Video: Battle over e-mail

updated 12/22/2004 10:58:23 AM ET 2004-12-22T15:58:23

Offers of help have been pouring in for a Michigan family who is trying to persuade online giant Yahoo to allow them access to the e-mail account of a Marine killed in Iraq.

From lawyers to computer-code crackers, people across the nation have come forward wanting to help the family of 20-year-old Justin M. Ellsworth, who was killed last month during a foot patrol in Iraq.

“Oh, my God. It’s been incredible,” Justin’s father John Ellsworth said. “It’s an overwhelming response. ... Things are really moving. I’m very encouraged by it all, but I still have my reservations.”

Yahoo is standing by its policy of protecting the privacy of its e-mail subscribers, spokeswoman Karen Mahon said.

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth is shown in an undated photo proviced by his family.
One man started an online petition Tuesday to pressure Yahoo to allow access to the account. Lawyers have offered free legal services and other people have offered money to help the family pay costs they might incur. Two computer forensic examiners have offered to crack the mystery of the e-mail password for free.

The policy of Yahoo is to erase the entire account after it has been idle for 90 days. It’s not known when Ellsworth last used the account. He died Nov. 3, meaning the account would be erased on Feb. 1 at the latest.

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