Politico has revealed that the international arm of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based investigative journalism group, may have violated the law by using a source's password to gain access to a private computer database during reporting for an expose on tuna fishing.
According to Politico, the source also served as a consultant to the Center's international arm, the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, for the tuna story and received a $15,000 payment.
Before the ICIJ reporters used the password, a lawyer for CPI reportedly warned a top Center official who has since left that the use of the password could constitute a misdemeanor. The Center executive later said the lawyer had signed off on the use of the password, but a memo shows the lawyer had warned of possible criminal exposure.
ABC News has worked on several investigations in cooperation with the Center for Public Integrity, including an ongoing probe of the Obama administration's green energy program and the half-billion-dollar federal loan to Solyndra, a failed solar-panel maker. ABC News was also a finalist for a 2011 Daniel Pearl Award, which is awarded by the ICIJ.