Attorneys for Palin email hacker: 'Don't call him hacker'
The semantics of electronic intrusion
Attorneys for the University of Tennessee student accused of breaking into Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's email account have filed a small forest's worth of court documents in defense of the high-profile suspect. Among them is a motion to prohibit prosecutors from referring to their client as a hacker.
The terms "hacker" and "hacking" have no basis under the statute Kernell is accused of violating, a motion filed in US District Court in Knoxville argues. It goes on to seek an order forbidding prosecutors and their witnesses from using those words when referring to the case.
"Because of the negative connotations evoked by these terms, there is a significant danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, and misleading the jury," the motion states. "Hackers are commonly portrayed as dangerous criminals who are involved in malicious conduct such as credit card fraud, stealing, intentional disruption of legitimate activities and causing economic damages."
According to accounts provided in court documents and a narrative taken from the 4chan website, Kernell accessed Palin's Yahoo email account by correctly guessing three password-reset questions using information that was readily available online.
"'Hacking,' which implies the use of sophisticated means or specialized computer skills, is not applicable to the alleged conduct," attorneys for Kernell wrote.
They aren't the first people to quibble with use of such terms in describing the acts Kernell allegedly carried out. Some seasoned security experts have also taken issue with use of the word "hack" to be synonymous with "electronic intrusion."
"It doesn't constitute what we would label as advanced hacking," Rob Graham, CEO of consultancy firm Errata Security, said of the acts alleged in the indictment. "It's something that a teen can figure out, rather than an advanced professional."
The document is one of three defense motions filed since Kernell was indicted in early October for intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization. The barrage suggests attorneys for Kernell, the son of a a Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker, intend to mount a defense that is considerably more vigorous than many in computer crime cases.
One motion argues that prosecutors improperly charged Kernell with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, as the statute in the case calls for. Under the law, the unauthorized access of a protected computer should be classified as a misdemeanor except when it is used to further a separate crime. In Kernell's indictment, that other crime is the unauthorized access of Palin's email account.
The indictment "is very strangely pled and circular," said Jennifer Granick, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's not surprising given the nature of the charges and given the quality of the indictment that the defendant would see a real opportunity here to make some points in favor of the defendant."
A separate motion jointly filed by the prosecution and defense seeks to delay the trial date, which is currently set for December 16. The judge in the case has yet to rule on any of the motions. Don't expect this case to be settled anytime soon. ®
Try that excuse in court when you get the wrong term.
THIS IS A COURT CASE.
They have lingo that means something and you can't use the wrong term because if the Judge wants, he can kill your case over it.
This has happened to RIAA when they kept using the term "theft" which "the people" seem to accept as correct for "copyright infringement" but in a court, "theft" MEANS SOMETHING SPECIFIC. And it doesn't apply to copyright infringement, no matter how the Orlowski's of the world wish it otherwise.
And if they continue to use "hacker" inappropriately, the defense can have the case thrown out because it is not a criminal court case and so the judge has no jurisdiction. Then countersue for barratry.
And you know what, the kid will get away with it.
If she's dumb enough to use this type of mailservice then she gets what she got. Im an registered independant and have favorites on both sides of the political isle. We know our government gets pwned by chinese hackers daily, we know our powergrid fell and will continue to fall victim to chinese attacks. So what if her e-mail was hacked, the kid is a hacker, but my god she's just dumb for using a 'public' service for her e-mail. Case closed. Fry the kid anyhow.
Battery vs batteries
Customer: "Do I need batteries for this gizzmo?"
Salesman: "No sir, you need a single battery."
Customer: "Hmm, the box says 6 AAs."
Salesman:"That is correct sir, you need a single battery compromising 6 AA cells."
Customer: "Kids, lets get outta here. This guy's mad!"
There is a big difference between common usage and what the industry considers correct. To the greater unwashed a hacker is not a good programmer but a criminal who intrudes illegally.
If the PC brigade are offended, then perhaps we should get the lawyers to invent a suitable term: "Intruding American" or perhaps "access denied challenged individual" so that the jury feel compassion.