Open government? Call it Yahoo government. The hacking of Sarah Palin's Yahoo email has raised serious questions about whether she was trying to hide official government business from the public. The prospect is especially worrying given the Bush Administration's use of Yahoo accounts at the RNC and the subsequent disappearance of those emails.
The Times reports that using webmail for official business was SOP in Alaska:
Email from Amy McCorkell to Palin, cached at Gawker. Full collection of screenshots.
While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”
Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”
On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”
Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!”
Mr. Bailey, a former midlevel manager at Alaska Airlines who worked on Ms. Palin’s campaign, has been placed on paid leave; he has emerged as a central figure in the trooper investigation.
If you're going to hide your communications from the public, might as well be smarter about it, says Slate:
Rovian tactics aside, Wednesday's hacking episode proves that it's rather boneheaded to put state business on Yahoo. True, all e-mail addresses are vulnerable to hacking. But Yahoo is a big target—lots of people spend a lot of time trying to crack Yahoo accounts. Do a quick search for "hack yahoo," and you'll be presented with myriad methods of attack. Alaska's private e-mail system probably does not include a "Did you forget your password?" function. Yahoo, of course, does—and that function presents a key method of entry for hackers.
What to do about the Yahoo-ization of government? Gawker suggests:
[R]eformist liberals (could) take a cue from Gerald Ford's Congress and enact laws and penalties tough enough to ensure the government can't thumb its nose at access laws already on the books — thus making slightly less laughable the idea of government officials acting as "servants" to taxpayers.