Palin Hackers Face Jail Time

by on September 18, 2008 · 15 comments

From triumph to terror—that’s the likely emotional rollercoaster of the denizens of the “/b” message board on the 4chan website who hacked into Gov. Sarah Palin’s email account earlier this week. The toasts of the left-learning Internet on Tuesday, by this morning they knew themselves to be in the crosshairs of the FBI and Secret Service.

Next stop: jail. That’s the law, and it’s a fair punishment for digital breaking and entering.

According to British tech tabloid The Register, the hackers accessed Palin’s Yahoo account by way of a proxy, relaying all traffic through it to cloak their identities. The proxy’s owner promises to make his log data available to authorities, and it’s probably only a matter of time before that leads to living, breathing (nervous, sweating?) people.

The most likely charge is hacking. Federal law prohibits virtual trespassing for the purposes of stealing information. So cracking the password to a governor’s email account and perusing her messages is a clear violation. The punishment: criminal fines and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Throw in a few conspiracy offenses—according to reports, a slew of “/b-tards” were in on the act—and the prison term could double.

No, going after a major party’s vice presidential candidate was not smart: Police and prosecutors put extra effort into famous crimes.

As for the media publishing Palin’s emails and family photos, shame on them, but it’s not against the law. In Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court held that they have a First Amendment right to publish materials of public importance, even if illegally obtained, so long as the media doing the publishing committed no wrong itself.

But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. No one deserves to have their private correspondence stolen (not, as per the AP, “leaked”) and posted online for the world to see. It speaks to Palin’s classiness that nothing objectionable—not even a cuss—has come to light. Too bad that the press and online gossip-mongers don’t share that trait and take the material down.

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