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1. Busted: Narcotics agent nabs Jerry Sandusky
2. 'JoePa' takes the fall: A slow Tom Corbett throws Joe Paterno under the bus
3. The Magic Moment: Six decades of Pennsylvania governors, AGs, and the state Republican Party
Part 1 The Appointed Years 1950 to 1980 >
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Corbett administration wants links
to Jerry Sandusky trial transcripts
removed from web
Pennsylvania state official says links to public
court transcripts 'removed from Google'
'Right to be forgotten' comes to US?
Not so fast, Google says
A close ally to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett says the Corbett administration wants all links to court transcripts from the 2012 Jerry Sandusky pedophile trial removed from the Internet.
The Pennsylvania official claims that unnamed parties "have been successful at having (links to the Sandusky transcripts) removed from Google."
Links to the Sandusky transcripts hosted on the Centre County, Pennsylvania, courthouse website indeed are no longer found on the search engine Google.
But Google disputes the administration's claim that the search engine "removed" the links.
The Sandusky trial transcripts at the center of the controversy are important and compelling public documents that many in Pennsylvania government would rather you not read.
The unusual take-down request comes from Corbett's "Victim's Advocate," Jennifer Storm.
The at-times grammatically incorrect take-down request reads:
"My name is Jennifer Storm and I am the Victim Advocate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I work with several of the victims of Jerry Sandusky and am writing to you to see if I can have your (sic) remove the links that show up ... that list the actual names of the victims of Jerry Sandusky. These documents are owned by the Centre County Courts and (they) do not wish to have them listed on any outside webpage, they have been successful at having them removed from Google and we are requesting the same of your site."
Gov. Corbett appointed Storm to the Victim Advocate's office in November 2013.
The Corbett administration's attempt to suppress access to public court transcripts related to the Sandusky trial is both interesting and troubling for any number of reasons.
The trial transcript from June 14, 2012, for example, details the sworn court testimony of a Sandusky victim named Sebastian, who testified that he was sexually abused by Sandusky in 2009, the year after the Pennsylvania state police and the attorney general's office, under AG Tom Corbett, were first alerted to the crimes in 2008.
Pennsylvania 'Victims Advocate' Jennifer Storm: is her boss Tom Corbett one of the 'victims' she's trying to protect?
A number of Corbett AG staffers now stand accused of sharing and viewing internet pornography on state computers, when they should have been investigating Sandusky. Hundreds of pieces of porn were forwarded to them over the years by a state Supreme Court Justice, no less.
Some Sandusky defenders in recent months have gone so far as to claim that kids were not molested by Sandusky -- an inaccurate and historically dangerous claim easily refuted by reading the transcripts of the sworn testimony of the young men who one after another publicly testified under oath against the former coach.
The transcripts also detail how the kids were sent to Sandusky by as-yet uninvestigated state child welfare agencies, the inability of the victims to get timely help from Pennsylvania law enforcement in general, and AG Tom Corbett's office in particular.
In recent years, moreover, there has been a concerted effort by public officials in Pennsylvania to misuse the court and grand jury system to conceal public corruption, and to punish writers and others who complain about it. An obvious intent is to conceal growing government and court corruption in Pennsylvania.
What makes the Corbett administration's take-down request all the more peculiar is that the yardbird.com and newslanc articles did not link to any of the transcripts on the Centre County courthouse website.
Even so, the Sandusky trial transcripts remain public documents, and at the moment are freely available for download from the Centre County court's website.
Curiously, you just can't find them on Google.
The transcript mentioned above, for example, containing the testimony of Sebastian, narcotics agent Anthony Sassano, Penn State police officer Ronald Schreffler, and others, can still be viewed and downloaded here:
(Office of Attorney General Agent Sassano's former supervisor, Randy Feathers, I should add, recently resigned from his state job when it was revealed by Right to Know requests that Feathers received more than 400 pornographic emails.)
What they don't want you to read: section from page 216 of June 14, 2012 Sandusky trial transcript where victim says he was sexually abused in 2009, while AG Corbett fiddled and ran for governor, and his cronies in AG's office were viewing internet porn, forwarded by a state Supreme Court Justice. Click here or on graphic to enlarge graphic, or download entire transcript here >.
But when a Google search is conducted for this and other Sandusky transcripts, no results are shown for the documents on the Centre County court's website.
Which raises another interesting question: had Google agreed to suppress links to the site, as Storm seems to contend? "They have been successful at having them removed from Google."
Earlier this year the European Union forced Google to take down links to web pages some want concealed, relating to unpleasant events one may want "forgotten."
As of October 2014, Google says it removed more than 170,000 urls from web searches in Europe following the controversial European Court "right to be forgotten edict" in May.
Google is regularly blocked in China, by a one-party regime that cannot afford to allow its people to view the whole truth of its society's problems, or to weigh conflicting ideas or solutions for themselves. The New York Times recently reported this is not only hurting companies like Google, and the Chinese public, but the Chinese economy.
"The increasingly pervasive blocking of the web, together with other problems like severe air pollution in China’s urban centers, has led some businesses to transfer employees to regional hubs with more open and speedier Internets, like Singapore. And more companies are considering similar moves," the Times reports.
"'Companies overlooked Internet problems when the economy was booming,' said Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, a Shanghai consulting firm. 'But now a lot of companies are asking whether they really need to be in China.'"
So why is this happening in the U.S., in bucolic central Pennsylvania, at the behest of the troubled Corbett administration? we wondered.
We contacted Google. Jason Freidenfelds, of the search engine company, wasted little time to reply:
It looks like the website itself specifies that Google should ignore PDFs on it -- you can see this in their robots.txt file here:
(If you're curious, robots.txt is one the most venerable standards on the web, dating back to 1994 -- it's a very common convention for websites to ask search engines to ignore certain pages or files. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robots_exclusion_standard )
So it turns out that someone at the Centre County courthouse programmed the Googlebot to ignore all Sandusky transcripts (and all other public pdfs for that matter), so that these and other important public records will remain hidden from, well, the public.
But who gave this order?
We called the office of Centre County Court Administrator Maxine O. Ishler, who initially was not available for comment.
I asked to speak with the person responsible for the court's webpage.
"That would be RBA," I was told.
The county receptionist immediately connected me, in a somewhat Kafkaesque fashion, through the court's internal phone system to Kurt Loecsh, of RBA Professional Data Systems, of State College.
‘The transcripts detail how kids were sent to Sandusky by uninvestigated state child welfare agencies, the inability of the victims to get timely help from Pennsylvania law enforcement in general, and AG Tom Corbett's office in particular.’
The Centre County court administrator's office is a client of RBA's, Loecsh explained.
Yes, he was familiar with the Googlebot instruction found on the court's webpage, he says.
Loecsh also said he was familiar with the controversial ruling forcing Google to remove URLs in the EU.
Whose idea was this in Centre County? I asked.
"Let me put you on hold real quick," he tells me.
He returned to say that the work order to conceal the web pages came from Court Administrator Ishler, who he said was out of the office for the day.
I pointed out that the court's website hosted many pdf files, from transcripts to applications to filing instructions, and that it seemed unusual that they all should now be blocked from the world's biggest search engine -- by a public court.
I asked Loecsh whether RBA administered web pages for any other courthouse websites. Was the Googlebot instruction concealing the Sandusky files at all unusual? I asked.
"It's a very unusual case," Loecsh said. "I can't speak on behalf of our client."
Loecsh promised to get back to me when Court Administrator Ishler returned to her office.
He never got back to me.
This much seemed certain: in the run-up to the tough general election, the Pennsylvania Victim Advocate's Office is acting in a way that can be construed to protect Gov. Tom Corbett, who also apparently considers himself a victim.
TO BE CONTINUED
-- Bill Keisling
Posted October 22, 2014
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