Hidden dangers of the Bush email hacking

Media throughout the country carried news recently that a half-dozen email accounts belonging to ex-President George W. Bush and several of his friends and relatives had been hacked.  The words and images that were pilfered weren’t all that interesting, so all in all it wasn’t a huge story.

But to me, a fan of the vanishing right to privacy, this was still a reasonably big deal. I was struck by the way the former president’s right to chat with intimates, free of eavesdroppers, was barely acknowledged. Comments he had made privately and paintings he had kept from public view were exposed worldwide as if the propriety of doing so was beyond question.

And I think that’s worth considering more carefully.

We’ll leave to the FBI and Secret Service the question of whether the hacking warrants legal reprisal. My interest is in what sort of respect Bush’s privacy deserves from the media that received the hacked materials.

The first report of the hacking came in a Feb. 7 posting on The Smoking Gun, a website owned by Time-Warner that tilts toward what was once called tabloid journalism (Among recent headlines: “Man stabbed as ménage a trois goes wrong,” or “Mom charged for letting son, 3, pump gasoline.”)

The Smoking Gun handled the material well, I thought, by foregrounding its invasiveness.  The hack “exposed personal photos and sensitive correspondence from members of the Bush family…” The site said it had obtained confidential material—including home addresses, cell phone numbers, email addresses for Bush family members—but didn’t republish any of it.

In fact, most of the media I saw seemed aware that this material was pretty personal.

But they then turned around and squeezed every bit of even marginally interesting detail from it: Family concern about the declining health of the Continue reading “Hidden dangers of the Bush email hacking”