Updated Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:16 AM
WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Friday it is investigating the theft of numerous personal emails from members of the Bush family, after an apparent hacker leaked the emails and Bush family photos to the Smoking Gun news website.
The Smoking Gun’s report, posted late Thursday, included excerpts from emails in which the children of former President George H.W. Bush discussed his severe illness in December and made plans for a possible funeral. He has recovered.
The site also posted paintings by his son former President George W. Bush, including purported self-portraits of the 43rd president in the shower and the bath.
A Bush family representative confirmed the emails were stolen but said the family would make no formal statement beyond that.
On Friday, these moments from a famously private family became worldwide gossip. The story tested boundaries of propriety and relevance for traditional media outlets: At the heart of the story was material that, in another day, might not have been published at all: intensely personal data, gained by apparently illegal means.
The incident also underscored a fundamental contradiction of the Internet age. Millions of Americans rely on the data “cloud” to safeguard the intimate details of their lives, storing them in email inboxes, social-media postings and other digital repositories. People do it despite occasional reminders that, up in the cloud, data can be vulnerable.
On Friday, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the investigation is being led by the agency’s criminal-investigative division.
The Smoking Gun said the stolen emails it had reviewed were dated between 2009 and 2012.
In all, the site said, six accounts appeared to have been compromised. Among those hacked were Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of George H.W. Bush and sister of George W. Bush; as well as sportscaster Jim Nantz, a Bush family friend.
The emails were obtained by a hacker called “Guccifer” and posted in an account “that appears to have been hacked for the purpose of hosting the material,” the Smoking Gun said.
The site did not release the full cache of hacked emails or provide information about how it learned about them. “I don’t really want to go into any further details,” said William Bastone, the site’s editor, in a telephone interview Friday.