The cryptic Internet posse known for its attacks on Scientology may have found a new target in Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Several self-proclaimed members of Anonymous, a loosely organized group associated with the message board 4Chan, apparently breached the Alaska governor's personal Yahoo! account (email@example.com) late Tuesday night.
The hacker posted screen shots of two e-mails, a Yahoo! inbox, a contact list and several family photos to Wikileaks.org, a site that anonymously hosts leaked government and corporate documents. Another screen shot purportedly shows a draft e-mail from Palin's account to campaign aide Ivy Frye alerting her of the breach:
This email was hacked by anonymous, but I took no part in that. I simply got the password back, and changed it so no further damage could be done. Please get in contact with Sarah Palin and inform her the new password on this account is samsonite1.
Thank you and best wishes,
the good anonymous
The screen shots quickly spread across the Web to blogs like Gawker.
The two e-mail exchanges appear to involve state politicians Alaskan Lieut. Governor Sean Parnell and Amy McCorkell, whom Palin appointed to the Governor's Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse last year. Wired magazine reported that McCorkell confirmed the e-mail's authenticity, though she later refused to comment to the Associated Press.
Palin's other Yahoo! account (firstname.lastname@example.org) had already been hacked, so to speak, by federal authorities who are investigating her role in the firing of Walt Monegan, Alaska's public safety commissioner. Critics charge that Palin fired Monegan for refusing to dismiss her former brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper. (The scandal has already earned a -gate suffix.) After Tuesday's hacks were made public, both private accounts were deleted an act that could technically constitute destruction of evidence.
The Alaska governor could also face charges for conducting official state business using her personal, unarchived e-mail account (a crime); some critics accuse her of skirting freedom-of-information laws in doing so. An Alaska Republican activist is trying to force Palin to release more than 1,100 e-mails she withheld from a public-records request, the Washington Post reported last week.
Rick Davis, campaign manager for the McCain-Palin campaign, issued a statement hours after the e-mail screen shots were posted: "This is 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." The Secret Service requested copies of the leaked e-mails from the Associated Press, but the news service did not comply. CNN reported that the FBI has also launched an investigation.
This is not the first time computer habits have become an issue for the McCain-Palin team. In January, John McCain told reporters that he didn't know how to check e-mail. When asked whether he prefers a Mac or a PC, McCain replied, "Neither. I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get." He later added, "I am learning to get online myself." He might want to stay offline for the time being.