Hacking Sarah

“Anonymous”, a group of prOama hackers, managed to spoof YAHOO! into releasing Sarah Palin’s password. They did several screen grabs and then released emails, contact lists and private phone numbers of the governor along with her friends and family. The goal of this latest dirty trick seems to be to prove that Palin’s promise of transparency was broken because she used the YAHOO! email account to secretly conduct government business.

Laying aside the foolhardiness of using YAHOO! for anything official or which requires security, I find it hard to believe Palin and her associates were naive enough to believe that a commercial email account would somehow protect them from scrutiny. YAHOO! may be a great service, but it is subject to a host of laws (both privacy and anti-terrorist) just like its competitors.

Accusations that Palin and others used private email to avoid scrutiny simply aren’t grounded in reality. YAHOO! is far more likely to be hacked than a government account, and even if the account was “deleted”, YAHOO! has to maintain archives of the content that passes through its service for situations just like this.

YAHOO! is not going to subject itself to litigation or worse, criminal complaints, in order to protect any of its members. On the other hand, it’s also going to do all it can to ensure the privacy of its members — especially after such a high profile breech. People need to trust that YAHOO! Mail is at least as secure as Gmail, AOL or any other major player. However, if you take the time to read the Terms of Service for any decent Web provider like YAHOO!, you’ll find disclosures in their privacy statements that they will release information about their members’ accounts in cases of criminal government investigations and the like.

Palin and other staffers had to know that using private YAHOO! accounts to conduct government business was not only less secure than a .gov domain maintained by the state of Alaska, they certainly knew that their emails were subject to being viewed by any investigation into her conduct as governor. Just looking at the dozens of names of private citizens on the account along with other staffers shows that there was no expectation that Palin and others using YAHOO! intended to hide anything.

Refusal to release emails in conjunction with the current Democratic witch hunt is not the same thing as violating a pledge of transparency. Such cases involve a lot of complex litigation, negotiation and discovery. It is no different than President Clinton seeking to protect his private correspondence or privileged (executive) correspondence during Whitewater or Reagan and his staff seeking to protect privileged correspondence during the Iran-Contra investigations.

The truth will come out as it did in those cases. However, we shouldn’t expect the targets of any investigation to simply volunteer information (or emails) that can be scoured for nuggets of political cannon fodder that can be taken out of context and used to smear a candidate’s character. Democrats of all people should understand this as the prObama hackers used the same tactic against Bill and Hillary.

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