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Ashley Madison, Evidence, and Libel

While a tragic housefire turns into a murder-suicide and a possible scandal involving federal money and South Dakota’s Republican education establishment, folks at Dakota War College have been passive-aggressively chomping at the bit today to start hanging people with the old news of the Ashley Madison list.

Ashley Madison? The fake adultery website that separated a number of fools from their money, then got hacked and saw its user database leaked to the world? Yeah, I thought that story was dead, too. But I guess like other fads, South Dakota is always behind the coasts.

Ryan Gaddy, leader of South Dakotans Against Prohibition and sponsor of the ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana, today alleged on Facebook that Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) had “leaked the Ashley Madison list to SDAP ADMINS BY MISTAKE!”

If Senator Jensen was the leaker, he leaked much more than he intended. A copy of the list found its way to my inbox. It is an Excel spreadsheet with 13,918 lines showing 2,143 unique personal names, of which maybe a couple thousand may be the names of real South Dakotans, along with other personal information. A quick scan for possible names of blog interest finds one Democrat, two Republicans, a couple media types, and a state official.

But what am I really looking at? The spreadsheet has no headers explaining the data fields. I can find no metadata marking its origination from Ashley Madison/Avid Life Media or the “Impact Team” that leaked the Ashley Madison data. I can’t even verify that Senator Phil Jensen leaked this list (I’ve e-mailed him some questions, but gosh darn it, he hasn’t replied yet).

All I have is a list of South Dakota names, addresses, dates, and numbers. Granted, it’s a long list, and it would have taken some time to put together. But if Pat Powers and I are talking about the same list, I can’t substantiate that (1) this list came from Senator Phil Jensen, (2) this list is a subset of data from the Ashley Madison database, or (3—and this is the kicker) this list proves that any of the individuals named ever accessed, let alone engaged in adultery… and let’s not play coy, list-leakers and list-seekers: if this list is what some say it is, the only reason to publish it is to allege adultery (that, and subject them to higher risk of identity theft).

Doing that to two thousand of my neighbors doesn’t feel like news. It feels like a roadmap to a libel lawsuit. That’s why this post ends here.


  1. MD 2015-09-23 22:34

    The success of this Ashley Madison scandal means that it will likely happen again. Hackers got a reaction in the media, so it only fuels their fire to illegally obtain data.
    Continuing the slow erosion of privacy.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2015-09-23 22:45

    Why don’t those that are concerned about the Ashley Madison list quit playing coy and name some names?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-24 07:04

    Roger, see Bill’s link. Distributing such a list is about harassment and harm, not to mention distraction from real news… which means it’s a perfect fit for DWC.

    I can offer some evidence that the list in my hands in unreliable. A tipster last month sent me an e-mail address of a Republican who allegedly is on the list. That e-mail address comes up on one of the well-known Ashley Madison search pages but does not appear in the spreadsheet sent out Tuesday.

    Roger, I think those playing coy with the list are keenly aware of gaps in the spreadsheet itself and the legal arguments they can make for disseminating the list.

  4. James Marks 2015-09-24 09:07

    Possession of the information has been deemed illegal. See here: And rightfully so, not one of those people authorized anyone to have their personal information.

    Plus, reports say there’s minors listed in the records. Supposedly, AM didn’t verify ages. See here:

    One cop already killed himself over some thug that made up a fake list. See here:

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-24 09:28

    James, it appears that’s a Canadian court order.

    (1) Does it apply in the U.S.?

    (2) If it does, is mere possession of the data illegal?

    (3) Is my summary of the data above illegal?

  6. jerry 2015-09-24 09:44

    If it were me on that list, I would say hell yea. Phil Jensen seemed to be in the know about it and mentioned it to me so I thought I was signed onto this site initialing thinking it was for some donuts and cakes. I had no idea it was full of tarts. Much ado over nothing if you want to play games.

  7. Porter Lansing 2015-09-24 10:38

    As I mentioned to Mr. Grudz, “Libertarians are just Republicans who want to eat pain pills and chase other’s wives.” lol ?

  8. leslie 2015-09-24 12:34

    porter I did indeed laugh out loud to your caricature. we can only hope grudz choked and is face down in gravy :)

  9. Roger Cornelius 2015-09-24 16:19

    I suspect you are right, my point is that Powers and Hubbel put this crap out there and hint that it is evidence about Democrats cheating on their wives, but don’t have the courage to put up the names.
    I have no intention of going through ‘the list’ there is probably more than enough the satisfy one’s perversion.
    Is it safe enough to assume their are no republican cheaters on the list?

  10. Jamie Reed 2015-09-24 16:24

    Cory is there were Republicans on the list, important ones, you know damn well you would have a hay day. It looks like the list is real and if a person signs up for AM their intent is pretty clear. It’s not difficult. The list will come out and the Democratic names should be public.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-24 17:00

    Here’s the problem with trying to argue the hypothetical, Jamie: there are Republicans on the spreadsheet. There is also a Republican who appears on other online databases purporting to access the AM hack but who does not appear on the spreadsheet I have. Given the unreliability of all of this data, I have nothing on which to have a heyday.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-24 17:05

    Roger, let’s review the steps one would have to take to get from “Dick is on this spreadsheet” to “Dick is cheating on his wife”:

    1. Prove that the spreadsheet came from the Ashley Madison database.
    2. Prove that Dick’s data wasn’t appended to the spreadsheet after the database was hacked out of
    3. Prove that Dick himself entered that data into
    4. Prove that Dick intended to commit adultery.
    5. Prove that Dick actually committed adultery.

    Nobody has shown me anything to get me through those five steps and launch me into the heyday Jamie says I’m itching to have.

  13. jake 2015-09-24 19:43

    Thank you Cory for being above the Pat Powers type of journalism! With frequent posters of quality like you have on your blog, So Dak and the blogosphere will prevail and do well.

  14. Spike 2015-09-24 22:13

    Heck if ya u want to know who thinks their a player just go to a couple parties during session. Much more entertaining than going thru a BORING spreadsheet.

    As far as Ashley Madison, I’m with Jerry n Corey, think I will go buy some donuts.

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-24 23:10

    Cory, I think #s 4 and 5 on your list are unnecessary except for legal proof. The Duggar boy was on AM and there was no proof he intended to have an affair. It seems reasonable to infer that if one joins a website created specifically to facilitate adultery, that individual intends to commit adultery.

    I’m not that interested in a list of names, except those who are behaving hypocritically. Like most people, my tolerance for rank hypocrisy is low.

  16. Sally Anne Destine 2015-09-26 00:07

    It appears “James Marks” (above) works for Ashley Madison’s lawyers in Canada!

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-26 06:52

    Deb, I don’t want an inference of questionable reasonability (how many users logged just for sleazy entertainment but never would have actually set up a date with a mistress?) to be the basis for an action that could well lead to a legal proceeding.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-26 13:55

    I’m not interested in any legal procedings either.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-27 08:30

    Darn right, Deb. And I’m not giving any Republicans an opportunity to sue me over this trivial attempt at defamation.

  20. grudznick 2015-09-27 08:52

    Ms. leslie, it saddens me on this fine Sabbath morn to find you delighting in glee at the prospect of my drowning. Another of your character flaws.

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