Palin Email Hacker Says Emails Were Public Record… So No Crime?

from the legal-twists-and-turns dept

Last year, we noted two separate problems with trying to prosecute the guy accused of figuring out Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account password and posting it to the internet. First, the Justice Department has stood behind a position that opened emails are not private, based on a very literal reading of the law (you can check the link to understand the reasoning). Second, the law used to charge the guy specifically said that it was only a felony if it was used to further a criminal activity. That is, the hacking, by itself, wouldn’t be seen as a crime unless it was a part of a larger criminal activity — which it wasn’t. Prosecutors changed the charges earlier this year to address that — claiming that the criminal activity was a violation of Palin’s privacy.

The accused guy, David Kernell, and his lawyers are trying a variety of different defenses (not surprisingly, of course), including claiming that Palin’s privacy was not violated, because Palin’s emails were a public record because (due to a separate lawsuit) a court had ruled that Palin was required to preserve her Yahoo account email. Because of this, the argument goes, the emails are part of the public record (which, given the first DOJ definition above, could fit under the DOJ’s interpretation of the law). It’s difficult to see this line of reasoning succeeding directly, as it seems to defy common sense, so it would be surprising if a judge bought into it.

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Comments on “Palin Email Hacker Says Emails Were Public Record… So No Crime?”

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Windowslogy (user link) says:

Strengthen your password

If you were Sarah Palin and you used your first born child’s birth date for a password to open a public email account, you were doomed to be hacked. For whatever reasons, it’s a kind of fun to hack into public figures’ email accounts. Seeing Sarah Palin’s silly stumbles during the campaign, I was not surprise at all somebody hacked her email account.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Strengthen your password

Don’t you ever feel foolish, getting all your information from (P)MSNBC, Daily Show, John Stewart and the mainstream left wing media?

Speaking of stumbles – the current President – the Exalted One – looks like a total jackass after promising to close Gitmo within a year. Even his own party won’t provide the funds to carry out his lunatic campaign promise.

But of course, he’s so much more experienced than Palin. Yeah sure – the man can’t speak without a teleprompter in the room.

And they made fun of Bush’s malaprops. Barry Obama is an idiot and it’s becoming clearer every time he opens his mouth

Tom Ryan says:

Whether is was Sarah Palin or any other American Citizen, there was Malicious intent. He clearly stated he was searching for information on troopergate but was not successful. He then posted her modified email information to a hacker forum.

How is it hard to prosecute? It’s Simple “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” It clearly states “Knowingly and with the intent to defraud, trafficking in a password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization. “

Is this not what this person did?

Dan says:

Re: Re:

The problem is not that he did something wrong, which he clearly did, it’s that he’s being tried on trumped up charges that are a stretch in the first place. Essentially, the lawyers aren’t trying to get the kid off scott free, they’re trying to get the charges to be more realistic, misdemeanor hacking instead of felony hacking.

Although really, it isn’t and never was “hacking.”

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:

If he hoped to get a lesser charge, maybe he should not have tried hacking such a public figure. I don’t agree that politicians should have more rights than the average citizen, but the reality is, if you hack Joe Schmo down the street, you’ll probably get a misdemeanor, or even a dismissal of charges. If you hack a vice-presidential candidate, they’re going to throw the book at you, and more. There is a certain sense of hubris displayed when a person hacks a public figure as opposed to an otherwise-unknown citizen, so perhaps increased charges make sense, to a degree.

In any case, the hacker knew what he was doing, who he was hacking, and how risky that could be. He did it anyway, and it became big news. Now, he can’t really expect to plea down very much.

Adept-Slacker says:

Re: Re: Re:

Gotta go off-topic for a second…

Although really, it isn’t and never was “hacking.”

I know a lot of the people here are probably savvy enough to realize this, but I’m glad someone said it.

The kid resets her password using easily-obtained information, and it’s ‘hacking’? I suppose by that line of thought if I found her spare house key under the welcome mat and entered her home, it would be breaking and entering.

Sure, I’d still be doing something illegal: trespassing. Much like I think the ‘hacker’ was merely doing, until he went and posted info about it elsewhere and caused all that chaos… Changing her password makes it worse, but it’s still a far cry from REAL hacking.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The kid resets her password using easily-obtained information, and it’s ‘hacking’?”

Not particularly impressive hacking, but many would call it that. The word is slang in this context and has a pretty wide range of meanings.

“I suppose by that line of thought if I found her spare house key under the welcome mat and entered her home, it would be breaking and entering.”

Yep, it sure would. If the house is locked, and you do not have permission to enter, it’s breaking and entering whether you pick the lock, break a window, or find a key.

Adept-Slacker says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ok, I suppose you’re right… I just think in either case the name doesn’t accurately fit the action.

I’ll admit I’m a complete nerd, so I hate when ‘hack’ is used for something that doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of security and technology. Sure, googling info in order to answer password security questions takes a little clever thinking, but not much.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's not felony, it's treason, kid should be hung.

He is a pawn for the socialists sob’s whose actions constantly attack the freedoms we once had, constantly degrade the constitution, constantly commit treason, let’s hang him on the white house lawn along with the first bastard, Nancy, Harry, and all the all the others that put their own power above AMERICA.

Matt Bennett says:

I don’t think he should be held guilty of a felony, cuz saying that violating here privacy is the “further crime” is bullshit. That would completely gut that provision in the law, as how could you do any hacking without violating someone’s privacy? But he should be found guilty of something, even if it’s just a relative slap on the wrist.

how to hack yahoo passwords (user link) says:

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Their service hack into yahoo account is incredible!

I was a little antsy waiting for know yahoo hacking password but once I got the email that they had gotten in and I saw the proof my heart dropped! Within minutes of making the payment I had the password! This is real, not no gimmick! I highly recommend these guys! I know ppl are always iffy about trusting such a site, but I was desparate and said FUCK IT thank goodness that is legit!
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Diane Calhoun, New York


MikeS says:


The constitution says you need a court order to search someones property. So it clearly is a crime. The question is has the law caught up with technology and how severe is it to hack someone else email account private or otherwise. Personally, I hope he get severely punished, but I doubt the law considers this as serious as the technology community does. What do you think would happen to a student who high-jacked a Professors emails account, changed the password, and published it on line so other students could manipulate the files?

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