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Judge apologizes for lag in unsealing documents in leak case

A federal judge apologized Wednesday for an 18-month delay in unsealing documents in a case involving an alleged leak of classified information to a reporter.

The documents include two warrants and related materials for the email accounts of Stephen Kim, a State Department adviser who faces charges of leaking secret information about North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The warrants and materials, which had originally been ordered unsealed in November 2011, will be unsealed this week. Royce Lamberth, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, said that a "series of administrative errors by the court's staff" caused the delay.

A third search warrant, along with an affidavit for some of Rosen's private emails, had also been ordered unsealed in November 2011, but those weren't unsealed until last week. Those materials showed that as part of the Kim investigation, the government tracked Rosen's comings and goings from the State Department, and an FBI agent said there was probable cause to believe the reporter broke the law. Rosen wasn't charged.

There was also a delay in unsealing Lamberth's 2010 order that the government wasn't required to notify Rosen that his emails had been the subject of a warrant. Although that order was posted on the court's website, it was not available on the public docket until now.

"The clerk's office has been unable to explain why none of these errors were discovered as a result of our `quality control' efforts to double-check docket entries and orders daily," Lamberth wrote in an opinion unsealing the records.

The judge said the court will review performance of personnel involved as well as the court's administrative processes.

"The court apologizes to the public and the media for the administrative errors made by the court's staff in these matters," he wrote.
  The clerk's office declined to comment.