Unknown third parties compromised Wired journalist Mat Honan’s entire personal online profile. Apparently, they started by using his billing address and the last four digits of his credit card to obtain a temporary password for Honan’s Apple ID account from an AppleCare representative. The intruders used the Apple ID as leverage to gain control over his .Me account, his Apple personal computer, and his Gmail and Twitter accounts. Honan concedes he is largely responsible, but urges the need for cloud services to use two-factor authentication. Honan’s story provides a cautionary tale; we talk about data being “in the cloud,” but the data is really stored on someone else’s server – out of a consumer’s direct control.
18 U.S.C. § 1503 prohibits obstruction of justice. Section 1503’s omnibus or “catch-all” clause is broadly written:
Whoever . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection
18 U.S.C. § 1503(a). The omnibus clause is also broadly applied: obstruction of justice includes non-coercive conduct (like assisting witnesses with the evasion of subpoenas), baseless filings (like a lien on a judge’s property or a notice charging the judge was sedition), and conduct which does not actually succeed in impeding justice. One limitation is that obstruction of justice does require a pending federal proceeding. However, this proceeding can be a civil case: section 1503 “is broad enough to cover the attempted corruption of a prospective witness in a civil action in a Federal District Court.” Roberts v. United States, 239 F.2d 467, 470 (9th Cir. 1956). Cf., e.g., United States v. Lundwall, 1 F. Supp. 2d 249 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (refusing to dismiss indictment under section 1503 for corporate executives who destroyed documents while litigating a civil discrimination lawsuit). Given the breadth of section 1503’s omnibus clause and its application to civil cases, section 1503 should have broad application to improper interference with discovery in a federal civil case.
The Supreme Court decided the writ of certiorari was improvidently granted in First American v. Edwards today. Many defendants hoped that the Supreme Court would rule that plaintiffs who did not suffer any injury aside from the violation of rights under a statute had no standing to sue under the Constitution.