Was Palin's e-mail hacked?

A Web site claims to have exclusive images from one of Sarah Palin's private e-mail accounts.

Published September 17, 2008 7:11PM (EDT)

Gawker, a site best known for its catty observations about important subjects like celebrity clothing faux pas and stalker celebrity sightings, claims to have obtained screen shots from one of Sarah Palin's private Yahoo e-mail accounts.

Now, of course, Gawker isn't the New York Times, so it's only reasonable to be skeptical, but there are reasons to think this report is legitimate.

According to Gawker, numerous anonymous individuals managed to hack their way into one of Palin's private accounts, gov.palin@yahoo.com. This is a different e-mail than gov.sarah@yahoo.com, which Palin allegedly used to send work-related messages, including e-mails about her involvement in Troopergate. Both e-mail accounts have now apparently been deleted.

The screen shots Gawker includes of the hacked account suggests that it actually belonged to Palin. There are e-mails to Ivy Frye, a Palin aide, as well as to an address known to belong to Palin's husband, Todd. Need more evidence? There's also a cellphone number for Bristol Palin that seems to go to her voice-mail. There are pictures of Palin's family reportedly downloaded from the account. And as the Gawker post points out, "The public profile for the gov.palin address dates its last update to April of this year -- well before she became McCain's running mate. So if it's a hoax, it's a hoax that began long before anyone outside of Alaska cared about Palin."

However, those interested in the actual content of the e-mails may be disappointed. While the account may add to the speculation that Palin was conducting public business from a private account -- perhaps in an attempt to immunize herself from public records and disclosure laws -- Gawker's images offer up little in the way of newsworthy information. Gawker shows an e-mail in which Palin writes about her understanding of the role of the vice president and another in which she discusses a local radio talk show host. Not exactly items that will make or break a candidacy.

A McCain spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from Salon.

Update: The e-mail account was real. Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, has issued this statement:

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 emails will destroy them. We will have no further comment.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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