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Tennessee politician's son suspected of hacking Palin's e-mail
Scripps Howard News Service


September 18, 2008
Thursday PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tennessee State Rep. Mike Kernell declined Thursday to respond to online allegations his son hacked into Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account.

"My son's the one in question, and I can't comment on him," said Kernell, a Memphis Democrat.

Bloggers have alleged that David Kernell, 20, is the one who has claimed responsibility for breaking into the Alaska governor's e-mail account.

The evidence is tenuous. In fact, one of the first blogs to allege the son of a Democratic politician was responsible, relied on e-mail tips and described its evidence as "pretty thin."

On Wednesday, the FBI and Secret Service launched an investigation that includes agents in Memphis. C.M. Sturgis, a spokesman for the Memphis FBI branch, confirmed late Thursday that his office is involved.

"All I can say is that a matter was referred to us from the Anchorage, Alaska, office. An investigation at this time is being coordinated out of FBI headquarters in the Department of Justice," Sturgis said.

Also Wednesday, a person using the e-mail address rubico10(at) posted to an online forum about how he used Yahoo! Mail's password-recovery tool to obtain Palin's password.

"i am the lurker who did it, and i would like to tell the story," rubico10(at) wrote on the Web site .

The hacker later explained how he reviewed Palin's e-mails one by one: "I read though the emails... ALL OF THEM... before I posted, and what I concluded was anticlimactic, there was nothing there, nothing incriminating, nothing that would derail her campaign as I had hoped, all I saw was personal stuff, some clerical stuff from when she was governor.... And pictures of her family."

The hacker used easily available information about Palin to answer questions Yahoo! Mail uses to verify identity. The hacker answered the first two questions easily - birth date and zip code. The third question - "Where did you meet your spouse?" - required the hacker to research the answer until he found the correct one, Wasilla High.

"it took seriously 45 mins on wikipedia and google to find the info," rubico10(at) wrote.

After changing the e-mail password to "popcorn," the hacker then posted the username and password to 4chan, allowing others to access Palin's e-mail.

In Nashville on Thursday, Rep. Kernell would neither confirm nor deny his son was involved in hacking Palin's e-mail account. Although Kernell said he was aware of claims his son was responsible, the politician would not address any of them.

"Father-son relationship," Kernell explained.

The longtime legislator would not say whether rubico10(at) is his son's e-mail address.

"I can't comment on my son," he repeated.

Asked if he has been contacted by investigators, Kernell responded: "Me, no."

"I can't say about my son," he added. "That doesn't mean he has or hasn't been contacted."

David Kernell, now a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, could not be reached.

Although FBI and Secret Services officials have not identified suspects in the case, they are reviewing logs that could confirm the hacker's identity.

The hacker accessed the Alaska governor's private e-mail account after the news media disclosed e-mails indicating Palin's administration used private e-mail accounts as a way to work outside Alaska's Open Records Act.

David Kernell excelled at chess while at Germantown (Tenn.) High School and won the 2004 Tennessee Open Scholastic Chess Championship. Internet searches show someone uses the handle rubico on chess Web sites. In addition, an inactive blog, with one post dated May 2004, included rubico as a username. Its author identified himself as a chess player from Memphis named David.


E-mail Trevor Aaronson at Aaronson(at)
Staff reporters Jody Callahan and Richard Locker contributed.
Trevor Aaronson writes for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn.

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