So which is worse...

...that the highest ranking public official in Alaska was using private email accounts to conduct official state business so she'd be less susceptible to open records laws and subpoenas, or some dumb kid guessing her personal information, enabling him to change her password and access that account?

What does it say that the latter is facing charges, but the former isn't?

NOTE:  I amended this post to exclude the word "illegal."  It isn't clear Palin's use of private accounts for state business was a violation of the letter of the law.  If she deleted emails in those accounts, it likely was.  But she refuses to turn over emails from those accounts in open records requests, so it's probably not possible to know. What is clear is that she wasn't all that serious about her gubernatorial campaign promise for "open and transparent" government.

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  • The Silicon-based candidate||

    My fellow prisoners, what is important is not what is, and is not important, but what commitment has been committed to, even now, in this great America, the greatest America there has ever been. My friends, we must not surrender to the white flag, as General Petraeus surges everywhere. That one.

  • Junter Klops||

    Which is more pathetic, that McCain doesn't know how to set up an email account, or that Palin's email account got hacked?

  • ||


    the highest ranking public official in Alaska was illegally using a Yahoo email account to conduct official state business so she'd be less susceptible to open records laws and subpoenas



    I honestly can't get upset about that, illegal or not. If she was stealing or committing fraud, it might be material, but I don't see it as being any different than talking to someone in her living room at home.

    As for the kid, an indictment may be an over-reaction, but I can't make a hero out of a jerk who wants to hack into someone else's personal business.

  • shecky||

    The kid doesn't sound so dumb in comparison.

  • ||

    Answer: worse that the child of an elected official from the opposition party hacked into the private account of an American citizen who happens to be a vice-presidential candidate. This is a no-brainer. Anyone that declares otherwise is a partisan hack.

  • ||

    Which is more pathetic: that Palin used a private account, or that "libertarians", in their drive to criticize every politician, are de facto lauding and approving of trespassing and hacker jackassery?

    It's "funny hacker behavior" that leads to regulations and increased state control. If you cannot learn how to act like a decent human being and respect others' privacy, and the main "freedom" advocates bless off on it, we're all fucked.

    Get real.

  • Radley Balko||

    I'm not "de facto" approving of anything. And as for "partisan hack," you might remember that I wrote a piece appearing on this site in defense of Palin with respect to other allegations against her.

    The implications of allowing public officials to bend the rules so they can get around public access laws are far graver than a kid guessing (not "hacking," exactly) his way into a poorly protected email account.

    You might note the mass of missing Bush administration emails, which conveniently were sent during periods of time currently subject to Congressional investigations of executive abuse of power.

    There's plenty of reason to be concerned about Palin's behavior, here. She's running to sit in Dick Cheney's chair.

  • Balloon Maker||

    Silly Radley, you can't get away with criticizing either side, lest you be a shill for the other.

  • Ray||

    Yes, that Democratic official was so high ranking. I can imagine the order coming down from the DNC's HQ and immediately obeyed, given the party's long-standing rep for being hyper-organized. State officials, even if low on the food chair, also fear invoking the wrath of Howard "The Scream" Dean.

  • shecky||

    I'll defend hacker jackassery when it exposes the lack of security used by public officials on public business. In such cases, the hackers should be thanked, not prosecuted.

  • ||

    Radley,

    I'm not accusing you of partisan hackery. What I am saying is that there is an element of blindness present in libertarians to be "happy" at what happens to politicians, no matter what. Don't believe me? Search around for jokes about Ted Kennedy. You yourself have threatened (rightly) to throw people from the site who rejoice in the death of LEOs. It's the same (collectivist, I should add) mindset.

    The implications of allowing public officials to bend the rules so they can get around public access laws are far graver than a kid guessing (not "hacking," exactly) his way into a poorly protected email account.

    but you're angry that she's not facing charges in something that's not clearly illegal (as you noted in the edit).

    Right now, without proof of malfeasance on the governor's part, the answer to your question is "The trespassing little shit" is worse. I don't care if it's hacking or guessing the combination to my safe or whatever...it's a freakin' dick move.

  • johnl||

    Yeah, right Bus. Radley Balko is a partisan Democratic party hack. Please make some effort to understand your audience. Don't just come here with your talking points.

    What the kid did was pretty bad. In many places, people have no locks on their mailboxes at all! That's not an invitation to swipe their mail. If he cracked her mail then wrote her a note about security, then that would be fine. If he id it and then published time series plots on Sarah's Blackberry usage, that would be great. But that's not what he did and he deserves the time behind bars he is going to be seeing.

    Agreed it's most transparent to use the state email system but how good is that, really, away from the desk? Google, Yahoo, Apple, and RIM have hired so many competent admins that everyplace else, admins are, well, not Google class. Because I can tolerate adds in margins, Google gives me a quota of 4 gig that increases by 50 meg a day. My employer gives me an email account to do my work with that has a quota of 50 meg. That's one day's quota increase at gmail. This crates an incentive, of course I would never do it, except with presentations I want to browse, never with data of course, to mail work from a crippled corporate account to a Yahoo or Google account. And don't get me stated on Blackberries ad iPhones.

    Yes, it's true that some people use personal email rather than their government accounts in order to hide their crimes. But that's hardly the main reason to use personal email. Anyway, it's a little hard to believe that Sarah is smart enough about computers to have criminal intent about email server selection. This is a woman who didn't figure out that the Alaska SOC has an online presence!

  • Syd||

    I'd say what the kid did was worse. Not only breaking in but publishing the password to enable other people to break in.

  • Elemenope||

    Silly voters. Transparency is for opponents!

  • ||

    Radley -- I think you're assuming a lot, saying Palin was using her private email account to conduct state business specifically in order to evade the spirit of the law. I've worked for politicians -- my mother-in-law is a politician ferchrissakes -- and there is a lot of shading of business and personal stuff. A lot of a politician's constituents and supporters wind up being friends, or at least consider the politician a friend and the politician is too diplomatic to say otherwise.

    Unless you have some actual evidence that Palin specifically intended to evade the spirit of the law, such as her saying that was her intent in one of those emails, I'd be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. If you have a smoking gun here, put that damning details in your post.

    No sympathy whatsoever with the bugger who hacked into her private email account. That's a huge violation of her right to privacy. And if some political opponents wanted to go on a fishing expedition through my private emails in an attempt to find damning details to use against me, quite possibly taken out of context, I'd vigorously invoke my Fifth Amendment rights, too.

    Or do you only support the right for privacy when it applies to politicians you like?

  • ||

    I used to be all for "open and transparent" government, but I'm starting to sour on it. It's still a good idea in general, but in the particulars it's starting to look just as stupid as "zero tolerance" policies. I don't see much moral difference between removing a politician for deleting an email and expelling a kid who brought nail clippers to school.

    In California we have the "Brown Act" which forbids politicians from ever being alone together. At least that's how some people want it enforced. Heaven forbid that two city councilmen discuss city business while standing in line for their morning cup of Starbucks! This sounds like much the same sort of thinking. It's easy to say that official government messages must be retained forever, but the particulars might start throwing people in jail for deleting spam, or sending a lolcat to a staffer via a personal account.

    Do libertarians really want to imprison folks for deleting emails? Do we really want to ban privacy and forbid keeping secrets? Do you want to go all the way down to the end of that road?

  • ||

    On my scale of politician malfeasance, using personal email for some routine, non-secret government business (and absent some actual crime) isn't much to get excited about. Bureaucrats communicating off the record! OMG, can the Republic survive?

    But how much government business are we talking about? A handful of emails? 10% of government business? Half of all major decisions? Or what? Unless it's major chunk of official state business or part of some crime, I should think it's obviously less bad than burglary by electronic means for the purposes of political dirty tricks.

  • johnl||

    Brandy, right. Anyway, with the immense quotas Apple, Google, RIM, and Yahoo provide, a Brown act paladin who really makes a point of keeping track of his communications is better off with a state-of-the-art commercial service than whatever the Californiaville Wherever board of Whateveritis provides.

  • Kolohe||


    The implications of allowing public officials to bend the rules so they can get around public access laws are far graver than a kid guessing (not "hacking," exactly) his way into a poorly protected email account.


    I rarely totally (or even at all) disagree with you, but you're way off base here. Dude used the 'forget password' to access the account. It's hacking. Going into other people's electronic files that are specifically set up for private use (even if the protection is light) is hacking.

    This is no different than going to some stranger's house, looking in the flowerbed, and finding the emergency key. Then using it to go in the house and snooping around. True, he didn't 'steal' anything. But he took the letters off the kitchen table, and the photos off the mantle, made copies to bring with him, and put them back. He then left the house, bragged about what he did, and posted his copies on the internet.

    If he did this in meatspace, he would be charged with trespassing and breaking and entering, and would be looking at serious (felonious) legal trouble. And deservedly so.

    You ask who's worse? It's no contest, the kid is. There is no excuse for his behavior. He's a straight up criminal* and is lucky if he doesn't get jail time.

    Plus, the email account that was hacked, had, as far as I know, no state business info (I think it had party business info) But i'm not sure about any facts in this specific paragraph. And I can't seem to get your first link to work at this time, site looks busy.

    *allegedly, 'until proven guilty' yadda yadda.

  • ||

    The only reason they indicted the poor kid was to make Palin look less like the idiot she is and instead like the poor victim of a computer crime. So now this kid will be locked up for 20 years because Palin is a public figure and an idiot. The Bush DOJ took no time at all to get a (flawed) indictment against the kid who reset her password and got into her yahoo account.

  • ||

    So if the government gets a warrantless wiretap to listen in on a suspected foreign terrorists telephone call, it's the end of liberty and freedom as we know it. If a kid breaks into and posts details of a persons email account, it's almost as bad as a governor having a private email account. I get it.

  • Radley Balko||

    Unless you have some actual evidence that Palin specifically intended to evade the spirit of the law, such as her saying that was her intent in one of those emails, I'd be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. If you have a smoking gun here, put that damning details in your post.

    I though the details were pretty well known. From the linked article:

    "I think that it's total hypocrisy from what she stood for at the beginning of her campaign," Henning said. "Because she campaigned on open government, and she knew that using a private e-mail account would take it and basically hide stuff that people couldn't see."

    As far as McLeod can tell, all but one of the e-mails to the governor used her private e-mail address. The one time an aide e-mailed the governor's state account, he was reminded not to.

    "Frank, This is not the Governor's personal e-mail account," an assistant to Palin wrote to Bailey in February.

    "Whoops~!" Bailey responded in an e-mail.

    The state withheld about 1,100 e-mails, citing exemptions for deliberative process, executive privilege, attorney/client privilege, privacy and personnel.


    And regarding one of Palin's top aides:

    In one e-mail string among the volumes turned over, Frye wanted to know if she would be audited or "dinged in any way" if her personal and state e-mails all routed to the same device.

    "I would gladly buy my own blackberry if it and its contents were truely mine. Any thoughts here?" Frye wrote on March 17 at 10:56 a.m.

    Administrators were waiting for guidance on confidentiality issues from the state Department of Law, Kim Garnero, state Division of Finance director, wrote back at 11:06 a.m. But using a personal device made an audit much less likely, she wrote.

    Frye later forwarded strings about the personal e-mail issue to Palin and her husband, Todd.

    In April, Frye asked the state's information technology office for help in getting her BlackBerry to default to her Yahoo account.

    Frye did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Abdul||

    Radley,

    Even with the quotes from the article, I still don't see what Palin did wrong. She even made inquiries about the propriety of getting personal e-mail on a state blackberry to make sure she was obeying the law. A political opponent says Palin is hypocritical for not being more open, but there's no evidence of a legal violation.

    Furthermore, lots of us have work and personal e-mail addresses, and some of the contacts overlap, but we aren't "hiding" from our bosses when we use our personal e-mails to contact other colleagues.

    On the other hand, the hacker's intent was to find private, personal information of Palin's and to expose it to the world. From wehre I stand, the hacker's intention, his actions, and the result were worse than Palin's.

  • Chloe||

    What a stupid post. The punk little shit of a kid broke the law.

    This smells to high heaven of partisan bullshit.

  • anon||

    Blame the victim!

  • JMR||

    As long as nobody in the MSM breathes a WORD about how widespread use of cryptography could have easily protected Palin's privacy, everything will be ok. Good thing strong crypto has been treated as "a munition" rather than plain old speech by our obese government, "to protect the children," eh? Otherwise, automated snooping by our betters for political & financial purposes wouldn't be nearly as easy!

  • Nemo||

    So when are you going to give us full disclosure of your email contents Radley?

  • Xmas||

    Radley,

    You're missing the obvious problem. The Yahoo accounts were deleted BECAUSE some twit hacker broke into her account and started posting her private messages.

  • TallDave||

    Yeah, I'm sure if a Republican operative "guessed" Obama or Biden's private email we'd all hear how the real problem was that they were using their private email for government business. It's not like Watergate was a big deal or anything.

    What is clear is that she wasn't all that serious about her gubernatorial campaign promise for "open and transparent" government

    When do we get to see Obama's email?

    How about Biden's?

    Maybe we can find out why Obama belonged to an explicitly socialist group, or launched his career from a terrorists's house. Lord knows the media doesn't care enough to ask.

  • Radley Balko||

    So when are you going to give us full disclosure of your email contents Radley?

    Last I checked, I wasn't working for the government. And I'm certainly not the highest ranking public official of a state.

    Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.

  • ed||

    she wasn't all that serious about her...promise for "open and transparent" government.

    Quick, name one politician in the last century who made that promise and then backed it up with actual results. I'll wait here.

  • ||

    I'll defend hacker jackassery when it exposes the lack of security used by public officials on public business. In such cases, the hackers should be thanked, not prosecuted.

    I'll defend Fourth Amendment violations when it exposes citizens violating laws designed for public safety. In such cases, the police should be thanked not questioned.

  • Atanarjuat||

    I'd like to read those emails that Obama and Scarlet Johansen have been sending back and forth.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.

    I am, too. One of the few things I liked about Obama was his pledge for open government. Given some of the things his campaign has done, I think that's bullshit, but it was at least nice to hear a politician state that this should be a goal.

    I am fucking sick of government goons whose sense of entitlement makes them believe they should be able to do what they want, at all times.

  • MarkySparky||

    What does it say that the latter is facing charges, but the former isn't?

    It says that the latter clearly broke the law by hacking somebody's personal email account, and that the former is the victim.

    Even if there is an actual crime on Palin's part, it has fuck-all to do with her Yahoo account getting hacked and posted online. If she is hiding state business (and there is actual proof), I'll help you set up the stake and kindling.

    Until then, playing the moral equivalence game because she's a national candidate comes across as cheap partisan hackery. The two issues, even on there best days, are only tenuoulsy connected. There is a time and place for killing two birds with one stone, but this isn't it.

  • Abdul||

    Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.

    The problem is that two wrongs don't make a right. Even if Bush were hiding "smoking guns" in his Hotmail account to dodge the law, it's just as wrong for private citizens to hack into his private e-mail as it would be for him to hack into our e-mail without warrants based on probable cause.

    Even Bush has paid lip service to the idea that oversight is necessary to conducting surveilance in order to prevent abuse, he just argued that executive branch oversight is sufficient. Most people here find that idea laghable, but even executive oversight of the executive branch is more protection against abuse then a private hacker has.

  • ||

    It's nice that you've excluded 'illegal,' but you should also exclude 'state business' because I haven't seen any evidence of that either.

  • ||

    Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.

    I'm not. The people defending it are TAO, TallDave, PapayaSF and Abdul, who aren't exactly unbiased observers.

  • ||

    the police should always be questioned

  • ||

    The seemingly bottomless hostility that many (most?) Reason writers and many, many commenters have displayed toward Palin since her nomination is puzzling on its face. Her proven record of fighting against and deposing corrupt establishment politicians in Alaska should be celebrated by those who pay lip service to "Free minds and free markets." Instead, there has been a concerted effort to demean her and bring her down, often with a Kos-like nasty glee. In the meantime, the electorate looks like it's on the verge of handing us over to a Marxist president, with a filibuster-proof statist congressional majority and the likelihood of a couple of dangerous Supreme Court appointments. Reason has been almost silent on Obama's Bolshie philosophical underpinnings, the proven corruption and dishonesty of his VP nominee, etc. I'm just an old Randite, though, so maybe you're playing a game that's just too subtle for me to understand.

  • dhex||

    I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.

    SHE WINKED AT MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    or something like that.

    terrorist fist jabs go bump in the night.

  • dhex||

    palin is a libertarian in the same way that the republican party is libertarian.

    (hint: they're not!)

    perhaps i am merely naive, i am very surprised that people are easily hypnotized by a pretty face and some kultur war tweaks. (this can be a jab at obama or palin if you like.)

  • ||

    If a law says official emails must be preserved, and a politican uses their personal email account to do official buisness, then the personal account should be subject to the law. If Palin doesn't like it, she shouldn't use her personal email for official buisness.

    A public servent, doing a public job, paid by the public, has no privacy expectation regarding offical communications within that job.

    """"What does it say that the latter is facing charges, but the former isn't?"""

    That we need to put some teeth in the open records laws?

    """"Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post."""

    I'm not, given the deathly roar from the citizenry with regards to the Whitehouse email issue, yes i'm being sarcastic, a politician keeping official business from those who pay their salary is a non-starter. It seems that the belief is one which a hacker who violates the law in order to acheive compliance with a law is far more criminal that government violating law to acheive the same end. Look at how many people backed the teleco immunity.

    """I am fucking sick of government goons whose sense of entitlement makes them believe they should be able to do what they want, at all times."""

    That should be the prevailing attitude, but too many partisan people think it's ok when their team does it, but not ok for the other team. The republicans would have never let a democrat get away with what Bush has done, in many areas.

    """Quick, name one politician in the last century who made that promise and then backed it up with actual results. I'll wait here."""

    Sure, there was what's his name. No wait, well, uh, hummmm. I got nothing.

    That's the funny thing about politics and the citizenry, we quickly forget that they are lying in order to promote team R or team D.

    """The seemingly bottomless hostility that many (most?) Reason writers and many, many commenters have displayed toward Palin since her nomination is puzzling on its face."""

    Which Reason writer said this about Palin "And as a libertarian, there's plenty I like about Palin." If you guessed anyone other than Radley, you would be wrong.

  • ||

    My understanding, and no I'm not going to search out the links right now, is that Palin was using her personal account for political e-mails, not state business--things that she was actually forbidden from using a state e-mail account for. Also e-mails that she would most likely not be required to save, since they are not state business.

  • ||

    that the highest ranking public official in Alaska was using private email accounts to conduct official state business so she'd be less susceptible to open records laws and subpoenas,

    Isn't that assuming the conclusion(s) that she was both (a) using her personal account for state, rather than political business AND (b) that she did so with the express intention of violating opens records laws and subpoenas?

    I mean, sure, if you mean it as a hypothetical, say so, but don't state your hypothetical as if its the facts on the ground.

  • ||

    """Quick, name one politician in the last century who made that promise and then backed it up with actual results. I'll wait here."""



    Jimmy Carter. never refused access to his e-mails. never used his Blackberry® for govt. bidness.

  • ||

    or was that before the govt. invented computers and Gore invented the internet?

  • Kolohe||

    Given the Bush administration's determined effort to "lose" emails and fight government transparency tooth and nail, I'm a little surprised at the reaction to this post.


    Really? You do not see how hacker dude is not one bit different than the dudes who broke into Ryan Frederick's home?

    So if you think Palin deserved what she got, does Frederick also deserve what he got and what he'll get because they actually found pot? Which is definitely illegal.

  • ||

    I'm not. The people defending it are TAO, TallDave, PapayaSF and Abdul, who aren't exactly unbiased observers.

    ha! Yeah, I'm such Teh Shill.

    The real point (as made above) is that there isn't moral equivalence here.

    It's like it's stupid day @ H+R: people want a sheriff to break the law to satisfy their looter tendencies and people want this guy to break the law even though it doesn't really make him some kinda hero.

  • Asharak||

    Yeah, I'm sure if a Republican operative "guessed" Obama or Biden's private email we'd all hear how the real problem was that they were using their private email for government business. It's not like Watergate was a big deal or anything.

    For Obama's part, he wasn't stupid enough to still have a Yahoo email account while running for national office.
    Do you realize how pathetic so-called libertarians like yourself look when you continue to suck up to drug-warring, wiretap-loving, statist Republicans who will never accept you?

    And care to explain what's so libertarian about Michelle "Manzanar" Malkin, since you're such a big fan of Pajamas Media?

  • Lance||

    I think your way off base here that this wasn't hacking. Trying to guess someone's password is the very definition of hacking. Usually it is done in a more brute force manner, so I will give the kid props for elegance.

    This kid is not a champion of good government, he did this expressly to try and find embarrassing details about the woman's life. I don't see how you can be trying to excuse away his behavior.

  • Asharak||

    """The seemingly bottomless hostility that many (most?) Reason writers and many, many commenters have displayed toward Palin since her nomination is puzzling on its face."""

    Which Reason writer said this about Palin "And as a libertarian, there's plenty I like about Palin." If you guessed anyone other than Radley, you would be wrong.


    Ah, but you see, JohnL is a Randite, so of course he didn't notice that. Just like he also doesn't notice that people like Palin saw Rand and her adherents as a threat to the country because of their non-belief in a God and still do.

  • ||

    Her proven record of fighting against and deposing corrupt establishment politicians in Alaska should be celebrated by those who pay lip service to "Free minds and free markets."


    By your standards, John Gotti would be hailed as someone who "took on the mob" because he had Paul Castellano killed.

    Give me a break!

    Palin, like Gotti, didn't take on the criminals because she wanted to stop corruption - she took on the criminals because she wanted to be the one controlling and profiting from the corruption.

  • Kolohe||

    Usually it is done in a more brute force manner, so I will give the kid props for elegance.

    If the dude was elegant, he wouldn't have got caught. Or at least not handled everything after he changed the password like a total lamer.

  • ||

    Conservatives on Palin's emails: "You don't have a right to see her emails until you can prove those emails contain evidence of wrongdoing. Sure, her aides have recorded emails discussing the use of private email specifically to avoid evidence gathering, but thats just 'probable cause' of a crime and not proof. We require proof".

    If the circumstances didn't involve a GOP pol you guys would be all over the fact that there is more than enough probable cause to suspect wrongdoing and demanding an investigation.

    But since she's one of yours you want "solid proof" before you even start looking for evidence. Pathetic.

  • DerKaiser||

    Baring all political illegalities that may have been committed by Palin. From what I understand, the kid hacked into her email hoping to find some information that would de-rail her campaign. After finding nothing, he then proceeded to shout from the top of his lungs across the internet that he had hacked her email but found nothing. Had he kept his mouth shut most likely nothing would have happened and no one would have ever known. In my opinion this kids is a moron and deserves what he gets.

  • ||

    For Obama's part, he wasn't stupid enough to still have a Yahoo email account while running for national office.

    So, would you say that anyone who gets raped while wearing a miniskirt was just asking for it anyway?

    You don't have a right to see her emails until you can prove those emails contain evidence of wrongdoing.

    I mean, now that we've seen what was in this particular account, don't we know that it didn't contain evidence of wrongdoing? This committed Dem broke in to her account looking for something to string her up with, and by his own admission found nothing.

  • ||

    Palin, like Gotti, didn't take on the criminals because she wanted to stop corruption - she took on the criminals because she wanted to be the one controlling and profiting from the corruption.

    I honestly don't think so. Its much easier to get on the gravy train as a "go along to get along" pol, which she definitely hasn't been.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Why don't you all admit that you will vote for Obama? Just come out and say it "libertarians". I think libertarians are the most pathetic political group because they start from the right political premises and then they fuck themselves over and over again by concentrating on minutaie rather than the big issues. And yet none of you have the balls to do so because it would clearly show that you are not "libertarian" in the fucking least. I can understand a libertarian voting for Mccain or not voting for Mccain because of principle issues, but under no circumstance should a libertarian ever vote For a leftist like Obama or Biden.

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