Palin's alleged email hacker indicted

Jake Turcotte

Has it really only been three weeks?

The non-stop, 24-hour a day campaign really distorts time. It's only been three weeks since Sarah Palin's personal email account was hacked into and contents were posted all over the web.

You remember we told you about it here and here.

If you can't do the time...

Since then a suspect has been identified and an indictment served. A 20-year old University of Tennessee student, David Kernell, pled not guilty today in federal court.

Kernell is being charged with "gaining unlawful access to stored communications and obtaining information from a protected computer via interstate communication."

If convicted, could he do some real time? You betcha'. Breaking in to someone's email isn't just mischievous. He could be sent to prison for five years, fined $250,000, and then face three years of supervised release.

"Cyber crime is the FBI's top criminal investigative priority," said FBI Agent Richard Lambert. "We would like to thank all of the Internet service providers and others who partnered with us to bring this matter to a quick and successful resolution."


The hack created a sensation last month when the perpetrator was able to gain entry to Palin's Yahoo account by successfully resetting her password. Once inside, he changed the password to maverick "popcorn" and then created some mayhem, posting screenshots of emails, phone numbers to family members and friends of Palin, and other personal information.

It ain't hacking

The reference to the word "hack" rankles those in the hacking world, incidentally. We've been taken to task for using that term.

James wrote to us:

"It wasn't hacking, let's be clear about this, the guy who breached Sarah Palin’s account used the password retrieval system (which all accounts on yahoo have). It does not take a genius to answer password questions like the Wasilla zip code, and where Sarah and her husband first met."

Karl Rove

And of course it wouldn't be a conspiracy if someone didn't bring Karl Rove into the picture. One reader told us the mastermind behind the hack (sorry James) could be a Rove disciple and the Rovian tactic was designed to put the blame on Barack Obama. Says DP Graves:

Ah…the hacking sounds a little reminiscent of Rove’s tactic in Texas where he was to thought to have planted a bug in his own office when he was running a gubernatorial campaign. Rove then accused his opponent of bugging Rove’s office.

More conspiracy

There are plenty of conspiracy theorists around. We believe this blog may be just slightly tilted to the right. It's titled today's story "Obama-led hacker indicted."

The McCain campaign has been largely silent on the issue focusing instead on being a maverick the campaign.

Guantanamo bound?

But there is a lot of talk on the tech side of the web. Over on ZDNet, one visitor speculates that Kernell, who is incidentally the son of a Democratic state representative from Tennessee, is hoping Barack Obama wins the upcoming election.

"I bet he is praying for an Obama win in November, as that way he has a great chance [of] receiving a pardon from him," writes the reader. "If McCain wins, well five years in Guantanamo is not really all that bad..."

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