Sometimes you're just paranoid...
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By WILLIAM BENDER firstname.lastname@example.org
Acting at the behest of Delaware County President Judge Kenneth Clouse, two former FBI agents performed a sweep of the courthouse to neutralize what Clouse had deemed a security breach. It is unclear when the sweep took place, but Clouse said Thursday that the former G-men were paid less than $2,000 to determine if courthouse phones were tapped.
"There was sensitive personnel information and all kinds of things that were leaked out. They were either leaked or the phones were tapped," Clouse said.
He also cited "confidential" information concerning the case of H. Beatty Chadwick, the Main Line attorney who has been in jail for more than a decade for refusing to reveal where $2.5 million in marital assets are hidden.
Asked if the problem had been resolved, Clouse said, "As far as we know, it has been. These fellas should know what they’re doing. They’re former FBI agents."
The judge would not disclose whether any phone lines were, in fact, tapped.
"We’ve remedied some suspicious areas," he said, declining to elaborate.
The judge’s "security measure" was apparently authorized without the knowledge of county council, which provides Clouse with money to run the court system, but does not monitor all the day-to-day operations.
"It’s not something that I’ve heard of," said county Executive Director Marianne Grace.
"So Judge Clouse swept the courthouse?" county Solicitor John McBlain asked. "That’s a new one."
"This is a joke, right?" asked county council Chairman Andrew Reilly.
"I can tell you I will be following up with him to talk about it because it does raise some concerns from my standpoint," Reilly said.
Clouse would not say if he hired the agents to stop the flow of information to CommonSense (http://www.delcotompaine.blogspot.com/), a county politics blog that was launched last August. The author writes under the pseudonym Peter Porcupine.
The site is "intended to be a forum for discussing Delaware County government, and how it can be improved to the benefit of the taxpayers." It has been critical of county Republicans, particularly Clouse and his handling of the Chadwick case.
Clouse’s longtime companion, Lynn Cohen, is also a frequent topic on the site.
In 2004, the judge was targeted by courthouse demonstrators who claimed he had misrepresented his marital status to avoid paying about $3,000 in real estate transfer taxes in 2002. Clouse later paid the money and was cleared of any wrongdoing by the state attorney general’s office.
The site’s most recent posting is dated March 10 under the heading "Wedding Bells Are Ringing?" It asks, "Is it true that wedding bells will soon be ringing in the President Judge’s chambers?"
The blog’s operator did not respond to e-mail Thursday.
Clouse downplayed the significance of the courthouse sweep, saying, "it’s done all the time by all types of government agencies."
McBlain said he was not aware of any phones being checked in the adjacent government center, nor does he suspect that they are tapped.
"If somebody’s listening, they’re going to be awfully bored," he said.