A hacker put personal photos of George H W Bush online this week after reportedly breaking into the former US president's family email accounts.
One of the leaked snaps shows the 88-year-old Republican recovering from a serious illness in a hospital bed in December last year. His relatives' emails and contact details were also disclosed by the hacker as well as a personal note from President Barack Obama.
Other swiped photos show his son George W Bush, also a former US president, posing next to a cardboard cutout of himself with a moustache and an amusing beret. More seriously, the leaked material includes a confidential list of home addresses, mobile numbers and emails addresses for dozens of Bush family members, including both ex-presidents, their siblings and their children. The information is dated October 2012.
A Bush family spokesman said the breach is being probed by the authorities. "We do not comment on matters under criminal investigation," Jim McGrath told the Houston Chronicle.
The Smoking Gun website reports that the Bush family's email accounts were raided by a hacker who uses the handle Guccifer.
At least six separate inboxes were reportedly compromised, one being the AOL account of Bush Snr's daughter Dorothy Bush Koch. The other hacked accounts belong to George H. W.'s brother-in-law, sister-in-law and friends such as CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz. The photos - watermarked by Guccifer - and emails dating from 2009 to 2012 were uploaded to the internet on Thursday.
Guccifer claimed that “the Feds” began investigating him a "long time ago" and that he had hacked into "hundreds of accounts" over an extended period.
The motive for the attack and how it was carried out are unclear.
George H W Bush served as the CIA's director before becoming a one-term president between 1989 and 1993, and was famous for the promise: "Read my lips, no new taxes".
The Bush email scandal comes after former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo! webmail account was broken into during the 2008 US presidential campaign. More recently police were called in last month to investigate a claimed assault on ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Hotmail and Dropbox accounts. ®