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Happy Dump Day! The Palin Emails are Released… Sort of.

~Fox News’ copies of Palin’s emails, Juneau, AK.  Photo by ‘Mudflatter D.’

By Jeanne Devon

Well, the day we’ve been waiting for has arrived. It only took (looks at watch) two years and change. I refer of course to the emails to and from Sarah Palin that were requested by individuals and news organizations to give them some insight into who this virtually unknown vice presidential candidate was – that which is known today as “The Palin Email Dump.”

Well, with all the information now out there, I’m retroactively confident in my choice not to have voted for her. Phew.

The state of Alaska, of course, lamented about how hard all this was. There were a lot of emails, and it took a long time to read them all, and go through, and sort and stack and copy, and on and on…

But seriously, folks. This is the 21st century, right? In the world of document processing, the Palin email project is nothing. Thirty thousand documents? What was the holdup?

The State of Alaska did not have the software to do the job.  What they do have can’t remove duplicates, can’t run word searches for “hot” terms, and can’t cluster similar emails.  The entire project was being done MANUALLY. For you youngsters, that’s a term that means “by hand.”

Now, in the State’s defense, it probably didn’t think it would ever have to deal with these types of large requests.  How could it possibly have foreseen the nightmare that was the Palin administration, and all the fallout that would ensue?  To equip the Department of Law with the proper software would have been expensive.  It doesn’t make sense to do it, if we make the hopeful assumption that we will never again end up with a “Palin” in office here.  The state thought it wouldn’t get a good return on its investment, and we all hope they were right.

But , this raises a question.  Why wasn’t this work, like much of the State’s legal work, farmed out to a private firm that has the software, a dedicated server and contract attorneys to do the work?  This kind of work could be charged by the amount of information being processed, rather than by the hour, and would likely be far less expensive than having a team of “Bob Cratchits” with quill pens and ledgers and candles doing this work manually for over two years. I’ve been wondering about this since October of 2009, and during delay after delay by the state.

The contract attorneys would be dedicated to this one job until it was done. They would not be subjected to being pulled off the job to work on other things like state employees are. And the contract attorneys would be subject to the same confidentiality as the attorneys in the Dept of Law.  Everything is still privileged information.  According to attorneys in the know, it’s a pretty typical solution for any sort of legal issue involving huge amounts of electronic documents such as these. With better software, the work could be done relatively quickly.  21,000 emails is nothing when you have good software and experienced people, and would take days or maybe weeks to complete, but not over a year, with no end in sight.

So, why when the State is clearly unable to handle this type of request in a timely manner, and why when cases like this are routinely farmed out to those who can handle them quickly and are subject to confidentiality, is this being done manually by attorneys within the Department of Law who Jones claims are being pulled away from other projects?

Good question, a year and a half later.

But today, all that is water under the bridge. It’s “Dump Day” in Juneau, and the emails are released! The media is all over them like winter ravens on a Wendy’s dumpster. Sarah Palin herself says there will be nothing to find, and that “every stone” has been turned over, but was quick to add that whatever anyone does find will surely be taken “out of context.”

As someone who has survived the dubious task of actually reading through tens of thousands of Sarah Palin’s emails, I can hold my hand on my heart and tell the media I know what they are going through. My life is a Palin email dump. And I tell them, and you who are eagerly gobbling up morsels as they are ferreted out of the giant pile, that sadly the most telling thing about this new dump of Palin emails is not what anyone is going to find, it’s what they are not going to find.

The emails are being put online now by the Washington Post HERE. Next to the .pdf download it says “Full text of Sarah Palin’s emails during her time as Governor of Alaska.” Wishful thinking.

First of all, these emails only include those that were sent to or from a government email account. This is exactly why those in her “inner circle” did not use government accounts for much of their communication. Yahoo accounts are private and not subject to open records laws. This is convenient if you don’t want people to know what you are doing, as was the typical modus operandi of the “open and transparent” Palin administration.

Second, the “full text” of the emails does not include things which are redacted because of executive privilege, deliberative process, or if they contain items of a personal nature like a phone number. These things are understandable. There are things that would be harmful to the state if they were revealed in a public way, and although there are those that would love to know, I can personally do without knowing what toothpaste is used in the Palin household, or all about what they had for dinner last night at Taco Bell. I’m also willing to concede that despite how fun it might be, it’s probably not a good idea to call Sean Parnell at home and ask him if his refrigerator is running.

So, let’s have a look at the list of those emails that we don’t get to see, and the explanation (which we are owed) as to why we don’t get to see them.  HERE is a link to what is called the “Privilege Log” that will tell us that information.

What the privilege log tells us is that thousands of emails were either withheld or redacted.  Out of 14,482 emails, more than 2,300 had sections redacted, and more than 950 were completely withheld. And what did these emails contain? Some of them had to do with big state secrets like the Anchorage Daily News’ gossip column, The Ear. Others had to do with outspoken Palin critic, and former opponent Andrew Halcro. One cited the Alaska Constitution and its right to privacy to withhold an email over a “child custody issue.”  Did that have anything to do with Troopergate and the custody issue involving her ex-brother-in-law Mike Wooten and why she wanted him fired? Why would it be necessary to redact an email about the Alaska Railroad’s use of pesticides? Or one about a letter to the editor? Or contact from shady real estate developer Bob Penney?  The Bridge to Nowhere? Aerial wolf hunting? A proclamation about flu shots? The polar bear and its listing under the Endangered Species Act?

Why is an email being redacted for “deliberative process” when the subject is “Miss America”?

These are things that we will presumably never know.

Many of the emails on the list actually appear not to comply with the law. They do not have a summary explaining to us why they are being withheld in the first place. And why do we have the legal right to know this? Because they are OUR emails. As difficult as it may be to remember, Palin and crew actually worked for us.

Will any of these media outlets or private individuals challenge these witholdings and demand that they be released? How many relevant documents are wrongfully being withheld under the cloak of “executive privilege”? Does the Parnell administration have an interest in keeping information from the public that we have a right to know?

Look here:

An email has been withheld for reasons of deliberative process that was sent by the governor to Chief of Staff Mike Tibbles, and aides Meg Stapleton and Kris Perry, copied to state employees Sharon Leighow, John Bitney and Christopher Clark, AND…. private citizen and employee of BP Exploration, Todd Palin.

Guess what? As soon as a private citizen is copied on a state email, all rights of privilege go out the window. Todd Palin is a private citizen just like you and me. It is not allowable for the chief executive to pick and choose which private citizens get to be included in these communications and which do not. If it’s good for one, then it’s legally good for all. Oh, right. The Alaska Courts think otherwise. Todd’s a “consultant.” But he’s NOT a state employee when it comes to Troopergate and matters of his depositions in that regard. He’s kind of like Dick Cheney, morphing his status as it suits the purpose. Great.

So, Happy Dump Day, America. Enjoy the show, and indulge your inner forensic voyeur. But remember, you are seeing what you have been allowed to see, and the notion of open and transparent government is the issue. We need news organizations to challenge that which is being wrongfully withheld from the public. And we need our courts to say that it is not OK that state business, the business of the people, is conducted via means that allow it to be concealed from us.





45 Responses to “Happy Dump Day! The Palin Emails are Released… Sort of.”
  1. Palin used yahoo email for government business to get around Alaska’s record keeping requirements. This interfered with day to day management of Alaska when she was governor.

  2. dressage* says:

    Regardless of the content of the released e-mails, I can tell you (as a previous State employee during Ms. Palin’s tenure) that the most offensive part of her e-mail practices to most of us was her use of personal e-mail accounts for State business. While I am aware that the governor is apparently not subject to the same policies and procedures as other, more lowly employees, any one of us would have been subject to serious discipline, if not dismissal, had we done the same thing. Ditto for allowing our non-State employee spouses access to sensitive or confidential State business, much less openly using them as “consultants”. (Having had to discipline an employee for same, I think I can speak with some authority.)

    • kiksadi50 says:

      if a non-State employee unofficial ‘consultant’ like todd p. was given access to confidential state business such as a state trooper’s employee file,than how come Trooper Wooten isn’t able to sue the state for breaching his confidentiality?Aren’t their minutes of meetings that todd sat in on that prove he was given access to info.he had no legal right to hear?Didn’t he perjure himself during the campaign when he was subpoenaed to testify about his involvement in troopergate?It’s hard to prosecute moral issues,but these are legal issues which never seem to be explained away.

  3. John says:

    Someone needs to file an administrative appeal over the redactions.

  4. LisaB says:

    Basically, if you write the state your letter becomes a state record. So the state is not violating privacy by not redacting these names and addresses.

    However, should the Flying Monkeys descend on those whose letters are critical, I think they may have recourse to sue the government. I think a good attorney can show there is a reasonable expectation they would suffer harm at the hands of the Bot Army if their information became public, and the government released it anyway.

  5. London Bridges says:

    If Todd was never sworn in as an employee of the Sate of Alaska, he would not be subject to Alaska’s Privacy Act. Thus, any addressees, particularly, non-state employees should file a class action suit seeking damages for violating their Privacy Rights. Big $$$.

    What do others think?

    • kiksadi50 says:

      thats what I’ve been come Todd,who was not a state employee,was allowed access to confidential employment files of state employees?why was he allowed to sit in on meetings with the Gov. and her staff?I work in a field where individuals confidentiality when breached is a serious ethical and legal issue.Why hasn’t the trooper in question sued for breach of confidentiality?I must have missed something but it bugs the heck out of me.

  6. Zyxomma says:

    I’ve been refraining from clicking on any links to stories about Her Heinous, no matter where they appear. I’m awaiting Dunn’s book at the library (won’t take long), and until some of the dirt in the emails shows up (I will look to the posters here to keep me informed), I refuse to give her page views. I’m sick of the hag.

  7. aussiegal77 says:

    Yeah I’m underwhelmed. I’m sure they won’t let anything slip. It’s frustrating that Palin deliberately skirted the laws in place, everyone knows what she did and she’s getting away with it.

    If she is an honest person – there is nothing to hide and no reason to use yahoo email accts.

  8. seattlefan says:

    Great post AKM! Those emails that have been withheld should be the story tomorrow. I hope the “lost emails” will eventually see the light of day and without partisan judgement and redaction. Keep up the fight!

  9. Kath the Scrappy says:

    AKM, a MUST WATCH! Tonight on Lawrence O’Donnell, he interviews Michael Isikoff NBC News Correspondent, from Juneau. Laughing about the emails:

    At one point Isikoff says SP’s response just last week to Frank Bailey’s book was that he lied about her staff setting up polls and voting to make her look better. However, Isikoff has ALREADY read some emails that show SP coordinating with staff about setting up polls & votes. They got a great laugh, but it further validates the book!

  10. TX SMR says:

    When will the evil scourge of Bible Spice go away?

    I hope that BP sues the first dud for forwarding “confidential” BP info to state agencies. Wouldn’t that be nice? I hope that the state is sued for releasing personal info of private citizens. I hope that the lawsuits go on & on & on. The state can be sued, their liability does not expire. Dud can be sued by BP for who knows how long.

    I honestly don’t see her picking up any new supporters from this — they may see her as a victim, she’s perfected that persona, but presidential? I don’t think so. It’s one thing to craft letters to the editor supporting AGIA using pertinent & relevant information (I don’t recall reading any letters supporting AGIA that were particularly insightful), quite another to craft a faux letter to the editor about a beauty pageant issue! WTH?

  11. kiksadi50 says:

    Was todd palin an official consultant to the Palin in; he was a paid consultant, or was it an honorary,emeritus type thing? I’ve often wondered why todd was allowed access to a trooper’s personnel file, which as far as I understand, should be confidential.Wasn’t todd palin allowed access to a whole lot of Gov. info. about people, places, and things?I’m confused.Also,what about the relationship between the Palin campaign & the Republican Gov. Association during the Gov. campaign?Isn’t that a legal & an ethical issue? I have been reading a lot of blogs today & I realize a lot of people in the lower 48 think this whole ‘Palin-email-gate’ is petty and a waste of time.It’s even garnering some sympathy for Palin from undecideds & Repub. who didn’t like her before this. I don’t think it’s petty but I get why they do.I think it’s pretty clear in “Blind Allegiance” that Palin has always been very good at covering her tracks.Because I love Alaska so much I think Palin’s blatant dishonesty & lack of ethics while mayor & Gov. are pretty darned important.I’d like to see the ‘ethics reformer’ held accountable.But if this investigation makes Palin look like a victim,(which she will do her best to reinforce)and it gets her one sympathy vote as a candidate for POTUS then I wonder if it’s worth it.

  12. Latitude 58 N says:

    I was checking out the emails and noticed something that appeared odd. If you look at the headers, sometimes “o’s” are replaced by “0’s” (i.e. numbers for letters) and vice versa. I don’t know of any e-mail program that is that inconsistent. Were the emails transcribed? Something just seems a little strange, but maybe it’s nothing.

    Any techno-geeks out there who can explain it?

    • buckydoc says:

      I’m wondering if Optical Character Recognition was used?

      • Latitude 58 N says:

        That’s possible. There are a lot of misspellings but that’s easy enough to discount (I’ve had to correct several in this post already!). It was the email addresses that threw me, since they’d have to be entered correctly in order to have been sent or received, yet there’s a lot of variation in them.

  13. Deb says:

    “Second, the “full text” of the emails does not include things which are redacted because of executive privilege, deliberative process, or if they contain items of a personal nature like a phone number. These things are understandable.” (from above blog post)

    This appears to not be the case when it comes to citizens who criticize her. Their name, address, phone number and email address or a combination of these were NOT redacted.

    Here is the link to a blog post setting out this together with a few examples.

  14. Lacy Lady says:

    This is an interesting read on “first dude”

  15. Buffalogal says:

    This is where Mr. Bailey can do much good by coming up to the “released emails” plate and shedding light on the truth of matters.

    The book was the first step down the yellow brick road. Keep the journey going towards the reality of it all.

  16. Sourdough Mullet says:

    Was waiting to hear the email release story on the nightly news, but it’s been pre-empted by hockey game. Arghh!!
    It strikes me that the administration probably deliberately released the emails on a Friday, to lessen the effect in the news. Seems to me that stories they want to downplay are always released on a Friday afternoon. I hope in this case it’ll just provide the media an opportunity to review the emails and do a more thorough report on Monday.

  17. aeroentropy says:

    Andy Borowitz’s take on it all:

    It’s important that we all keep laughing, or we’ll all go (even more) insane.

  18. Lilybart says:

    The story is the multiple email accounts she set up in a deliberate attempt to circumvent open records laws and the heavy redactions in what are public records. Open and transparent my a**.

  19. LA Brian says:

    The word ‘dump’ will now automatically follow any thought or mention of ‘Palin’ in much the same way as the right index finger reaches for the letter ‘u’ on a keyboard whenever I type a ‘q.’

    Somehow I’m not surprised.

  20. ks sunflower says:

    Thank you.

    You are right – the government should not be doing the people’s business in secret other than matters that might affect national security.

    Of course, if information is not exchanged in written form (letters, memorandum, email, faxes, tweets or whatever technological invention that produces a “written” transcript), then it will be exchanged via voice in person or over the phone. It’s how employers circumvent the recommendation problem when they want the “real dirt” on an applicant.

    Thank goodness, though, most people want to product a paper trail for a variety of professional and personal reasons – primarily for CYA purposes.

    We will never know everything, but what can be known should be public property because, as you point out, these individuals have the privilege we granted them to work on our behalf. Thank you for your integrity and persistence and for all those who have doggedly jumped through every hoop and figuratively climbed over every obstacle to get to this day. I join you in the hopes that more will be forced to be made public for the very reasons you stated.

  21. Lacy Lady says:

    I think that what will hurt Palin most in these e-mails, is that her husband was doing State business. He was not an electied official—–so why?? Strange!

  22. DudleysPa says:

    Someone, somewhere else, made the observation that the opinion of Palin’s supporters wouldn’t change regardless of what comes out in these e-mails. That’s probably true for the die-hard Palin-bots, but it got me wondering what others think it would take, as a minimum, to change their minds? e.g.


    Todd, you have got to get Willow’s damn cat fixed. This is the second time I’ve had to personally bite the heads off of a box full of kittens. Don’t make me ask again or I’ll take your stupid snow machine keys away.

    Would that do it?

  23. Sourdough Mullet says:

    If the State gets away with redacting/withholding all these emails it will be a travesty of justice for Alaskans. Please, please someone file a lawsuit contesting these withheld emails, especially those withheld for “executive privilege” that were cc’ed to Todd Palin.
    Someone posted a link to the article below on another website, and it’s pretty damning if it’s true. It claims that Palin used the email dump to “target” those who questioned or criticized her, by leaving their names and contact info visible in the emails, while personal info has been redacted in the other emails. It effectively makes her critics a target for her followers. She just can’t RESIST a good score-settling, can she? If it’s true, I hope she and Parnell and those responsible get hung up by their toes!

  24. Moose Pucky says:

    After two plus years and a lot of blackout, I imagine…well, let’s just say I can only imagine.

    Don’t need E-mails to know that she isn’t (wasn’t) the reformer she claimed to be. Don’t need E-mails to know shallow, petty, partisan actions when I see them.

    That goes for Palin and for Parnell and for….

  25. zyggy says:

    Borowitz had a field day writing about these emails, it’s so worth reading. But as far as humorous, AKM, you are just as funny. He said IBM’s Watson blew up trying translate Palinese. =)

    I agree, none of the emails to Todd should be restricted.

  26. Leota2 says:

    And yet Palin’s buddies didn’t redact the names, addresses and email addresses of her critics . . . . .

    • Lilybart says:

      Petty and vindictive in everything she does.

    • merrycricket says:

      I find this completely reprehensible and it angers me beyond belief that anyone who works for any state would participate in such a blatant act of vindictiveness. To think how many people were working on these emails that knowingly kept the names and other personal information of Palin detractors in these emails that would become public. If ANY harm or harassment ia inflicted on any of those people, Palin, Parnell et al, should be held responsible.

  27. Blooper says:

    “like winter ravens on a Wendy’s dumpster”.

    LOL. As someone who has seen this many times (well, seen ravens descending on any number of fast food dumptsters) I have to say that is a very apt and humorous metaphor. 🙂

  28. OMG says:

    My fear is that she will come out of this OK. Already news organizations are suggesting that there’s nothing to see but a governor hard at work which will work to her benefit. I hope that what I’m hearing now is wrong and that they will find all those lovely character flaws that she’s proven time and again to possess.

    On a side note, I watched a clip of her movie (from the Washington Post) and it made me gag. Hopefully only her fans will part with their money but news agencies are giving the feature more than its fair share of hype so you never know. If Palin makes it anywhere close to a high political position we can thank the media for putting her there.

    • CarolE says:

      ” My fear is that she will come out of this OK. Already news organizations are suggesting that there’s nothing to see but a governor hard at work which will work to her benefit. ”

      Funny, but I was thinking the exact same thing. I read some of the emails and saw nothing much there other than her doing her job. This whole thing could backfire. I sure hope there is something negative there that brings her down and we are wrong in our fear.

      • Sarafina says:

        As soon as I saw not all emails were released I figured all smoking guns would be extinguished. Whatever $arah’s intelligence, many lawyers are sufficiently competent to cover up potential problems.

  29. Ripley in CT says:

    Good point about Tahd being a regular citizen. Who’s going to make this a trouble spot for her? I hope someone.

    Also, I’m entirely jealous that you got to read un-redacted e-mails for your book. While they certainly clogged your neural pathways at the time, I find it enchanting that you can read about these redactions and know what they’re missing in some cases. How fabulous.

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