Scott Horton raises a few topics related to the the decision to charge Mr. Kernell with a felony, and Sarah Palin's behavior.
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.
So why the massive dedication of law enforcement resources to identify and prosecute a hacker whose acts embarrassed a public person by exposing her improper conduct, but reveal no intention to defraud, steal, or otherwise harm his victim? That’s a very good question. On the plus side, I am delighted to see, at long last, federal prosecutors taking action against a hacker. The prohibitions the law provides are important to millions of citizens who rely on the internet for some measure of privacy in their communications. The Palin case got significant media exposure. For the hundreds of thousands who followed it to learn that the culprit was apprehended and suffered consequences is a good thing (I'd sentence young Kernell to empty hospital bedpans for a couple of months; he'd learn something from it).
Then there are the troublesome questions. Why does it mean nothing to the feds when Joe Six-Pack is the victim of Internet identity theft, but the house falls in when a prankster wants to embarrass Sarah Palin? Do you think there might be just a bit of politics lurking behind the scenes? In this Justice Department? And then there is the still-more menacing question: we now know that Palin was systematically violating the Open Records Act trying to keep her official dealings in the dark. By bringing down the hammer on a person who helped expose her misconduct, are the prosecutors actually attempting to cloak the official misconduct of a public servant?
Orin Kerr sees a big problem with the indictment.Posted by armand at October 10, 2008 09:59 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts