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Alaska must release Palin e-mails by May 31, state AG declares

Jake Roth / AP

More than 25,000 e-mails from the Sarah Palin administration may finally become public.

By Bill Dedman
Investigative reporter

The state of Alaska has until May 31 to release about 25,000 pages of e-mails from former Gov. Sarah Palin and senior members of her administration, the state attorney general declared Wednesday.

As we reported last month, by May the delays in dealing with public records from the Palin administration will have stretched out longer than the Palin administration itself. She was governor for 966 days. By May 31, the request from msnbc.com for the official records will be 986 days old. State regulations usually require records to be made available within 10 days, but state officials said they were overwhelmed by the volume of the e-mails.

Officials in the governor's office asked the attorney general to approve a 15th delay in the process, until May 31. That request was approved Wednesday by the new attorney general, John J. Burns.

But Burns said this deadline is firm:

"I am granting the requested extension with the unequivocal expectation that all requested records that are not privileged will be provided no later than May 31, 2011," Burns wrote in a letter to the administrative director of the governor's office. He sent a copy of the letter to the news organizations and citizens who have requested records, including msnbc.com. (Msnbc.com also pressed the Obama administration to release more of its White House visitor logs.)

The other requestors are the Associated Press, Mother Jones magazine, Republican activist Andreé McLeod and author Geoffrey Dunn. Journalists and citizens requested records on Palin's administration in the summer of 2008, when she vaulted onto the national stage after Sen. John McCain chose her as his running mate in his quest for the White House. (David Corn of Mother Jones reported Monday that McLeod has received threats because of her persistent requests for Palin records.)

As it did with an earlier release of Todd Palin's e-mail, msnbc.com plans to post the e-mails online in a searchable archive, finally making the public records available to the public. This archive will be a joint effort of msnbc.com, Mother Jones, and the nonprofit investigative news organization, Pro Publica.


The reference by Burns to "records that are not privileged" refers to the process, as allowed by law, for the state to withhold records, or parts of records, if release would violate privacy of individuals or meet other exemptions in the public records law. "Although further delay clearly is far from desirable," he wrote, "I find that on balance a careful review best serves the public's multiple interests — including the interests both in a transparent government and in protecting privileged and confidential information from inadvertent disclosure."

Burns said state officials haven't been dragging their feet.

"The Governor's Office has not been idle or dilatory," he wrote. "The Governor's Office has responded to several other very broad requests for Governor Palin's emails, including eight requests that required review of over 25,000 pages. Due to limitations of the state's email system, just collecting the email records responsive to those requests took several months."

The full background on our request and the delays is in our previous articles, below:

Quest for Palin e-mails may exceed her time in office

Want Palin's e-mails? That'll be $15 million

Yes, we're still waiting to read Palin's e-mails

Search the archive of Todd Palin e-mails

Palin e-mails reveal a powerful 'first dude'

Palin lawyer responds to msnbc.com story