Articles

Palin E-mail and Government Secrecy

In 2008 Presidential Elections, civil rights, internet, politics, Technology on September 21, 2008 by Editor Z

Last week, it was revealed that a personal e-mail account belonging to Republican Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), was hacked into. Palin and her administration are thought to often use personal e-mail accounts to conduct and discuss state business according to some sources, likely in order to prevent leaks and not be required to disclose the contents of such e-mails. For example, it is rumored that evidence regarding the troopergate scandal could be found in those e-mails. Personal data however, was also in those e-mails in the yahoo account, including a contact list of people she e-mailed as well as the cell phone number of her 17 year old daughter Bristol and a number of family photographs. Webshots of the e-mails and photos were later posted on the Internet and on at least one prominent blog.

Christian Science Monitor:

Hackers have broken into Palin’s Yahoo email account and posted many of the messages and email addresses of Palin’s family and friends to other sites across the Internet.

Phone numbers were also discovered in the ransacking of Palin’s email, including a cell phone number for Palin’s daughter Bristol. According to visitors to the Gawker.com website, calling the number only resulted in a voicemail.

Many people on Gawker seemed to cheer the hackers on and were disappointed that a “white knight” — online lingo for good Samaritan — appeared to have reset the password, blocking more hackers from gaining access to her email account.

Its frightening how vulnerable and accessible personal data is in this day and age. Whoever did this and those who commit similar acts against anyone should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Even public figures are entitled to some degree of privacy that should be respected, especially when their families are involved who are not candidates for elected office or office holders.

Here is the Mccain campaign’s response, as printed in the Hill.

The hack, first reported in Wired magazine and picked up by the Huffington Post, is “a shocking invasion of the governor’s privacy and a violation of the law,” the campaign said.

“The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them,” the campaign added. “We will have no further comment.”

Now, I in no way mean to say that McCain/Palin recieved thier “just deserts” in this event. However, it is a little ironic that a candidate who at least recently has been willing to sweep aside concerns about civil liberties and privacy in the name of aggregating more information to thwart any possibility of a terrorist attack. Yet that same government and those same advocates fight at any chance to disclose thier information (ala Cheney’s “undisclosed location”) or in many cases even public records. It has been privacy for me but not for thee. Government has become more secretive while people have less privacy when it is in fact supposed to be the other way around.

Privacy has been a virtue and one of the corner stones of this country. Openess in government has also been another. Heavy secrecy is the creed of despots and inevitably leads to calamity and corruption, which can only end in disaster or set disasterous precidents for the future.

The fact is government needs to be resepctful and yes even the privacy of people. Rather that person be a Vice Presidential candidate (to some degree), or a young Arab college student who the authorities have no evidence of doing wrong, or just your everyday run of the mill American.

At the same time government has to be more responsive and direct to the people. Over the past eight years confidence in both the United States as well as the U.S government has eroded, due to excessive secrecy and the marshalling of executive power to near dangerous levels.

The people of any democracy and especially the United States needs an informed and active citizenry, so we as a people can participate in the life of our nation and equip ourselves with the knowledge to make our decisions and safe guard against the dissolution of civil liberities that could certainly be the first step on a long and tragic walk towards tyranny. Right now, according to a report released a few weeks ago by the government watchdog organization openthegovernment.org, the right of the people have incurred much damage. The resulting numbers show a government more ethically bankrupt and more fortified from the public, the people whom it was designed to serve. Here are some of the statistics. Note the statistics were in the report which can only be reached via PDF. So there may not be a link here.

> in 2007, 26.2 percent of contracts for Federal Government bussiness money, were totally uncompeted for.

> Increasingly more and more Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) meetings were closed to the public. In 2007 governmentwide 64% of FACA Committee Hearings were closed to the public. . Excluding groups advising three agencies that have accounted for the majority of closed meetings, 15% of the remainder were closed— a 24% increase over the number closed in 2007. These numbers do not reflect closed meetings of subcommittees and task forces.

> During His years in office President George W Bush has issued a total of 156 signing statements that have challeneged provisions of laws without the consent of congress or knowledge of the American people.

> State’s Secret privallege has been invoked more and more to prevent the flow of information to the public. It has been used 6.4 times each year these past seven years, which is twice as much as the number of times it has been traditionally used.

> Executive Privallege has been used three times to block information sought by the U.S Congress.

> in 2006 there was supposedly a 4.7% increase in the number of national Security letters from the previous year. 2007 findings still classified.

Add into that that this administration wants to invest more power into the FBI.

Constantly the Bush/Cheney administration’s view has been a garrison style mentality of maintaining not just their own privacy but also official documents as well as their acts in government, while simultaneously equipping themselves to break down some of those same barriers of personal privacy of everyday citizens. Its time to reverse this order and restore privacy and civil liberties to the public, while acting like we have the three branches of government that we do. After all they call you “public servants” for a reason.

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