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Monday, July 14, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 60.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Wisconsin DOJ says little on release of Capitol protesters' confidential information

Taylor: "They need to immediately let everybody know whose personal information was released."
Taylor: "They need to immediately let everybody know whose personal information was released."
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The Wisconsin Department of Justice still has little to say about the release of personal information on Capitol protesters by state lawyers who are prosecuting permit violations at the Capitol.

Isthmus reported Monday that Capitol protester Craig Spaulding and others who are demanding jury trials recently received confidential information on other activists from DOJ attorneys. Spaulding alone received personal information, including addresses, driver's license and Social Security numbers, on more than 60 other protesters at his pre-trial conference on Friday.

"What was released was released through discovery, which is required by law," DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck wrote in an emailed response Tuesday. "We understand people's concerns in regards to some of the personal information that may have been included in some of those reports and will be working to address it within our office and in cooperation with DOA."

The Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol police, deferred all questions to Brueck, noting that the matter is under the purview of DOJ.

"Based upon your article, it also looks like this was something that happened in discovery in court -- not an open records request," wrote DOA spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis in an email. "When DOA fulfills open records requests, we redact personally identifying information."

In a follow-up email, Isthmus asked Brueck whether DOA was reaching out to those whose personal information was released; whether the state would be offering those individuals free credit monitoring; who was responsible for not redacting the personal information; and whether the release of Social Security numbers by the state is a violation of the federal or state law. Brueck has not yet responded to these questions.

Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), who has been a vocal critic of the arrests of Solidarity Sing Along participants, called the release of confidential information by DOJ "totally unacceptable."

"They need to immediately let everybody know whose personal information was released," she says. "This is how identify fraud happens -- when Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers get out."

Taylor also questioned Brueck's statement that those protesters being prosecuted by the DOJ are required to receive, through the discovery process, the police reports of other protesters.

"I am not sure why all this information would be included," says Taylor, who is an attorney. "Even in discovery, when you have information of another person that is not pertinent, you redact it."

Attorney Susan Crawford, a former legal counsel to Gov. Jim Doyle, says the release of Social Security numbers could be a violation of the federal Social Security Act, which requires that public agencies that obtain or maintain social security numbers not disclose them.

"[The DOJ] shouldn't be releasing social security numbers," she says.

The release of Social Security numbers by state agencies has in the past cost state taxpayers big bucks, though contractors have sometimes footed the bill.

In January 2008, a state contractor, Electronic Data Systems (EDS), offered free identity theft insurance and credit monitoring to 260,000 Medicaid, BadgerCare and SeniorCare participants who received a brochure in the mail that included their social security numbers on the address label. The company said at the time the monitoring services and the cost of resending the brochure would cost it $1 million.

In 2006, the Department of Revenue printed 171,000 tax forms with residents' Social Security numbers on the mailing labels, though only 115,000 were mailed. The state ended up paying just under $602,000 to monitor the credit of 28,477 residents whose Social Security numbers were exposed. The company that printed the booklets pitched in $110,000 toward the credit monitoring.

And when the state Department of Revenue in 2012 published an annual sales report online that included the Social Security numbers of thousands of state residents who sold their homes in 2011, the state offered to pay for a year of credit-monitoring services for those affected. The Department of Revenue did not respond immediately to a request for the cost of these services.

For more than a year, the Capitol police have been ticketing individuals who participate in the noontime Solidarity Sing Along at the state Capitol, which has become a daily protest against Gov. Scott Walker's policies. Participants who refuse to get a permit to gather in the Rotunda have been cited by police for various infractions.

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