.
Norden, a combat systems manufacturer, is suspected of benefitting from inside information to build a battlefield communication system for the Marines, according to other documents already released in the investigation.
The probe centers on allegations that defense contractors and consultants, many of them former military men, bribed Pentagon officials for contracting details that could be vital in winning bids worth billions of dollars.
″The very scope of (this) investigation ... has overriding and broad public interest,″ Kenkel said, suggesting the public would be better served if news stories on the subject were based on the legal documents instead of rumor.
Joseph J. Aronica, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia where the probe is centered, said no decision had been made on whether to appeal Kenkel’s decision, which requires the unsealing of the warrants and inventory documents within 10 days if no appeal is filed.
The request to unseal the documents was made in a petition filed by The Washington Post, which argued that a month already had passed since the documents were put under seal and there has been considerable public interest in the investigation.
Federal prosecutors argued that disclosure of information contained in the documents would hinder their continuing investigations.
The documents, including the list of items taken by police, ″would give a broad outline of what the government is looking for, what the government has found and more important what the government doesn’t have,″ Aronica said.
He suggested that other targets of the investigation could use the information to fashion future testimony or to destroy documents.
The documents involved pertain to Victor Cohen, deputy assistant Air Force secretary in charge of buying tactical command, control and communications systems; William Sanda, a defense industry consultant; and Richard Seelmeyer, the operator of an air charter service and former congressional staffer involved in defense appropriations.