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Palin E-mail Hacker Indicted 846

doomsdaywire writes "A University of Tennessee student who is the son of a Memphis legislator has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of hacking Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail. [...] If convicted, [David C.] Kernell faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a three-year term of supervised release. A trial date has not been set."
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Palin E-mail Hacker Indicted

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  • What a dumb crime. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) * on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:44PM (#25301411)
    This is the dumbest crime ever. If he really did it, I just wish he would say, "Yeah I did it, I'm an idiot - just look at my goofy hair." Then they could cite him with a $200 fine for disorderly conduct and we could all move on with our lives. But the fact that he's pleading not guilty is going to give this whole thing legs both in the court and in the media.
    • When this whole thing came out, I learned that Sarah Palin was illegally using personal email accounts for business email, supposedly to avoid leaving the electronic trail. THAT was eye opening.
      • by cizoozic ( 1196001 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:52PM (#25301551)
        Personally I forgot it happened until I saw this story. At least the trial should bring this back out into the open... But my guess is that nothing will happen to Palin and this guy will get punished. Sorry, I'm just your typical American who has lost a great deal of faith in our government, economy, and legal system.
      • by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:59PM (#25301705) Journal

        That's all well and good, but bragging to the world about what you did because you thought it would make you leet is still stupid.

        I personally think this deserves punishment, regardless of whose email account he happened to crack. It doesn't matter if it was the Republican nominee for VP or Joe Six-Pack's, and it doesn't matter what portentous revelations came of it.

        But the punishment needs to fit the crime. Certainly any sort of jail time would be excessive to say the least. But kids like these need to understand that there are limits and rules which are more important than having a chuckle with the internet. At the very least it should be a lesson on how not to announce to the world what you did.

      • by Holmwood ( 899130 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:08PM (#25301869)

        Except she wasn't conducting business illegally, and I'm puzzled as to why you'd falsely post that as a justification for an immoral and illegal act. As the hacker Rubico apparently said:

        Earlier it was just some prank to me, I really wanted to get something incriminating which I was sure there would be, just like all of you anon out there that you think there was some missed opportunity of glory, well there WAS NOTHING, I read everything, every little blackberry confirmation⦠all the pictures, and there was nothing

        See, for example, here: []

        Personally, I prefer Tina Fey to Sarah Palin, but the emails I saw reprinted, while to political colleagues, were the kind that would be illegal (at least at the federal level) to send using government email accounts. For instance, she talked about her Lt-Governor's election campaign. Doing that kind of business on state accounts is a no-no.

        But even if all that were not true, you're saying it's just fine to hack into someone's personal email account because you suspect they are guilty of something. So it's fine for the police to do that to you? You must love the Patriot Act and think it doesn't go remotely far enough.

        Call that 1984.

        Even if Palin had improperly conducted state business on yahoo (which would be stupid and illegal), hacking her email account is still immoral and illegal. I'm surprised that many people who normally are pro-freedom turn out to have very situational ethics when it comes to people they regard as political enemies. As others have said in this thread, a guy called Richard Nixon seemed to think that way.

        • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:22PM (#25302063)

          Politicians don't deserve the same freedoms as citizens. Sorry to say this but they cannot be trusted with as much freedom. The most a citizen will do doesn't matter to national security w/e. But the president/vicepresident, congresscritters they can cause really big problems and when there are allegations of corruption and wrong doing they should NOT get the same level of privacy citizens are supposed to (but dont get regardless). Look up congression level hacks and almost ALWAYS corruption is found. Sorry, privacy is nice and all but when you find they took a few hundred grand or a house in bribes (previous congressmen) then the hack was well justified. Its the same as hacking/investigating people when you have a warrant. The bar should simply be set lower for politicians since they seem to set it lower.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Sorry, privacy is nice and all but when you find they took a few hundred grand or a house in bribes (previous congressmen) then the hack was well justified.
            Machiavelli, is that you? As a fun mad-lib replace politicians with illegal immigrants, terrorists etc. in the beginning of your paragraph, then reread it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Idiomatick ( 976696 )

              Also politicians are well identified. I'm perfectly comfortable with known criminals (terrorists) not having as many rights as citizens. Its called prison :/ you get very little privacy in there.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Justified, maybe, if you end up finding evidence of something big. Still doesn't excuse the initial crime of some average citizen breaking his way into someone's personal email account, and even if you expose something you still have to pay the price of the crime. Call it "taking one for the team" since you obviously care enough about the situation to do so if you're going to take the time and effort to break in.

            Or maybe they won't find anything incriminating, like in this instance, and he just looks lik
          • by coyote_oww ( 749758 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:46PM (#25302469)
            Politicians don't deserve the same freedoms as citizens

            Great. So the Obama campaign will be publishing all of Joe and Barrak's e-mail in the next few days then. 'Cause, how can we know if they're conducting public business with those private accounts, unless we see it all??

            The Big Rule of a democratic society is Equality Before the Law. Same rules for everyone. So if Palin's e-mail must all be public record, then the same goes for Biden and Obama, and Kennedy, and everyone else. And you.

        • . I'm surprised that many people who normally are pro-freedom turn out to have very situational ethics when it comes to people they regard as political enemies.

          when your political enemies run the media as a propaganda arm of their party, then whistle innocently or cry "tinfoil hat" when anyone points out the obvious.

          When your political enemies start arresting people for wearing "give peace a chance" t-shirts in the mall.

          When your political enemies create "free speech zones", and their partisan court appointees uphold the obvious constitutional breach

          When your political enemies engage in domestic surveillance which makes watergate look like piss in the ocean.

          When y

      • by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:08PM (#25301875) Homepage Journal

        Really? The contents of the emails were generally posted on-line. Which emails were you referring to?

        In any case, remember that the appropriate standard here is what ALASKA law says she should do with her email. The current President is in some hot water over the Presidential Records Act, but that act doesn't apply to the Governor of Alaska.

        If you have both personal and business relationships with people, it's quite common for information to be intermingled in personal and business email accounts. Nothing generally wrong with that.

      • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:18PM (#25302013) Journal

        How could you have learned that?

        The entire mail archive was posted to wikileaks. Post ONE email from that archive (with appropriate obfuscations, of course) that supports that claim.

        note: I'm not suggesting that she did or didn't do anything, only that I'm not convinced the evidence available supports the claim that she did.

        note2: I'm not going to look through the archive myself. I don't want to look through someone else's private mail, and the burden of proof falls on the claim that she did commit wrongdoing, anyway.

        • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:41PM (#25302377) Journal

          As I understand, the archive didn't make it; just a few screenshots before the guy freaked out and asked 4chan to glom it for him, which is when/where someone changed the password and alerted Palin. (The screenshots are also supposedly what made it possibly to backtrack him through his weak-sauce anonymizer.)

          In short, epic fail for Palin and this cracker schmuck. But a quarter million $ and 3 years? Not going to happen. This kind of thing happens hundreds of times a week, if not day. How many times a day in the US, does someone steal a piece of physical mail (a Federal crime)? Probably in the thousands.

        • by HappySmileMan ( 1088123 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:45PM (#25302451)

          The entire archive wasn't uploaded as far as I know, unless it was done long after the buzz died down, there were screenshots of like 3 emails, a couple of family pictures and contact list.

          Basically the guy just released enough to prove he did it, I doubt he cared about the rest of it. He just wanted to look like an internet tough guy.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:09PM (#25302897)

          Wikileaks hasn't posted the full e-mail archive to the general public.

          The Guardian looked through them, and found e-mails related to a draft letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger, discussion of nominations to the state court of appeals, and emails from "DPS" - the department at the center of Troopergate.

      • by peacefinder ( 469349 ) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ttiwed.nala>> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:19PM (#25302027) Journal

        To the extent that there may have been e-mail there that was intended to avoid Alaska's public records law, there could have been a crime. However, we will now never know if that alleged illegal activity was taking place, because by compromising the account, this bozo gave Palin a perfect excuse to close the account and (presumably) destroy all the evidence. (And any evidence that can be recovered will be tainted.)

        Given the presumption of innocence in US law, we now must presume that she did nothing wrong... even if she had in fact been doing exactly what is alleged. Way to go, fella!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by uncqual ( 836337 )

          gave Palin a perfect excuse to close the account and (presumably) destroy all the evidence

          Hmm..., you don't suppose Yahoo might have backups? Naw, a little company like Yahoo probably never thought to do that.

      • by nsayer ( 86181 ) * <nsayer&kfu,com> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:27PM (#25302159) Homepage

        I learned that Sarah Palin was illegally using personal email accounts for business email

        Um, that's perfectly legal.

        What you meant to say was that she was illegally using personal email accounts for government business, which is not.

    • by Leebert ( 1694 ) * on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:05PM (#25301821)

      When the maximum penalty is 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, "Guilty" is a dumb thing to say.

      You can't make a deal with a prosecutor if you have zero leverage.

      Remember, because of lawyers, common courtesy is dead. For example, you can no longer apologize at the scene of a car accident that's your fault, because then you might be sued.

      • by TheQuantumShift ( 175338 ) <> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:57PM (#25302649) Homepage
        I will second that. The one time I was in front of a judge, I was clearly guilty and pled so. You'd have thought I shot her dog from her reaction. I still feel I was penalized for "doing the right thing" and not tying the legal system up for an additional year. Apparently in this country admitting your crimes is right up there with committing them...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by boojit ( 256278 )


      Listen, I am no lover of the McCain-Palin ticket I can assure you, so this is not a partisan slant. But I'll say this: what this dumbass did is _completely_ out of line and he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We don't allow this sort of behavior to go unpunished in a civilized society.

      This stance does in no way let Palin off the hook for transgressing her government's policies on using outside email for business work, but that's not the point. Her privacy was violated in an illegal man

      • by Windows_NT ( 1353809 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:15PM (#25301975) Homepage Journal
        What id dont get is why if someone hacked my email, there is no way theyd get a penalty like that. the judge would look at me and say "tough love".
        although it is illegal, i just dont care because since she is a celebrity right now, she has the pwer to do something about it. just goes to show you dont want her in office, because she thinks that she deserves special treatment. Also, although her daughter is hot (and so is she)

        Obama, FTW!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Idiomatick ( 976696 )

        I wish i could sue for 250K when i lost my JMS account. Some one broke into my server last week, that should net me another 250K right? Point is that it is a PERSONAL email account. She should be protected as much as you or me when our accounts get hacked.
        Was he dumb? Of course
        And the difference is that he hacked one person in the gov and risks 250k and 3years. The gov hacks millions and waves it off. Where's my 250,000,000,000$ in damages?

  • by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:48PM (#25301483)
    She changed her password to 0ldGuY=Mepr3z!!
  • by jesdynf ( 42915 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:49PM (#25301493) Homepage

    My understanding was that illegally wiretapping American citizens carried neither fine nor penalty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      My understanding was that illegally wiretapping American citizens carried neither fine nor penalty.

      Your argument is pretty weak. Using your logic, because police officers detain suspects we the public should be able to as well. The public is not granted the same powers as law enforcement. The public enacts laws that apply in different ways to the general population vs law enforcement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bryansix ( 761547 )
      Well you don't understand wiretapping then. This is not it. Wiretapping means listening in on a conversation without intruding. This moron changed the password on the account and compromised it. This cause actual damages since she can't use the email address anymore since it has been compromised. At the very least it would have become a spam nightmare. This fraud is why he should stand trial and go to jail.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SkunkPussy ( 85271 )

        that's not fraud, it's something else

      • This person guessed the correct password, looked at the e-mail then posted screenshots. The wiretapping analogy is accurate up until the part where he posted screenshots. The person who changed the account is the whistleblower who alerted authorities, supposedly on the pretense of preventing "further damages". There is no reason for anon to CHANGE her password if the snooping was done for the lulz.
    • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:10PM (#25302923)

      ...encapsulated in one, simplistic know-it-all sentence.

      The so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) no longer exists, and hasn't since 17 January 2007 [].

      All surveillance was happening under the guise of the Protect America Act [], which was designed exclusively to allow foreign intelligence collection without a warrant when the traffic travelled through the United States, whether incidentally or by design. Foreign intelligence collection is always allowed without court oversight; the changes explicitly allowed such collection on US soil as long as the target was reasonably believed to be a non-US person physically outside of the United States, regardless of the other end of the conversation.

      Now the Protect America Act has expired with its automatic sunset, and all surveillance must again happen only via FISA [], as amended.

      Also, TSP, in its entirety, was never as clear cut as being simply "legal" or "illegal" (court decisions on individual aspects aside). Those who claimed that it was "illegal" did so largely for political reasons. The other mistake is equating "traffic that *could be* listened to" with "traffic that *is* listened to" -- unfortunately, they are not at all the same. This also ignores that to even determine whether traffic is subject to legal collection, it must -- to be blunt -- actually be able to be collected. Thus the things like "secret rooms" at telecom facilities.

      Having the capability to instantaneously examine traffic of international origin, where one or both endpoints of a communication are international, necessitates such wholesale monitoring capability. However, such capability being present does not imply its use for all traffic.

      There are two issues here:

      1. Monitoring the contents of a communication

      2. Monitoring the metadata or "envelope" (source and destination information) of a communication

      The first is allowable without a warrant or court oversight when one or both endpoints of the communication are international, and when the target of such monitoring is a non-US Person outside of the United States. Such foreign signals intelligence collection does not require a warrant or court oversight.

      The second point above has multiple functions. One is using advanced data mining techniques to look for troubling patterns in communications.

      Such collection has been found to be legal without a warrant or court oversight by the US Supreme Court:

      The telephone company, at police request, installed at its central offices a pen register to record the numbers dialed from the telephone at petitioner's home. Prior to his robbery trial, petitioner moved to suppress "all fruits derived from" the pen register. The Maryland trial court denied this motion, holding that the warrantless installation of the pen register did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Petitioner was convicted, and the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed.

      Source: Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979) []

      Courts have subsequently found that pen register statutes apply similarly to computer network addresses known as IP addresses, lists of web sites visited, and the "envelope" of an email message -- its To: and From: addresses and related information. The NSA itself has long understood that while the capture of the "metadata" of communications is fair game, the capture of the *contents* of the conversations of US Persons is not, without a warrant:

      A former senior NSA official said that the agency also worried that because these groups understood privacy laws so well, they knew how to avoi

  • Bummer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by introspekt.i ( 1233118 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:49PM (#25301501)
    Obviously, the perpetrator was not entitled to any of the information contained within that Yahoo! email account and should be punished for breaking the law. What sucks is that he not really being punished for breaking the law, rather he's being punished for making Sarah Palin and thus the GOP look bad.
    • Re:Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:52PM (#25301573)

      One can only hope that he is prosecuted to the exact same extent that he would be prosecuted for hacking my Yahoo mail account.

    • Re:Bummer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:54PM (#25301603) Homepage Journal

      What sucks is that he not really being punished for breaking the law

      Yes, he is.

      rather he's being punished for making Sarah Palin and thus the GOP look bad.

      Please stop reposting from the DailyKos.

    • Re:Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:55PM (#25301627)

      he's being punished for making Sarah Palin and thus the GOP look bad.

      He's being punished for breaking the law in a high-profile way. Millions of people get away with speeding every day, yet if I were to speed past a vigil for children killed by reckless drivers, and TV cameras caught it and it became a big news story, I'd expect to get busted for it. High profile crimes are typically prosecuted in a high profile way.

      As for the assertion that it made the GOP look bad, how so? There was nothing incriminating there, he even commented himself on how disappointed he was when he was unable to find something to use against her. If anything, it's a net positive for the GOP since they've been victimized by a crime from Obama's supporters without any damage being done in the long run.

    • Re:Bummer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:01PM (#25301753)
      > What sucks is that he not really being punished for breaking the law,
      > rather he's being punished for making Sarah Palin and thus the GOP look bad.

      That would only make sense if he actually *found* any of the kind of thing he was looking for and, thus, actually made the aforementioned persons look bad. The only people who really look bad here are Yahoo, and perhaps other sites that follow a similar practice of encouraging users to use fundamentally highly insecure "Security Questions.

      At worst Palin comes off looking she's not a computer security expert (everyone who is surprised about this, raise your hand), and at best she comes off looking like she has nothing to hide. The only way she'd look bad out of this would be if she got hateful and vindictive and angry about it and started screaming for justice, but she presumably has better political sense than that, having already run a successful campaign for office at the state level.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Right, because the SON of a CONGRESSMAN (D) hacking into accounts for POLITICAL GAIN isn't "bad" because it is a (D) CONGRESS person. If this had been flipped around 180 degrees, I bet it still would be (R) bad (D) good.

      Partisan HACKS like your are idiots, because all you see is (R) bad (D) good.

      I HATE our (USA) politics because it is run by stupid idiots, who think everyone is like them (ie stupid).

  • by DigitalGodBoy ( 142596 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:51PM (#25301533) Homepage
    The only reason this is even news is because of the target. If there's no government communication on the account, why are the FBI and Secret Service involved?

    How many times a day do bitter exs break into each others accounts? Nothing ever comes of those incidents.
  • Balance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phroggy ( 441 ) < minus author> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:52PM (#25301563) Homepage

    Is it just me, or does that sound a bit excessive for guessing the answers to her all-too-obvious "forgot password" questions? I'm not saying he shouldn't be punished, but no actual harm was done. How does this compare to what the punishment would be for, say, hacking into an ISP's mail server and obtaining root access? Or defacing a company's web site?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest ( 935314 )

      Tell that to Gary McKinnon who logged into US DoD and NASA computers because they had no blank passwords and is being extradited from the UK to the US with the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a US jail.

      Whilst I agree there's something horribly wrong with such a simple crime with being punished so harshly it seems it's treated as if you walked round someones house looking through their stuff because they left the door open.

      I do think realistically the punishment should be capped drastically l

  • by phatvw ( 996438 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:57PM (#25301683)
    "Kernell, the son of state Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, turned himself in to federal authorities today."

    Is this paragraph from the article misleading? I assume what they are getting at is that he didn't try to run away. I don't think he voluntarily went to the police and told them what he did. He was investigated and got caught, or at least the evidence points in his direction. Now he will take the heat like a man.

    Either way, when he gets out of jail, he is going to get some major liberal/hacker tang!
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:03PM (#25301773) Journal

    If you do something illegal, STFU!


  • by MSTCrow5429 ( 642744 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:04PM (#25301799)
    For some reason the uber-parent failed to mention this, but the TN State legislator is a Democrat. May or may not mean anything, but odd to not mention it, isn't it?
  • by __aagmrb7289 ( 652113 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:06PM (#25301841) Journal
    I seem to see dozens of posters who have decided that Palin was conducting government business over her email. I thought I'd read all the email that had been made public. Did I miss some? Where is this idea coming from? Is it just a meme that everyone believes because someone asserted it? Has anyone actually SEEN an email that was "conducting government business"? If so, can you please post the content?
    • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:43PM (#25302425) Journal

      I seem to see dozens of posters who have decided that Palin was conducting government business over her email. I thought I'd read all the email that had been made public. Did I miss some? Where is this idea coming from?

      According to The Anchorage Daily News [] her use of secret accounts for state business was already an issue before McCain selected her as his running mate. A records request this summer by a fellow Republican (Andree McLeod) turned up the fact that she was playing fast and loose with the state records laws.

      The governor's Yahoo account is "the most nonsensical, inane thing I've ever heard of," said Andree McLeod, who is appealing the administration's decision to withhold e-mails.

      "The governor sets the tone and the tone that has been set by this governor is beyond the pale," McLeod said. "Common sense tells you to use an official state e-mail account for official state business."


      "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 Republicans in Alaska had had just about enough of her before McCain swooped in. There was bipartisan support for several investigations against her and a growing consensus towards impeachment.

      Now, of course, that's all forgotten, at least in some quarters.

      Has anyone actually SEEN an email that was "conducting government business"? If so, can you please post the content?

      I think that's the whole point. They haven't seen the emails, but their existence has been made clear by (among other things) the privilege logs, other e-mails, and sworn testimony of her staffers. So far, she's refusing to turn them over.


  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:06PM (#25302835)

    At Geezer and Gidget's recent speeches, they had people shouting "treason!" and "kill him!", the object of their vitriol being "that one." So, is the McCain Campaign helping the Secret Service in investigating these death threats?

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