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Sarah Palin E-Mail Hacker Tied To Tennessee Democrat

Department of Justice investigators have declined to comment on the status of the Palin e-mail investigation.

David Kernell, 20, son of Tennessee Democratic state Rep. Mike Kernell, may soon be speaking with the FBI and the Secret Service about whether he played a role in the hacking of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account.

According to The Tennessean, the elder Kernell has confirmed that his son, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville student, is "the person who was the subject of speculation on blogs on the subject."

What the bloggers have been speculating about is that the younger Kernell owns the e-mail address rubico10@yahoo.com. The "Rubico" address has been linked to an apparent confession in the Palin hacking incident that was posted initially on the 4chan.org forum and later on various news sites and blogs.

"Rubico's" purported confession described how easy it was to reset the password of Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account and to hijack it.

Palin has been criticized for using a nongovernment e-mail account as a way to avoid accountability for official communications.

Alaska lawmakers are investigating accusations that she fired the state's public-safety commissioner because he wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.

A report on Memphis CBS affiliate WREG-TV said that the FBI's Anchorage, Alaska, office has been in contact with the FBI in Memphis in conjunction with the Palin e-mail investigation. The FBI and Secret Service began looking into the incident Wednesday.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the Palin e-mail investigation.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Justice Department "may be hamstrung in any prosecution of [the Palin e-mail hack] by its restrictive view of 'electronic storage.' "

The Justice Department, in its Prosecuting Computer Crimes Manual, argues that e-mail, once it has been read, is neither stored nor backed up under the terms of the Stored Communications Act. Such messages thus do not qualify for protection under the act.

There are, however, other computer crime statues that could be brought to bear. In a blog post, Andrew Grossman, senior legal policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, suggests computer fraud charges could be filed.

The Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment about possible charges.

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