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Media Outlets Publish Misleading Information About Identity of Alleged Palin Hacker

In my blog post about Sarah Palin's e-mails being posted on the internet, I mentioned some internet speculation about who the culprit was. I didn't mention his name, because there was no real evidence to link him to the crime. There still isn't any, but since David Kernell's name is starting to leak from the comment sections of conservative blogs into the actual fringes of the mainstream media, it seemed like an update was in order.

Kernell is the son of a Democratic state Representative from Tennessee, and he may have used the screen name "rubico" in years past, which was the name used on 4chan by the person who posted Palin's e-mails. That's really about the extent of it.

I should probably note that the screen names and e-mails on 4chan posts are whatever the user types into those fields, and in fact the use of a screen name at all could indicate a certain lack of familiarity with the way things work over there.

Mike Kernell, the state Rep. in question, has spoken to The Tennessean and The Washington Times, and told both of them that he hasn't been contacted by the FBI, and, basically, doesn't know anything. The Tennessean chose to headline an online story yesterday "State rep confirms that son is subject of Palin e-mail chatter."

Kernell was a bit stronger in his denial to The Washington Times, which published its story after the Tennessean story:

"'I talked to David today and he has not been contacted, not a target by any federal group, any investigation,' Mr. Kernell told The Washington Times on Thursday night. He was answering phones at his office late into the evening to clear up inaccurate media reports, he said.'

Maybe it was the word "confirms" in the Tennessean that stuck with folks, because stories citing it have appeared all over, from the New York Post which ran an item stating "Dem Pol's Son Was Hacker," to a computer security news service, whose headline read "Son Of Memphis Democratic Rep. Admits He's The Palin Hacker". Tech channel G4 TV joined in with "Palin Hacker Identified."

Kernell may yet prove to be the Democratic super haxxor the conservative blogosphere wants him to be, but as of this writing, nothing's been confirmed. In the meantime, Sharon Cobb, a blogger who identifies herself as a journalist and friend of Rep. Kernell, says he's receiving death threats over the phone, and Kernell's work and home numbers are posted all over right-wing blogs.

Oh wait, threatening phone calls based on some sketchy information on the internets? That sounds like someone else we know. Who could that /b/?

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