Leery Of Russian Spies, Special Counsel Asks Judge To Limit Information Sharing
Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller are asking a judge to limit the kind of information a Russian company and other defendants in an ongoing criminal prosecution are able to review.
Government attorneys Rush Atkinson, Jeannie Rhee and Ryan Dickey warned in court documents that materials in the case could be "disclosed to Russian intelligence services."
In February, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., returned indictments against 13 Russians and three companies for allegedly operating an information warfare campaign that targeted the 2016 election.
But only one defendant, Concord Management and Consulting, has shown up to defend itself in court. Concord and its prime funder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, have already been sanctioned by the U.S.
The sheer number of documents and electronic materials in the case is staggering. The special counsel team said it has between 1.5 and 2 terabytes of data, which works out to roughly 150 million pages of evidence.
The special counsel's attorneys said that in most cases, they have reached agreements with defense lawyers for Concord, which is controlled by Prigozhin — the man known as "Putin's chef" — including that the materials need to stay in the U.S. and not be taken overseas.
Among the areas still under contention: the special counsel does not want any of the other defendants who have not made an appearance in the courtroom to be able to review the material.
Federal authorities are asking Judge Dabney Friedrich to impose a protective order, or "a mechanism to regulate disclosure of particularly sensitive material to foreign nationals." They said evidence in the case included documents that identify as yet uncharged co-conspirators who may be continuing efforts to interfere in American politics and more details about their own investigative steps.
Among the other sensitive materials, the special counsel team said, is a significant amount of personally identifying information about Americans who were victims of identity theft, as well as communications between Russians and "unwitting" people inside the U.S. who did not understand they were being duped.
Mueller's indictment of the so-called "Internet Research Agency" described the way that Russian influence operators overseas sometimes used Facebook or other online tools to pose as Americans and contact real Americans to organize political events in 2016.
So prosecutors are proposing that access to that kind of information be limited to defense lawyers Eric Dubelier and Katherine Seikaly. And, if the defense lawyers want to disclose it to foreign citizens, they would disclose their names to the judge and to a special "firewall" attorney not affiliated with the Mueller team.
Friedrich has not yet decided whether to agree to the arrangements requested by the special counsel's office.
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