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Sarah Palin supporters hack Twitter feed of company that posted her emails for msnbc.com

AP/Brian Wallace

Juneau resident Barb Belknap, a volunteer reader for msnbc.com, reads a Palin email message on Friday in Juneau. Analysts for Crivella West work in the background, returning the 24,000 pages of emails to electronic form.

The Twitter feed of the company that put online 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails for msnbc.com was hacked over the weekend, with vandals posting  a series of pro-Palin and anti-Obama messages.

Among the tweets:

  • Emails: Gov. Palin a Hard-Working Public Servant
  • Email Witch-hunt Backfires
  • Weiner's America Or Palin's America - That Is The 2012 Choice

"It appears that there is a 'hole' in one of the applications (we think Facebook) that links to Twitter," Art Crivella, founder and CEO of the company, Crivella West, told msnbc.com Sunday evening. "We've disabled them and mopped up the bile and changed all the passwords."

The searchable online archive of emails was not affected.

Crivella West, a Pittsburgh company that analyzes documents in some of the largest legal cases and works with both political parties, had first offered its services for free to the state of Alaska, after officials there said in 2008 they were overwhelmed by records requests and would require payment of $15 million by any citizen or journalist seeking the records. After the state did not reply to the company's offer, msnbc.com and the company agreed to put online a free public archive of the records once the state released them.

The records include 24,000 pages of emails released Friday by the state of Alaska from part of Palin's brief tenure as governor. The records had been requested by msnbc.com and other news organizations in September 2008, just after Palin was named as the Republican vice-presidential candidate, and after it became known that Palin and her staff used private Yahoo email accounts to keep some of their discussions of public business off of the government computers, where they would be subject to public records requests and subpoenas. When emails were sent or received by someone using a government account, they did become accessible. A heavily redacted set of the documents, with more than 2,000 pages excluded entirely and many other portions blanked out, was handed out, on paper, by Palin's successor.


Crivella staff on Friday scanned in the documents and got the full archive online for msnbc.com in just 12 hours, in half the time of other news organizations. The archive is hosted by msnbc.com and co-sponsored by Mother Jones magazine, which also had requested the documents in 2008, and the investigative newsroom Pro Publica.

The company was featured in news reports about the email release, and Crivella was openly critical of the decision by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (the former oil-and-gas lobbyist who was Sarah Palin's lieutenant governor) to release the documents in 250 pounds of paper, despite state law requiring electronic release of electronic records. In an article Friday in The Juneau Empire, Crivella said, "We’re dealing with it here like we were in 1950, with all these banker’s boxes of paper. You have to go out of your way to do this. It would be like me paying my taxes in pennies — I know it’s legal tender, but I have to go out of my way to do it."

Overnight Saturday and into Sunday, odd messages flowed from Crivella West's Twitter account, which previously had been non-political.

  • Obama's Energy Policies to Drive Electricity Rates up 40 to 60%
  • Editor-In-Chief of Reason Magazine: 'Scrutinize Obama, Not Palin'
  • Even the Washington Post Concedes The E-Mails "Underscore Palin's Role as a Sincere Budget Cutter"

Several Alaskans following the Palin story noticed the tweets and raised an alarm.

You can see these tweets at PoliticsUSA, a liberal political site that seems to have been the first with the news. Its commentary: "It looks like some Palin supporters, you know the same people who wanted the teenager who hacked Sarah Palin’s email account in 2008 locked up for life, don’t understand the meaning of the word hypocrite."

Crivella told msnbc.com that he wouldn't exactly call it a sophisticated hack. "It appears that in this case 'hacking' means sending out spam tweets pretending to be us. I think real hackers might be offended."

The online archive of emails was not affected. "We've checked everything and all of our systems are perfect and we're totally OK," Crivella said.

Crivella said he wouldn't let the vandalism spoil the good experience of restoring the electronic records to an electronic archive for the public. His staff worked in the city-owned Centennial Hall convention center in Juneau, alongside msnbc.com reporters and members of the public who volunteered to read the public records for insights into their former governor, who might become a presidential candidate in 2012. The reading went on, steadily and quietly, through Friday and Saturday, with nuggets of information posted on our live blog.

"I was really  proud of our whole team on this assigment," Crivella said. "I told my group that they conducted themselves in a highly professional manner. I was very impressed with the people of Alaska - their hard work looking at documents, how smart they all were and how committed they each were to examing their own public records and the conduct of the people who represent them. More than anything I and my team contributed - I was most proud to be there with the people of Alaska.

"I'm not going to let some foul mouthed 'twit' spoil what I've experienced this week - it was great!" 

Here's more of msnbc.com's coverage of the Palin emails: