A lawyer for Matthew Hale, the white supremacist convicted last year of plotting to kill a federal judge whose husband and mother were slain last week, said on Tuesday that Mr. Hale's mother called him a few months ago and asked him to pass on an encoded message to one of Mr. Hale's supporters.
"She said she didn't know what the message meant, but she was going to read it to me verbatim because Matt made her write it down when she visited him," the lawyer, Glenn Greenwald, said in an interview. "It was two or three sentences that were very cryptic and impossible to understand in terms of what they were intended to convey." ...
[Hale's mother], in an interview Monday, said that her message to Mr. Greenwald was about someone her son thought should testify at his April 6 sentencing, and that any coding was only to keep the federal monitors of their conversations from figuring out his legal strategy.
That's pretty much it for the substance of the story. No one has any idea what the "coded" message was. The geniuses at the FBI are pitted against the genius of the founder of the World Church of the Creator.
But what's remarkable to me is that the story exists at all. This message was a communication regarding the representation from a client to his lawyer. And the lawyer not only provided it not only to the FBI, but also to the press.
When I was but a wee lawyer, they told me a story about "attorney-client privilege" and "the duty of loyalty." These things, virtues lost in the mists of time apparently, were supposed to be essential elements of how a lawyer gave her client effective representation. There is no indication in the story that Hale authorized this disclosure. So how is it that the lawyer decided to disclose this communication?
Without knowing more, I wonder what effect the recent conviction of Lynne Stewart had on the lawyer's actions. Stewart was convicted of passing messages from her client to his associates on the outside. If you're a lawyer weighing an ethics violation versus a federal criminal charge, which would you choose?