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No Charges Against MO Journalist For Citing Vulnerable State Website

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist will not be charged after pointing out a weakness in a Missouri state computer database, said Cole County prosecutor Locke Thompson. Locke said he appreciated Gov. Mike Parson for forwarding his concerns but would not be filing charges, the Post-Dispatch reported. The decision was reached almost seven weeks after Thompson’s office received a report the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Parson had suggested prosecution was imminent. Post-Dispatch Publisher Ian Caso said, "We are pleased the prosecutor recognized there was no legitimate basis for any charges against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or our reporter ... The accusations against our reporter were unfounded and made to deflect embarrassment for the state’s failures and for political purposes."


As late as Dec. 29, Parson had expressed confidence that a case would be brought. The Post-Dispatch reported Oct. 13 that more than 100,000 Social Security numbers of Missouri educators had been vulnerable on a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. Post-Dispatch journalist Josh Renaud found teachers’ Social Security numbers were accessible in the HTML source code of some publicly available web pages. The newspaper informed DESE of the flaw and delayed publication of a report until the department could take action to protect the privacy of individuals in the database. Meanwhile, Parson called Renaud a "hacker" for obtaining the information from a public website.

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