Jodi Wilgoren of the NY Times may have committed a deadly lapse of judgment in her moving account of execution-style slaying of the husband and mother of a Federal judge.
The gist of the story is this:
For Joan Humphrey Lefkow, the nightmare began shortly after her appointment as a federal judge in 2000, when an Oregon group's lawsuit to block white supremacists from using a name it had trademarked, World Church of the Creator, landed in her lap.
Soon, Judge Lefkow found her home address and family photographs posted along with violent threats on hate-filled Web sites. Last April, one of the Aryan movement's most notorious leaders was convicted of plotting her murder.
On Tuesday, Judge Lefkow was under armed federal guard in an undisclosed place, mourning the deaths of Michael F. Lefkow, her husband of 30 years, and Donna Humphrey, her 89-year-old mother, whom she found dead of gunshots to the head in their basement the evening before.
"I think she's very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger," said Laura Lefkow, 20, the third of the judge's five daughters, "but there's no way she should have known."
Local and federal law enforcement officials said on Tuesday they were investigating possible connections between the double killing and Matthew Hale, the white supremacist now in federal prison awaiting sentencing for soliciting Judge Lefkow's assassination, or his many sympathizers. Federal officials in Washington said agents were reviewing Judge Lefkow's caseload in search of suspects, with the main thrust on the hate groups that had focused on her before.
Now, the potentially deadly lapse in judgment is this: Ms. Wilgoren reports the name, age, and college of Laura Lefkow, who was quoted above. That information is not clearly available by way of "Google", nor do any major news services other than those syndicating the Times story seem to be reporting it.
And why the Times would report this detail in a story suggesting that hate groups may be targeting a judge's family is beyond me.
Now, it is possible that the Times is, knowingly or not, presenting disinformation. It is also possible that the proper authorities, such as the Federal Marshalls charged with protecting Judge Lefkow, have been alerted to this possible breach in their security.
And it is possible that more publicity is not the antidote to this unfortunate publicity. Maybe the hate groups (if they are truly involved with this) missed the Times story, but will pick it up on the blogs. I am at sea as to what the right thing is to do.
However, I am hoping that this post will call this point to the attention of the proper authorities. I would also be delighted and reassured if some Net-Sleuths could track down the Lefkow daughters by other means. I could not make a connection with Google, but even Google does not cover everything; perhaps these family details are more widely known than Google realizes.
Thanks for the help.
And Ms. Wilgoren did get a beautiful, moving quote from the daughter - is there a father anywhere who would not be proud to have this as his epitaph:
Mr. Lefkow met his future wife in the library of Wheaton College, where she was an undergraduate. "She was doing a paper on Indonesia, and he was doing a paper on Indonesia, and she had all his books," Laura Lefkow recounted of her parents' first encounter. "He used to say he was rich in daughters and not much else," she laughed. "He was just an optimist about everything, to the point where it was like, 'Oh, my gosh, Dad, come on,' and he would be like, 'It'll be fine,' and it was. It was always fine."
I would not want something to happen to this young woman as a result of this Times story.
MORE: Other reactions at Memeorandum.
UPDATE: I am assured in the comments that (a) the daughter is not at school, but home for the funeral, and under protection; (b) the school sent an e-mail to the student body discussing the situation. Based on (b), it seems fair to presume that any plans for the ongoing security for family members would incorporate the idea that her presence on campus and connection to the judge was not any kind of secret.
And I have no idea what to make of this, but Bill Keller, Exec Editor at the Times, is a Pomona alum and sits on their Board of Trustees. Well, if this is eventually deemed to have been a faux pas, he will hear of it.