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Palin claims webmail hack disrupted GOP campaign

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Sarah Palin has described the hack of her webmail account as the "most disruptive" event in her campaign to become US vice president last year.

Palin singles out the hack into her Yahoo! web account as "the most disruptive and discouraging" incident in the presidential campaign in her new book Going Rogue: An American Life, leaving in the dust other issues that blighted her GOP campaign with John McCain such as controversies around her daughter Bristol's pregnancy and her inability to handle questions about foreign policy.

The compromise of her personal webmail account in September 2008 "created paralysis" by severing easy communication with her "Alaska staff", according to the former Alaskan governor. This admission supports claims that the webmail account was used to conduct state business and may therefore aid the defence of the alleged hacker, David Kernell, the son of a Democratic state legislator in Tennessee.

Palin writes how she learned of the hack via a TV report she saw while on the campaign trail in Michigan. She describes her horror at seeing her personal correspondence scrolling across a TV screen.

"I was horrified to realize that millions of people could read my personal messages, including the thoughts of a friend who had written of her heartbreak over her pending divorce," she writes, adding: "What kind of responsible press outfit would broadcast stolen private correspondence?"

The hack exposed the the phone numbers and email account addresses of her children who began receiving "vulgar email threats and phone calls", according to Palin. Messages sent through the account included exchanges with daughter Bristol about her pregnancy, conversations with her husband over their newborn son’s medical problems and farewell wishes to her eldest son, Track, before he was sent overseas on military service.

According to the book, the McCain campaign confiscated the Palin childrens' phones, supposedly leaving her out of touch with her kids, Wired reports

"The incident put tremendous stress on the campaign," Palin writes. "Schmidt and others acted as though they believed scattered reports that my hacked email contained incriminating messages that would 'destroy the McCain campaign'.

"There were no messages, of course, but the episode ratcheted up paranoia and distrust inside the campaign."

An Alaska judge ruled earlier this year that Palin’s use of a personal webmail account was not a violation of Alaskan public record laws, which failed to cover the practice or mandate the use of state email accounts. However, the issue is still significant because lawyers for the alleged hacker claims that the stolen emails were part of the public record, so Palin could have no expectation of privacy.

Palin, a socially conservative right wing Republican, has had little to say on web privacy issues to date. Most recently she's put her political energies into attacking President Barack Obama's proposed healthcare reforms.

The upcoming release of Going Rogue was the cover story of a recent edition of Newsweek, which chose to run a fetching picture of Palin in running costume taken for a sports magazine to illustrate its coverage. Palin criticised the decision as "sexist" via her page on Facebook. Newsweek responded that the picture was the most interesting one it had available. ®

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