WASHINGTON, Jan 20 — The US Supreme Court said today that an eight-month investigation that questioned 100 possible suspects had failed to find the source of the stunning leak last year of its draft abortion ruling.
The unprecedented leak, which the court called "one of the worst breaches of trust in its history," revealed it planned to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had guaranteed a woman's right to abortion.
The leak, which came seven weeks before the final decision was announced, sparked fury among pro- and anti-abortion activists, with both sides claiming that the court had succumbed to politics.
Most of the 100 were quickly eliminated as suspects, and a smaller group was examined, including court officials with apparent ties to Politico, the publication that revealed the draft.
Hacking of the court's systems was ruled out, but investigators discovered that there was inadequate security on many of the printers in the court that could have permitted a copy to be printed without any record.
After multiple interviews of certain court employees, the court said "the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence."
The court today condemned the leak as an attack on its credibility.
"The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process," it said.
Former president Donald Trump demanded that the Politico reporters divulge their sources or be put "in jail until the answer is given" in a post on his Truth Social site.
"Stop playing games, this leaking cannot be allowed to happen... Arrest the reporter, publisher, editor - you'll get your answer fast," he added.
The White House condemned Trump's comments and said "freedom of the press is part of the bedrock of American democracy" in a statement sent exclusively to Politico, the news outlet reported.
"Calling for egregious abuses of power in order to suppress the Constitutional rights of reporters is an insult to the rule of law and undermines fundamental American values and traditions," spokesman Andrew Bates said in the statement.
The leak, which came as both pro- and anti-abortion forces were on edge over the coming decision, sparked speculation that it was designed to influence conservative justices who might still be on the fence about it.
The draft was authored by very conservative Justice Samuel Alito and made clear the intention to eviscerate Roe v. Wade and a subsequent high court ruling that had protected abortion rights for nearly five decades.
The 6-3 decision, split along ideological lines, gave the 50 states the right to regulate abortion, and since then around 20 have outlawed or placed severe restrictions on it.
The final decision was little changed from Alito's draft.
The leak unleashed much speculation about whether it came from the offices of conservative justices or progressives. Each justice would have had several staff members with access to the draft.
The investigation said in addition to the justices, 82 people had direct access to the draft.
But no evidence has surfaced on who leaked the document or what their intention was.
The report said court security had been lessened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The pandemic and resulting expansion of the ability to work from home, as well as gaps in the Court's security policies, created an environment where it was too easy to remove sensitive information from the building and the court's IT networks," it said.
It also said that some court employees admitted to confiding the conclusions of the draft to a spouse, violating court ethics.
The court said the investigation will continue. — AFP