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May 31, 2011
Weinergate: Distasteful, but now a public issue
Many readers already know that late last week, a twitter account belonging to Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner sent out a picture of a man's underwear showing a tumescent male member, normally the type of distasteful story we would prefer to ignore. However, the changing story offered by the Congressman, known for his self-righteous criticism of political opponents, requires coverage. As the old saying goes, it's not the scandal, it's the cover-up that counts.
Here is the original post that appeared on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site, noting the existence of the photo, and also the fact that it was deleted from the Congressman's yfrog (picture hosting) account, as well as the Congressman's later tweet claiming his account was "hacked." Subsequently, the Congressman also used the word "prank" to describe the incident, possibly a significant change, as hacking would be a federal crime.
The Congressman, putatively the victim here, has lawyered up. Meanwhile, calls have been heard from conservative websites to bring in the FBI, which has jurisdiction over cybercrime (which is what hacking the Congressman's twitter account would be). Ace of Spades helpfully advises the Congressman: "here's how to report a cyber crime."
But so far, Rep. Weiner has avoided law enforcement involvement, which is quite odd, conksidering he is claiming to be the victim of someone impersonating him online.
Alana Goodman of Commentary offers this sage advice.
Liberal bloggers should be the ones leading the campaign for an official investigation. Many of them have claimed that Andrew Breitbart, and other conservative activists, are responsible for hacking into Weiner's official congressional Twitter account. If that's the case, then let's make sure these right-wing hackers are forced to face the legal consequences of their actions.
This is a fairly customary process. After President Obama's official Twitter account was hacked, the FBI managed to track the hacker all the way to France, where he was tried and convicted. If Weiner's account was compromised, there's a good chance that law enforcement will find the person who did it.
But if it turns out that Weiner is unwilling to allow an official, transparent investigation, then he can't expect journalists to stop digging for the truth on their own. After all, the public has legitimate questions, and the media is only doing its job.
The person who originally broke the story, the anonymous Publius of Biggovernment.com, offers what seems the most plausible explanation for what might have happened, and of Rep. Weiner's strange subsequent behavior:
These statements, plus the fact that there is no indication yet that Weiner has reported the alleged hack to authorities, suggest a new possibility: the offensive tweet may not have been a "hack," but perhaps an inside job by someone with access to Weiner's social networking accounts.
It is fairly standard practice in congressional offices and on congressional campaigns for multiple staffers to have access to the politician's social networking accounts.
The story is now a major national scandal, with major newspapers and networks reporting it on air. CNN tracked down the Congressman and got him on air, characterizing the incident as both a "hack" and a "prank."
Meanwhile, homrists like Iowahawk, Mr. Pinko, and Big Fur Hat are on the case. Once people are laughing at you, the story cannot be contained. One can expect the late night television comedians to ahe a field day.
It is time for law enforcement to come in with their subpoena power and clear up the murk and the muck.
Update: Timelines of the scandal here and here.