Sharyl Attkisson, a former investigative reporter for CBS News, has a book coming out next week that makes some particularly troubling allegations. Attkisson claims that in 2012, when she was investigating various Obama scandals including Benghazi, somebody hacked into her computer, and the hacking can be traced back to a government ISP. Attkisson quotes an anonymous expert who examined her computer as saying that the spying was “worse than anything Nixon ever did.” Erik Wemple got hold of an advance copy of Attkisson’s book, and excerpts many of the key details on his blog at the Washington Post.
The breaches on Attkisson’s computer, says this source, are coming from a “sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency (NSA).” Attkisson learns from “Number One” that one intrusion was launched from the WiFi at a Ritz Carlton Hotel and the “intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.”
As a result of this evidence, CBS reportedly hires its own expert to examine her computer. This expert finds “a massive amount of suspicious activity in the computer, including the removal of all kinds of log messages.”
Now fast forward to September, 2013.
As White House officials pressure CBS News executives over Attkisson’s Benghazi reporting, something goes haywire with her computer. “That very night, with [White House spokesman Eric] Schultz, [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I’m home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone.” Attkisson grabbed her iPhone to record the madness.
Don Allison, a security specialist at Kore Logic, takes a close look at Attkisson’s iMac. The results turn up scandalous, as Attkisson writes: “While a great deal of data has been expertly wiped in an attempt to cover-up the deed, Don is able to find remnants of what was once there. There’s key evidence of a government computer connection to my computer. A sort of backdoor link that leads to an ISP address for a government computer that can’t be accessed by the general public on the Web. It’s an undeniable link to the U.S. government.”
The expert explains to Attkisson: “This ISP address is better evidence of the government being in your computer than the government had when it accused China of hacking into computers in the U.S.”
If true, the story is pretty remarkable, but the most chilling part is this.
To round out the revelations of “Number One,” he informs Attkisson that he’d found three classified documents deep inside her operating system, such that she’d never know they were even there. “Why? To frame me?” Attkisson asks in the book.
Planting evidence? Yikes. Very scary.
The oddities are not limited to Attkisson’s computer. There’s also a mysterious cable attached to the outside of her house.
Phone, TV and computer service chez Attkisson all run on Verizon’s FiOS service. “Jeff” asks to inspect the exterior of the house in a check for anything suspicious. He finds a “stray cable dangling from the FiOS box attached to the brick wall on the outside of my house. It doesn’t belong.” “Jeff” says the cable in question is an “extra” fiber-optic line that could be used to download data and then send it off to another spot.
Attkisson takes a picture of the cable. Then she calls Verizon, which tells her that it’s not something they would have installed; they refer her to law enforcement. Attkisson doesn’t feel its [sic] a matter for the cops, and in any case Verizon calls back to say that they want to have a look for themselves as soon as possible — on New Year’s Day, no less. “Yeah, that shouldn’t be there,” the Verizon technician tells Attkisson.
The technician removes the cable and prepares to take it with him. Attkisson stops him and instructs him to leave it; he “seems hesitant but puts down the cable on top of the air-conditioning fan next to us.”
Days later, on her commute to work, Attkisson remembers that cable on top of the fan and calls her husband to go out and collect it. “It’s gone,” reports the husband.
Now maybe there’s no sinister government activity here and Attkisson is merely embellishing the story in order to sell books. But on the other hand there are numerous witnesses to events–at least three independent computer security experts, the Verizon technician, and others. A thorough investigation should be able to refute or verify Attkisson’s allegations. And those allegations are serious enough to warrant an investigation by Congress and high-profile coverage from the major media. As a country, we need to get to the bottom of this.
The United States fought and won a protracted Cold War struggle against Soviet tyranny so that people would not be subjected to arbitrary surveillance by the state. Let’s hope we have not won the war only to lose the peace.
Here is Attkisson’s iPhone video of her laptop being hacked in real time.