Thursday, September 18, 2008

FBI, Secret Service Investigate Hacking of Palin’s E-mail

The FBI and Secret Service have launched a joint investigation into the apparent hacking of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s private e-mail account after a widely-read Web site published screen grabs from it on Wednesday.

The article posted on revealed snapshots of e-mail exchanges the Alaska governor had with colleagues as well as private family photos. The gossip site says the email account has since been shut down.

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain, released a statement Wednesday calling the publication a “shocking invasion of the governor’s privacy and a violation of law.”

“The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them. We will have no further comment,” Davis said.

An FBI spokesman in Alaska later confirmed, “We are going to be working a joint investigation with Secret Service on this.”

The Secret Service contacted The Associated Press and asked for copies of the leaked e-mails, which circulated widely on the Internet. The AP did not comply.

The Gawker article boasts about the lengths to which the reporter went to verify the account, saying he or she even called a phone number listed for Palin’s teenage daughter, Bristol, which apparently went to her voicemail. The site also listed dozens of contact e-mails from the account.

“Here are the screenshots of the emails saved before the account went dark, along with the contact list. It’s newsworthy and we will not be taking it down!” the site declares.

Both WIRED and Gawker reported that members claiming to be with a group known as Anonymous took credit for hacking into Palin’s account. Screen grabs were published on other Web sites and then deleted, Gawker reported.

The hacking took place on a Yahoo e-mail account Palin uses — separate from another private account that was publicized in The Washington Post last week.

One person whose e-mail to Palin apparently was among those disclosed, Amy B. McCorkell, declined to discuss her correspondence. “I do not know anything about it,” McCorkell said. “I’m not giving you any comment.” said McCorkell later confirmed that she did send the e-mail to Palin.

Another e-mail apparently revealed Wednesday was an exchange in July with Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell discussing a talk show host who had been critical of Parnell. Parnell declined to discuss the matter.

Gawker complained that Palin has since “deleted” the account, and suggested she was trying to “destroy evidence.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how hackers broke into Palin’s Yahoo! account, but it would have been possible to trick the service into revealing her password knowing personal details about Palin that include her birth date and ZIP code. A hacker also might have sent a forged e-mail to her account tricking her into revealing her own password.

Palin has faced scrutiny for using her private account to do government business. The Washington Post reported last week that a local Republican activist is trying to get Palin to release more than 1,100 e-mails she withheld from a public records request. The appeal reportedly questions why Palin and her aides shift between public and private e-mail accounts.

A spokeswoman in the governor’s office in Alaska declined to comment Wednesday, referring questions from to the McCain-Palin campaign.

“Primarily we’re referring people to the campaign because honestly people wouldn’t be asking these questions if she wasn’t a candidate for [vice president],” spokeswoman Kate Morgan said.

The Palin family was subjected to intense scrutiny after she was selected as John McCain’s running mate on Aug. 29. Reporters descended on her home town of Wasilla, Alaska, as the media focused on her unwed teenage daughter’s pregnancy.

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