Less than a month after hiring Manuel Miranda, former staffer to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), The Wall Street Journal claimed that it is "too bad there's now a firewall in place on the computer system" that Miranda allegedly used to improperly access thousands of Democratic memos on controversial Bush judicial nominees. The incident resulted in Miranda's resignation from Frist's staff and a criminal investigation. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, the Journal only briefly mentioned the "Memogate" affair when announcing -- in an "editor's note" that failed to mention the criminal investigation and linked to an outdated op-ed defending Miranda -- that he had joined its staff as a columnist "to report on the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court" for OpinionJournal.com, the website of the Journal editorial page.
From an August 18 Journal editorial (subscription required) about alleged internal divisions in the Democratic Party resulting from John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court:
It's too bad there's now a firewall in place on the computer system used by the Senate Judiciary Committee's Democratic staff. We'd love to take a peek at the internal memos reacting to Tuesday's Washington Post story headlined "Roberts Unlikely to Face Big Fight; Many Democrats See Battle as Futile."
According to a March 7 Roll Call article, a six-month investigation by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle outlined a number of possible criminal violations after finding that "Miranda and a junior Judiciary staffer, Jason Lundell, accessed at least 4,670 documents from a computer server that was left without safeguards." The vast majority of those files reportedly belonged to Democratic staff. Roll Call noted that the Pickle report "portrayed Miranda as the leader of the effort in which he instructed Lundell to look through the Democratic files."
On April 26, 2004, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the matter, following a referral from Pickle and a bipartisan letter from six members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Roll Call, Miranda is the primary focus of the investigation.
The Journal and its editors have defended Miranda in the past. For example, a March 5, 2004, op-ed by Journal associate editorial page editor Melanie Kirkpatrick asserted that Democratic filibusters of Bush appellate court nominees were "worse -- by far" than Miranda's alleged memo leaks, which were "at most a misdemeanor." Similarly, on April 30, 2004, a Journal editorial (subscription required) claimed:
Of all the issues ripe for further investigation in the scandal over the leak of Democratic strategy memos from the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, the least relevant is whether GOP staffers "stole" the documents. That's the charge Democrats have so far successfully made to deflect attention from the memos' actual content.