That’s a pretty serious accusation. But Felix Salmon questions the New York Timesstory about the court case against Goldman’s Fabrice Tourre (written by Louise Story and Gretchen Morgenson) for its dubious sourcing.

This is how they got the information: The story was sourced because a New York woman found emails in a laptop discarded in the garbage. Email messages for Tourre continued to stream in, but the woman ignored them until she heard Tourre’s name in the news for the SEC case. Then she gave the data to the Times.

That was the (heavily lawyered) explanation provided. But — even if that is the full truth — is it ethical? Even legal? Writes Salmon:

I understand that the computer was found in a garbage area, and that there’s a long tradition of investigative reporters using information found in the trash. But if Tourre left a key to his apartment in the trash, that wouldn’t give reporters the right to use that key to enter his apartment and snoop around. The laptop was essentially a key to Tourre’s email account — which held highly confidential correspondence between Tourre and his lawyers. An email account, these days, is arguably more private than an apartment, and breaking into a password-protected email account is clearly wrong.

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