Alaska releases more than 24,000 printed pages of Sarah Palin's emails


Officials in the state of Alaska today released about 13,000 of Sarah Palin's emails from the former governor's first 21 months in office. During that period, her fame grew and she became a GOP vice presidential nominee. In the video below, you can see 24,199 pages of those emails boxed up and hand-carted on dollies (note that the boxes show they're printed on "Cougar" brand paper, heh). The process of preparing the documents for release took some two years, involved 55 current and former state employees, and required a legal review that concluded on May 31. Ms. Palin used a Yahoo email account, rather than an official Alaska government email account, presumably to avoid state archiving and recordkeeping requirements.

Washington Post:

Among the 14,482 emails that were sent or received by then-Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Alaska officials released just over 11,000 without altering them. But they also redacted some information from more than 2,300. And they held back 953 entirely.

The content may not all be heavy (we are talking about Sarah Palin here), but the documents are. And unlike Palin, they're not cheap. From the New York Times:

[H]er old e-mails are being released by the pound, not the pixel, in six boxes, a total of about 250 pounds at a printing cost of $725 per set.
Reading these early news accounts, it's not yet clear to me why the state chose to release the emails in printed form, as opposed to scanned images or in some native text-based digital form with full headers and such. Some interesting issues around forensics and privacy to consider there. But releasing these state documents on paper, and charging for them, makes the task all the more onerous for reporters and investigators. Of course, the state could have been even more cruel: selecting a font like, say, Comic Sans. Or Zapf Dingbats.

So why are we seeing them at all? Because Mother Jones, ProPublica, and MSNBC requested them in 2008.

There's a hashtag for Twitter: #palinemails. David Corn at Mother Jones has a good overview of the Sarah Palin email saga here. Amy Davidson's blog post at the New Yorker is here. The Pro Publica guide is here. The New York Times has an interactive archive. And here is the MSNBC database.

What's most interesting to me about this story is the way it resembles reactions to Wikileaks dumps. Take, for instance, the Washington Post's approach: a main site devoted to the big picture here, and a request to readers to help crowdsource. And they've even set up a Twitter feed dedicated to the story here, @PalinEmails, with "micro-updates."

And yes, she really did request that a tanning bed be installed in the governor's office.

(PHOTO: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) greets a protester holding a sign reading "Idiot Queen" as she arrives for a clambake at a private residence in Seabrook, New Hampshire June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)


  1. Aww man, if they had released them electronically, text mining researchers could have had no end of fun…

  2. They’re releasing them in hard copy to make it as much of a pita as possible for anyone who wants to read them.

    While there may be “forensics and privacy” concerns with electronic documents, those concerns are well trod ground for any major law firm. In complex commercial litigation it is common for a law firm to review hundreds of thousands of documents (not a mere 13K), withhold/redact/produce them as appropriate, and then provide them to the opposing side (or gov’t agency) in electronic form. There are whole companies built around assisting in the document review/production process (see, EvidenceExchange).

    Also, it took them over two years? That’s simply incompetent. 13K emails should take a week.

  3. I sure hope the interns at Mother Jones and msnbc find many embarrassing and humiliating personal items for their bosses to release. It’s a great learning experience – especially for young women who aspire to succeed.

    1. If that turns out to be the case than it will indeed be a learning experience not to use an official email account for personal communications.

  4. She couldn’t have written all of those emails, and may not have written many at all. I had a cursory look, and most of what came up was of the “thank you for writing Governor Palin” variety. IOW, form letters, via email.

  5. I love the sign that Noah Wyle is holding up right in front of her.

    Yeah yeah, I know. :)

  6. But there is some funky stuff there:

    “Todd – A lady called with a contact name/number for an item (Moose Turd Cake) that Piper had bid upon at the Go Red for Women Luncheon (but not get the bid). The lady thought maybe that Piper would like
    to order one.

    Cathy Rogers

    What people think!! P.S. I had security cancel your Fairbanks trip this weekend. Janice”

    I’m curious to see if anyone finds anything there that’s non-trivial.

  7. Unfortunately, the emails end around the time she ran for VP.

    I’m more interested in the emails immediately before she resigned her post in Alaska. I wonder if there’s interesting stuff in there, as to WHY she was resigning, information about the ethics probes, etc.

    At any rate, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see Palin as president in 2012.

  8. The “cougar” joke is nice — given that there has never been any allegation (so far as I know) that Palin is an older woman who hits on younger men. But since she is a woman, and one whose political position is anathema to many, any sexual innuendo against her is apparently perfectly appropriate.

    Note, I am not a fan of Palin. And I am a fan of boingboing. But, as I continue to point out, the level of political discourse encouraged here is really very low.

  9. The first wikileak I ever read was on Palin’s hacked yahoo mail account and her inappropriate use of it to discuss state business outside of the laws that produced these documents.

    don’t you understand?

    Merely sending bits to phosphor would
    have only increased the horrors of
    giant dragonflies and ferns. By
    printing this, we save the planet.

  11. 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.

    If this treasure trove of high iq statements were being released about a democrat fox news, breitbart, limbaugh and the drudge report would be having a field day with this.

    1. If this treasure trove of high iq statements were being released about a democrat

      Not exactly holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

      I suppose that we should feel fortunate that everyone in the media doesn’t have to take any time away from reviewing Obama’s, Pelosi’s, Kerry’s, Reid’s, or Biden’s emails, and therefore have plenty of time available to comb through Palin’s.

  12. an excellent stocking-stuffer for that especially hated person in your life or the 7th level of Hell – stuck in a waiting room for eternity with nothing to read but Sarah Palin’s emails.

    1. How DARE you use a Morphine quote in a post about Sarah Palin! Somewhere a flock of kittens just died.

  13. IF “they” really wanted to make things difficult, they should have picked some sort of really horrible OCR-hostile Captcha font. I am disappoint[ed].

  14. @gravytop

    “Cougar” in most circles just means an attractive older woman. Contrast with “silver fox” for male. Stop trying to find sexism where there is none.

    1. Riiiiight. Cougar just means attractive older woman. That’s why Xeni found it notable enough to follow up with a “heh.”

      Cougar means an older woman who looks for younger men. If you don’t believe me, check

  15. Actually, the term “cougaring” is used by some middle-aged women I know. It has nothing to do with being an attractive older woman. It means “hunting” for young guys for sex. It’s really that simple.

    1. I don’t know any middle-aged women, but I do know younger males who refer to attractive older women as cougars.

      Perhaps in this crazy, mixed-up world there is room for multiple contexts and various usages for a given word. Suffice to say, neither definition would imply any inherent sexism.

      1. OK. Now that you’re been corrected, your story is: It’s not the tiniest bit sexist to imply with a wink to imply that Sara Palin is the type to troll for younger men. Oh come on. Be real.

        1. That’s the funny thing about colloquial terms – they vary. I have just as little reason to accept his usage as authoritative as he does my own.

          My response to him was that a particular set of women electing the use the term “cougaring” to describe a some behavior does not ubiquitously make the term as “sexist”.

          The usage in article is most certainly the former, as (not my personal opinion) many people find Palin to be attractive (and it ends there).

          It is behavior such as yours, the constant need to manufacture “sexism” that undermines the very real problems of sexism that exist in societies. I would urge you to pause and think for a second before you start throwing baseless accusations around.

          1. This is the problem with “taking offence”. It’s so easy to do. All I need to do is to construe an interpretation that isn’t very nice, insist that’s what the other guy meant, and bingo, I’ve got a grievance.
            Then all I need is a culture where any form of offence isn’t tolerated, and I’ve got myself a great way of stifling debate.
            I’m sure you can all think of many good examples of this.

          2. You are wrong about colloquial terms. They are listed in dictionaries both scholarly (OED) and otherwise ( Anyone with a few minutes can Google the following:


            and find out what the term means in .023 seconds.

          3. Listen, if I were to dig up a dictionary providing one of the definitions of cougar as “an attractive lady of a ‘certain age'”, do you think you would be able to quit beating this dead horse?

          4. Your offer is kind. Also incoherent and misguided.

            Incoherent: if you believe this to be a dead horse (a settled dispute) it makes no sense that you also think you can dredge something up to settle the dispute.

            Misguided: I can “dig” up a scientist who says the earth isn’t warming at all. I can “dig” up a historian who says the holocaust never happened. The fact that you have to go digging to find some definition somewhere, any old place, that supports your clearly wrong position on the definition of the pop-culture term “cougar” says everything you need to say.

            This is becoming increasingly tedious, so I respectfully decline your offer. But thanks!

  16. Criminal incompetence or criminal obstructionism — or perhaps some of both — is the only reason to release these as a mass of paper.

  17. Isn’t the reason that they are printed so that the government can say “oh, we WOULD release them but it is SOOOOoooo expensive, if you want you can pay for it!” as a barrier to actual freedom?

  18. Its hard to believe Sarah Pain could contribute 24,000 pages worth of anything… I betcha theres a lot of ‘literisms in there.

  19. What a god awful waste of paper. :( And what could be a more mind numbing, soul crushing waste of time than reading the thoughts of a buffoon?

    +1 on the idiot queen sign though, that’s fantastic. :)

  20. I wonder how much a project would cost that “took some two years, involved 55 current and former state employees, and required a legal review that concluded on May 31”? Does anyone else think that this might not be the best use of the public dime, even if it does lead to snarky news reports to be enjoyed ever so briefly before being forgotten? It seems conservation is optional when entertainment is involved.

  21. My favorite part is at 0:20 seconds in: A douchebagette who can’t be bothered to put down her cell phone long enough to heft the rather substantial load of manure that she will obviously review extensively.

    1. That’s a mighty fine and in-depth personality and work ethic evaluation you’ve produced based on 2 seconds of video. Do you offer corporate workshops?

  22. Let’s face it, the post is a mean-spirited personal attack, as are most of the comments.

    “Cougar” has always referred to an older woman who is sexually interested in younger men, but no matter how it was used, it was an inappropriate sexual innuendo. So was the comment that Palin is “cheap” as in “inexpensive,” (unlike the printing costs of the documents). Do we need to argue about what it means to call a woman “cheap” now?

    Also, as the photo indicates, she’s an “idiot queen.”

    None of these personal attacks have anything to do with the release of e-mails and that is the point made by some of the comments.

    Palin is a public figure and is fair game for harsh criticism, both personally and professionally, but calling her an idiot and a cheap cougar lowers the standard of discourse to childish bullying and name-calling. It’s disappointing to see it on boingboing.

    1. I mostly agree with your comments. But she really is an idiot, and plenty of other idiots wish to follow her unquestioningly: so “idiot queen” seems fair.

      1. I agree that “idiot queen” is an apt criticism… But not in the context of a post about the State of Alaska releasing the emails of a former gov.

        The photo belongs in a post about Palin’s publicity tour or about her legion of fans.

        The way it’s used here is just a petty insult. It degrades all of us.

        1. The ideological blinders worn by many posters and commenters here are every bit as effective as those worn over at instapundit or freerepublic. The difference is the ones worn here are probably part of a cool DIY project, and look all steampunk or something.

  23. As a young male, to me the term ‘cougar’ has always meant an attractive older woman. Deal with it.

  24. Sarah used the because it fit. The was only a flirtation of less than a term, anyway.

    Sarah, yahoo to the core.

  25. Hi. Without the electronic forms of these emails, there is no way to verify (via headers and timestamps) and types of tampering. If I were going to forge an email, editing it and printing it out would be the way in which I would do it.

  26. Whether this story is crass or not, I’m just glad that whole Libya business is apparently over.

  27. This is disgusting. It is highly unlikely this woman will ever hold political office again. There are 500+ Representatives and Senators who have *actual* power. I wish ANY news organization would put in 1/2 the effort to look at their paper trails.

  28. “An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way.” – the bible of easy answers, Wikipedia

    This could be true, but true of anyone in that case.

    She managed to use her post in Alaska to benefit herself and others, do it well enough to continue to do it. She is very good as developing relationships with the right people to do what she needs to do, and knows how to harness a lot of people to follow her.

    For that part of her life, she is very good at implementing a successful way. She doesn’t seem to be self-defeating, and she is not very counter-productive. She seemed mentally competent to hold her Alaskan job, and walk around being a VP candidate.

    I don’t believe ‘idiot’ is the right abuse term to describe her accurately.

    But it is very hard to know really if the ‘I read all of the newspapers’ type comments which look dumb – are real expressions of her inner mental state, or ………. a PR strategy. If we were to get hold of confidential economic negotiations over mining, oil or such, and she carries on like “gee whiz, wowie zowie, ‘gonna dig dem oils eh, oh look teehee there’s Russia, my toe hurts” to executives of major oil companies, then …. idiot may be appropriate, but I don’t think so.

    Such is a way of politicing these days. Seems to work enough to be successful across the anglo world. Present Idiocy® to enough people to laugh or ignore, and do the real adult money deals behind the doors while people chuckle at your ‘is the children learning?”‘s on the internets.

    I blame the helicopter parents.

  29. Another day going by, and nothing to show for it.

    The Watergate tapes spelled the end for the recording of phone conversations by presidents, and that might one day have been important for historians. Some might say getting Nixon was worth it. Can you say the same thing if this example spells the end of politicians’ casual use of email?

    Demanding the emails, and not finding anything, is going to bite us in the ass.

    If you’re not spending the entire weekend reading these files then you might as well count that as a donation to SarahPAC.

    1. “Another day going by, and nothing to show for it.”

      Maybe she’s not as much of an idiot as some of you claim? How many of you haven’t got an embarrassing e-mail or two in your e-mail archive?

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