*New York Times*, NATIONAL, Sunday, Sept. 2, 1990 (p. 25)
"U.S. Mistakenly Sold a Prosecutor's Secret Data"
Pikeville, Ky.,  Sept.   1  (AP)  --  A  United States Attorney's
secret computer files,  including  electronic  copies  of  sealed
indictments  and information about pending F.B.I. inquiries, were
mistakenly sold by the  Government  a  month ago to a businessman
who paid $45  for  what  he  thought  was  only  broken  computer
The  Justice  Department  now  says the sale could compromise any
number of criminal cases, and it  has sued the businessman to get
the data back.
The businessman, Charles Hayes, who  resells  Government  surplus
items,  says  that  he  would  like  to  cooperate  but  that the
equipment he bought, and  various  parts  from  it, have now been
mixed with his previous inventory and so he  is  no  longer  sure
which  is  which.  He says he is trying to determine which of his
customers may  have  bought  some  of  the  equipment,  but he is
resisting  the  Government's  demand  that  he   identify   those
customers, terming it an unwarranted intrusion into his business.
                  -+- A Search of His Business -+-
The  Government   finds   Mr.   Hayes's  attitude  insufficiently
forthcoming.   In  addition  to  the  lawsuit,  which  was  filed
Thursday, Federal marshals armed with a  search  warrant  arrived
Friday  night  at  his establishment in Pulaski County, about 125
miles west of here.  By the  time they had left nine hours later,
they had seized what Mr. Hayes described today as  nine  computer
terminals, a computer memory device and assorted other equipment.
According  to  the  Government's  lawsuit,  the case stems from a
mistake made last January when a technician for the Harris-Lanier
Corporation, the manufacturer of the  system that Mr. Hayes would
later buy, arrived at the office of the United States Attorney in
Lexington, Louis DeFalaise.  The system, in disrepair, was to  be
sold  at  auction,  and  the technician was supposed to erase the
computer's memory.
In July, at an  auction  of  the General Services Administration,
Mr. Hayes made a successful  bid  of  $45  for  the  system:   13
computer  terminals,  two  central  memory  units,  two cartridge
module drives and nine printers.   After  Mr. Hayes picked up the
equipment on  Aug.  3,  the  Harris-Lanier  technician  told  the
Government  that  he  had  not  erased  the  memory  after all; A
magnetic probe used to scramble the  data had been too weak, and,
because the equipment was broken, technicians had been unable  to
purge the memory through normal computer commands.
The  Government's  lawsuit  says  that  the computer's memory and
backup storage  tapes  almost  certainly  still contain sensitive
details about informers  who  work  for  the  Federal  Bureau  of
Investigation,   about   sealed   indictments,   about  federally
protected  witnesses  and  about  employees  in  Mr.  DeFalaise's
                 -+- "Irreparable Injury" -+-
"The U.S. Attorney's office," the lawsuit says, "used some or all
of the computer equipment  to  prepare  and store virtually every
document and record generated by  both  the  civil  and  criminal
divisions of the office from 1983 to 1989."
If  made  public, the suit goes on, the files could ruin criminal
investigations and cause "great  harm  and irreparable injury" to
the work of Federal prosecutors.  "The seriousness of the  injury
to the United States of America cannot be understated," it says.
Within  hours  of  the lawsuits filing, a Federal district judge,
Eugene Siler Jr., ordered Mr. Hayes to return the computer system
to the Government and not  examine,  copy or distribute the data.
A hearing has been set for Tuesday.
Mr. Hayes said he had been told before he  bought  the  equipment
that  the computer memory had been wiped out.  He called the sale
"the worst case of bureaucracy I  have ever seen," and added, "If
it is this loose, I wonder what else is missing up there" in  the
Office of the United States Attorney.
"What  it  amounts  to," he said, "is I am being punished for the
inefficiency" in the prosecutor's office.