Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: The Mysterious Munoz eMail Hijacking

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 17, 2011

Somebody out there really doesn't want Sen. George Muñoz's Senate Bill 196 — which would give New Mexico hunters a bigger share of the state's Big Game Draw licenses — to pass.

Not only did this opponent e-mail another senator, Howie Morales, D-Silver City, to badmouth the bill, but he also somehow was able to hack into Muñoz's personal Gmail account Wednesday to do it.

"I got a call this morning from Sen. Morales saying, 'Hey, did you send me an e-mail?' " Muñoz said Wednesday.

Muñoz, D-Gallup, showed me a printout of the e-mail, which indeed was from the address listed on Muñoz's page on the Legislature's website.

The writer, who claimed to be a hunter from Longview, Texas, left his name — or at least his purported name — as "Ronald," at the bottom of the e-mail. He also listed his surname, but I won't use it in case the hacker was falsely using an innocent person's name there.

The bill would set aside 90 percent of the big-game licenses for state residents — up from the current 78 percent.

Muñoz said he hasn't heard of anyone aside from Morales who received the e-mail.

"This goes a little overboard," Muñoz said in a serious understatement.

Muñoz said he'd contacted Google about "Ronald," but he hasn't yet contacted police. He said he changed his password when he learned of the hacking.

This is the second known case in recent months of a New Mexico lawmaker getting hacked.

In October, Attorney General Gary King's office reported that a scamster had gained access to the e-mail of Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque. In that case, the evildoer claimed to be Park and sent messages to everyone on Park's contact list claiming he was stuck without any cash or credit cards and needed friends to wire him money to get home.

One of the recipients of that desperate message was the attorney general himself.

Star witness: Gov. Susana Martinez caused a mild sensation this week when she made a surprise appearance to testify before the Senate Public Affairs Committee on the proposed expansion of "Katie's Law" (Senate Bill 365, sponsored by Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad).

Nobody around the Roundhouse I've talked to could remember the last time a sitting governor had done that. One former aide to a former governor told me the danger of doing this is that everyone starts wanting you to show up to personally testify about their bills.

But after her appearance Tuesday, Martinez told reporters, "I'll be showing up more often" to testify on that bill and others. "There are several that are very important to us."

Where might she turn up next? One possibility is House Bill 371, and another is House Joint Resolution 6. Both would restore the death penalty in the state.

I asked Martinez at a news conference whether she's willing to appear before committees on behalf of these measures.

"Yes, I am," she said without hesitation. "The majority of New Mexicans want that law that did away with the death penalty to be repealed. ... It's important to New Mexicans; it's important to law enforcement that anyone who kills a law-enforcement officer or rapes and kills a young child, that the jury have the option of imposing the death penalty."

But the governor might have to wait. The death-penalty measures, both sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, have been languishing, like an inmate on death row, waiting to be scheduled for their first committee hearings.

Katie's Law, which has bipartisan support, has a much better chance of passing. Named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was raped and murdered in 2003, the law requires collection of DNA samples from those arrested in certain felonies, such as murder, kidnapping, burglary and sex offenses. SB 365 would require DNA testing of anyone arrested for any felony in the state.

UPDATE: This column has been correct to reflect that Sen. Howie Morales is from Silver City. Sorry, Howie!