Gov. Palin and her email: Let us decide
The hacking of a Yahoo account used by Sarah Palin for both personal and government email is a loathsome act that damages the integrity of discovery on the Internet. Having said that, I read every word and downloaded every screenshot before Gov. Palin’s handlers deactivated the account.
I guess that makes me either a voyeur, an intruder, or – worse yet – a liberal, if you listen to the right-wing noise machine.
Frankly, I could care less about the private emails about her family. Or noise machines. What interests me and other responsible citizens is learning how Gov. Palin governs. The emails are revealing.
What is indisputable is that Gov. Palin was running state business through Yahoo! and mixing in her personal business. Any web novice knows that Yahoo! email is unsecured, which is downright dangerous for someone managing a state where you can “see Russia from my backyard.” For an elected official or any business executive to use an unsecured email account to conduct or communicate sensitive information, mixing state with personal business, is beyond naïve. It is reckless.
The break-in of Gov. Palin’s private account is especially significant because she uses non-government e-mail to conduct state business. Previously disclosed e-mails indicate her administration embraced Yahoo accounts as an alternative to government e-mail, which could possibly be released to the public under Alaska’s Open Records Act.
We also get a glimpse into Gov. Palin’s actions in a messy scandal that crosses the line between public and private affairs: whether she fired the public safety commissioner because he refused to take action against her brother-in-law, a state trooper at the time. A small matter, perhaps, but the good citizens who soon will elect a vice president deserve to know how the candidate handled that sticky matter. Badly, if she exposed her actions on Yahoo!
Then there’s the outrage. “A shocking invasion of the Governor’s privacy and a violation of law,” was the response from the McCain campaign. This from a staunch defender of The Patriot Act and a cheerleader for an administration that has seized the power to listen to innocent Americans’ telephone calls; read their emails; obtain their banking, credit card, and library records; create vast databases of every call they make and receive, every prescription they fill, and monitor every instance of travel.
The same authoritarians who cheer the illegal acts of a surveillance state now decry the sanctity of e-mail privacy. That’s the kind of hypocrisy that puts the promise of an informed, democratic society at risk in the connected age.
All of us should oppose invasive attacks on individual privacy. But as citizens of this democracy we are also entitled to know how the candidates for the highest, elected offices in our country think, behave and govern.
If Gov. Palin has nothing to hide, she should make public all emails at firstname.lastname@example.org and gov.palin.com. If we’re smart enough to vote for president and vice president, we’re smart enough to figure out what’s really going on in an email account assigned to public office and civic purpose.
Dale is co-founder emeritus of We Media.