US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been ordered to preserve all emails from private accounts that relate to state business.
Superior Court Judge Craig Stowers ordered Alaska's attorney general to recover messages contained in a Yahoo email account maintained by Palin. The account was breached last month and some of its contents were posted to Wikileaks.
Friday's court order follows revelations that the Alaska governor has conducted email discussions concerning official state business from a Yahoo email address. According to The Washington Post, Palin, her husband and several aides established additional private email accounts that were apparently known only to one another. Critics say her use of email accounts outside of the state's official system violates open government laws that require such communications to be available to members of the public.
Indeed, according to screenshots posted to Wikileaks, email sent to Palin's Yahoo account contained subject headings including "Draft letter to Governor Schwarzenegger," "Court of Appeals Nominations" and "CONFIDENTIAL Ethics Matter."
The McCain campaign ordered all of Palin's email accounts frozen after the breach of the Yahoo address became public.
Andree McLeod, an Anchorage activist, has sued Palin to access more than 1,100 emails the governor refused to turn over during a public records request. Although Palin cited executive privilege in declining the request, McLeod's attorney contends the governor waived the privilege by routinely copying messages to her husband, Todd, who is not a state employee.
Last week, the son of a Tennessee democratic representative was indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally accessing Palin's Yahoo account and posting some of its contents. David Kernell, 20, has pleaded not guilty.
In addition to skirting public records laws, critics have faulted Palin's use of unofficial email accounts for the ease with which messages can be intercepted. Yahoo mail's password reset feature, which was used to breach Palin's account, is notoriously easy to manipulate by unauthorized individuals.
Members of the Bush administration have also been accused of using private accounts to send emails conducting official White House business. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Democrat of California) said in March 2007 that White House officials used nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications.
More recently, Vice President Dick Cheney's office has acknowledged that an entire week's worth of email is missing from White House archives. It was the first week of October, 2003, the opening days in a probe by the Justice Department into whether anyone at the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. ®