Sarah Palin E-mail Hacking Episode: Private or Public?
When news emerged yesterday that Sarah Palin’s Yahoo mail account had been broken into, John McCain campaign manager Rick Davis characterized it this way:
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.
Oh, the invasion of it all! But is it an invasion? I’m not going to dispute the legality of someone breaking into Sarah Palin’s account. But a violation of privacy? That’s up for at least some moderate debate. Under the Freedom of Information Act, Sarah Palin’s communications as Governor are a matter of public record. Sarah Palin campaigned for Governor on a promise to make her administration “open and transparent.” But like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin has been conducting official business as Governor using private e-mail accounts that are hidden from public records requests by investigators and muckrakers. In a Yahoo account, Sarah Palin can — and according to the screenshots released by hackers, did — send out Yahoo e-mails on official business without having to worry that some pesky citizen is going to uncover the contents. That’s an end run around public records access laws. It’s not “open and transparent.”