According to the Christian Science Monitor, 20-year-old David Kernell, son of Rep. Mike Kernell (D), chair of the Tennessee Government Operations Committee, has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of “accessing a computer without permission.” See the indictment (pdf).
Internet response is interesting. A senior editor at ZDNet seems to think the crime is no big deal. Given that a Hawaiian postal carrier was sentenced to only six months for stealing mail — maybe he’s right. But it takes a lot more initiative — and premediation — to break into someone’s personal email account than it does to fail to deliver a piece of mail.
Title 18 Section 1708 Theft or receipt of stolen mail generally: Whoever steals, takes, or abstracts, or by fraud or deception obtains, or attempts so to obtain, from or out of any mail, post office, or station thereof, letter box, mail receptacle, or any mail route or authorized depository for mail matter, or from a letter or mail carrier, any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or abstracts or removes from any such letter, package, bag, or mail, any article or thing contained therein, or secretes, embezzles, or destroys any such letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or thing contained therein… Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years.
The hacker said that he read all of the e-mails in the Palin account
and found “nothing incriminating, nothing that would derail her
campaign as I had hoped. All I saw was personal stuff, some clerical
stuff from when she was governor…. And pictures of her family.”
In contemporary postings, the hacker indicated that he knew what he was doing was a crime… “if this s*** ever got to the FBI I was f*****, I panicked…”
What do you think? How much of a crime is it if you break into a public official’s private email account?