I have spent a long time working in the computer industry and one of the areas I do a lot of work in is cyber security. That means I have been very interested in the whole Palin email hacking case. Essentially what has puzzled me is the attention it has received from the Department of Justice. Email accounts get hacked all the time, usually at the rate of thousands per day. Even worse is the number of people who get suckered into bank scams or suffer from identity theft. These are far worse crimes yet the DOJ has allocated very few resources to fighting them. But when Sarah Palin gets her email hacked, they jump into a full Elliot Ness style task force to hunt down the perpetrators.
Harpers Magazine is now raising these issues in an article that deserves an entire read, but here is a key part:
The Justice Department seems to be setting one of its amazing new rules. When a Republican political figure is damaged in her expectation of being elected to office, it is telling us, that’s a felony. And why is that the case here? Because the hacker helped establish something important: Sarah Palin has been systematically violating the Open Records Act. As David Corn has noted at Mother Jones, Palin relied heavily on private email accounts for improper purposes. As governor of Alaska, she was obligated to maintain as public records her communications with respect to her discharge of official duties. Palin skirted this obligation by turning to private email accounts for government related dealings. In fact, the hacker in question helped flush out Palin’s violations. The hacker also helped establish a motive for the illegal conduct: Palin regularly involved her husband in official business, and it’s easy to understand why she did not want to leave behind evidence of her husband’s involvement.
The hacker revealed that Sarah Palin was violating the Open Records Act by using this account, on top of a bunch of other questionable, and possibly illegal behavior. Now here's where it gets tricky. You would think that the evidence from a hacked email account couldn't be used to against the victim of the hack. That is not the case. This was tried back in 2000 when some child porn peddlers had their email accounts hacked. They were found guilty and tried to get the verdict overturned since the evidence was obtained via "illegal means" (ie: hacking the email account). The federal attorneys argued that since the hacker weren't working as law enforcement or on behalf of law enforcement the information could be used. This turned out to be a successful argument:
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to one of these trials (both men were found guilty), claims that ”Congress had left a loophole open in federal privacy law that lets hackers like ‘1069? get away with turning information over to the government and having it used in court” and that there’s a “legislative hiatus in the current laws purporting to protect privacy in electronic communications.”
Let's put this into a less techy scenario. Someone breaks into your house and steals a bunch of stuff. Included in the stolen items was your bag of marijuana. When the thief gets caught the police determine the marijuana was yours, so they charge you with possession. Incidents like this happen all the time, and what is going on with Palin's email account is no different. Her account was used to hide illegal activity. Someone used what could be considered illegal means to expose Palin's crime. Now the vigilante is the criminal. Something does not seem right about this and I think it's a perfect opportunity to look into why the DOJ is basing their investigations on what appears to be sole political purposes and not actual crimes.