Bush Family E-mails & Photos Hacked, Publication Raises Journalism Ethics Concerns

By Alexandra Burlacu email: a.burlacu@mobilenapps.com | Feb 09, 2013 09:42 AM EST

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Former president G.W. Bush and some of his family members saw their e-mail accounts hacked by someone going by the name of "Guccifer."

The Bush family not only saw their e-mails hacked, but their personal communications ended up brazenly shared online, for everyone to see. While hacking may have become an all too common practice, publishing personal information exposed by a hack has raised some concerns regarding journalistic ethics.

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The personal e-mail messages were basically stolen goods, but a Web site had no problem publishing those private communications and photos. On Friday, Feb. 8, hacked information belonging to the Bush family was widely available over the Internet, after The Smoking Gun published its story of the breach.

The Smoking Gun specializes in uncovering material about criminal and legal matters. The publication exposed the Bush family's personal correspondence in a story based on material it reportedly received from Guccifer himself.

One of the photos shows the elder Bush president lying in the hospital, recovering from bronchitis. Other photos include paintings George W. Bush sent to his sister - self portraits of him under the shower and in the bathtub.

"The Smoking Gun's story is ostensibly a report on the breach of electronic security surrounding the Bush family," reported the Washington Post. "The site reported that the hacked material included confidential lists of home addresses, cellphone numbers and e-mails for 'dozens' of Bush family members, including both former presidents. It did not disclose the details of the lists.

The Smoking Gun not only published personal photos belonging to the Bush family, but it also quoted from e-mails, exposing correspondence spanning from 2009 to 2012. Guccifer claimed to have hacked a total of six e-mail addresses, including an AOL e-mail address of Dorothy Bush Koch, George H. W. Bush's daughter. The Smoking Gun went as far as to publish e-mails revealing deep family concerns regarding the health of the elder Bush, including messages discussing potential funeral arrangements for the 88-year-old George H.W. Bush.

According to Guccifer, the information obtained though the breach consisted of "interesting emails," and "a lot of other stuff," but most of it seems to be of an entirely personal nature.

"We certainly thought hard about using some of the stuff," William Bastone, editor and co-founder of The Smoking Gun, told the Washington Post. "The nature of the hack was so extensive and extraordinary - considering that two presidents had their e-mails illegally accessed - that we clearly thought it was newsworthy. We decided to use a tony portion of the material that was illustrative of the nature of the various incursions and their seriousness."

Newsworthy or not, journalism ethics seems to be long gone. The Smoking Gun's story, along with all the details and photos it published, proves once again that privacy is no longer respected, especially when it comes to those in the public eye.

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