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Protective order to bury FBI findings on political corruption

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Mayor Ed Lee and other public officials are named in details from an FBI probe into state Sen. Leland Yee and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Nearly all of the information collected by the FBI in the agency’s investigation of alleged organized crime and political corruption in San Francisco will now be put under a protective order, following explosive revelations first reported by the San Francisco Examiner last week.

The revelations — mostly contained in FBI wiretaps — were included in a filing by lawyers representing Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and implicated Mayor Ed Lee and other San Francisco politicians in acts of alleged corruption.

“All documents filed by the parties that contain information from wiretap applications and orders, and the documents incorporated therein, shall be filed under seal and may be disclosed only upon a finding of good cause by this court,” said U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in his order.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked Breyer to seal the motion and all that it contained before the judge made his ruling on what prosecutors called a “largely unintelligible and potentially frivolous motion, apparently more to attract media attention than to advance his criminal case.”

Breyer had previously put a limited protective over on the case because, as he and the prosecutors said, the information in the discovery files could compromise ongoing investigations and reveal informants.

“There are sensitive materials identifying numerous individuals who are not believed to have engaged in any criminal activities, but who were nonetheless captured on FBI surveillance or documented in FBI reports, for example after being introduced by charged defendants to undercover agents. Such materials, if improperly disclosed, could be used to besmirch these otherwise innocent individuals,” wrote the U.S. Attorney’s Office on April 8, 2014, in a motion for the limited protective order.

But after Chow’s lawyers filed their motion last week, a motion by the U.S. Attorney’s office to seal documents that have already been released was denied by Breyer. As a result, documents in the Chow case that have already been made public will remain so.

“These documents are available on the Internet and have been widely publicized,” Breyer said in the order. “The Court will not engage in a futile act. However, the court will address the propriety of defendant Chow’s having publicly filed documents … at the conclusion of the proceedings.”

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