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.

Filed Under: david kernell, email, hacking, sarah palin


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Bettawrekonize, 21 May 2009 @ 7:04pm

    I'm no Sarah Palin fan but this is a case where I hope that kid gets in trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2009 @ 7:44pm

    Down with Tennessee Democrats and their hacker children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trevlac, 21 May 2009 @ 8:21pm

    I hope he gets off scott-free and sets a precedent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2009 @ 8:37pm

      Re:

      Why, so people can hack our E - Mails with no consequences? Well, maybe the backlash might change the laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Less Cowardly Than You, 5 Jun 2009 @ 8:27pm

        Re: Re:

        He didn't hack anything, he simply answered their password recovery questions. If someone can do that to you, then obviously you are not smart enough to be using the internet...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 2:38am

      Re:

      Missed your commentary, bud. You should comment more often.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Windowslogy, 21 May 2009 @ 8:56pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 6:12am

      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

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom Ryan, 21 May 2009 @ 9:05pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dan, 21 May 2009 @ 9:30pm

      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."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2009 @ 9:37pm

        Re: Re:

        Perhaps it's not a felony but there still should be some punishment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        hegemon13, 22 May 2009 @ 6:15am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Adept-Slacker, 22 May 2009 @ 2:28pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          hegemon13, 22 May 2009 @ 7:51pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Adept-Slacker, 26 May 2009 @ 10:08am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 2:38am

      Re:

      As an officer holding a public office, there are expected liberties that will be given up. For example, all emails are public record, as well as home and personal life are increasingly under the microscope. I thought Levi Johnston proved that.

      Am I missing something else here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Les, 21 May 2009 @ 9:34pm

    Sarah Palin's Email Hacker

    His defense about the emails being public record is only a valid defense if he had previously requested same records via the Freedom of Information Act. Even then, what he did to gain access to the records can be a crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2009 @ 9:53pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Azrael, 22 May 2009 @ 12:38am

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

      Heil Bush ! Sieg heil ! Sieg heil !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mechwarrior, 22 May 2009 @ 7:29am

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

      I suppose the Patriot Act gave us protection for our freedoms? I want to know, once all of our freedoms are taken away (Like, I dunno, having a different opinion from conservative radicals), would threat from terrorism be dealt with?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Techsupoort, 22 May 2009 @ 12:37am

    RE:

    That is, the hacking, by itself, wouldn't be seen as a crime unless it was a part of a larger criminal activity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 5:56am

    If I ever run for office then are all my email open to the public???? I guess it is to late now to stop subscribing to all the porn feeds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 6:37am

    still not cool

    listen the lady is crazy, but don't kick a hive unless you're willing to get stung for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt Bennett, 22 May 2009 @ 6:48am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustMe, 22 May 2009 @ 8:32am

    Re: Mike OP

    Common sense? The US Justice code? You must be new here.

    Buah ha ha ha I crack myself up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wolfy, 22 May 2009 @ 11:37am

    All he did was use logic combined with intuition to guess her (weak) password, with the presumed intention of showing she was violating the public official communication laws (which she was indeed doing). Police use this technique often in pursuit of criminals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 1:10pm

      Re:

      Exactly. Why isn't Palin getting hauled into court and thrown into jail for try to avoid that law?

      PS the media of the left is way more truthful than the right. Just look at junkie Limbaugh..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        hegemon13, 22 May 2009 @ 7:53pm

        Re: Re:

        "PS the media of the left is way more truthful than the right. Just look at junkie Limbaugh.."

        HAHAHAHAHAHA! Wow, you are as brainwashed as the ditto-heads. Media? Truthful? About politics? Seriously, is this a joke?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Oktober, 22 May 2009 @ 1:50pm

      Re:

      You've hit the nail on the head. The rub here is that because she was using the yahoo account as a means to conduct state business outside the reach of the public records laws, the contents of that account are de facto public records.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    how to hack yahoo passwords, 25 May 2009 @ 1:34am

    how to hack yahoo passwords

    http://www.cheapcrack.net/hack-facebook-password.html are reliable!



    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 MilanoRosa.com is legit!
    I thank a bunch, RayaHari is the BEST!!!!!



    BTW, I found another website that can hack yahoo passwords and other one specialized in hack into hotmail passwords.



    Diane Calhoun, New York


    US

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MikeS, 7 Jul 2009 @ 9:13am

    Crime

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.