An uproar over explicit e-mails in Harrisburg has encouraged much inference but provided few facts. Crucial questions about which state officials sent and viewed the messages remain unanswered.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane must release more information to allow the public to distinguish among those who distributed the pornographic messages and those who received them. That's a big difference, and Kane has an obligation to acknowledge it.
Last week, Kane allowed reporters to view the salacious and demeaning contents of some of the e-mails said to have been exchanged among scores of state workers. Her office found the dirty messages during its reexamination of the investigation of former Penn State assistant coach and serial sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky.
The Inquirer and several other news organizations sought the e-mails in the interest of determining whether state workers misused government resources to disseminate inappropriate material. But Kane's incomplete disclosure has been more confusing than illuminating.
Kane, a Democrat, says she can't reveal more because of personnel policies. That doesn't make sense given that she has already disclosed the names of eight officials linked to the e-mails, all of them former Attorney General's Office employees under Kane's Republican predecessor, Gov. Corbett.
This isn't the first time Kane has made serious accusations in an irresponsible manner. She also recklessly implied that a dropped sting investigation was tainted by racism. Some believe her feud with former subordinates over that case and the Sandusky investigation is related to her partial release of the e-mails.
Dirty e-mails aren't against the law, but they could run afoul of codes and policies affecting state employees. Using government time and computers to distribute pornographic images would certainly reflect poorly on the judgment of those involved, particularly if they have been entrusted to enforce and uphold the law.
About 30 of those involved are said to be current or former members of the attorney general's staff. Circulating such e-mails would raise questions about their fitness to prosecute sex crimes and more.
Corbett has asked Kane to hand over the e-mails, which have been linked to a few of his top aides. Chief Justice Ronald Castille has requested the names of any judges involved. Both deserve a full account of the behavior of any employees they're responsible for.
Ultimately, though, the public has an important interest in knowing whether judges, prosecutors, and other public servants have acted inappropriately and insensitively. That's why only a full disclosure of the e-mails will suffice.