Former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of monkeying around with her hard drive while her computer was in their possession. She tweeted on Thursday, “What would you think if I told you the hard drive of one of my personal computers was secretly switched out w/another while in custody of the Justice Dept. Inspector General– before they gave it back to me?”
You may recall that Attkisson’s computer was hacked back in 2012 while she was working for CBS and reporting on the Benghazi scandal. CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said at the time that a cybersecurity firm hired by CBS News “has determined through forensic analysis” that “Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.”
“Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts,” McNair said. “While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data. This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion. CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”
In her memoir, Attkisson recalled that a source connected to a government agency implicated “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” in the breach.
She’s suing the Justice Department, accusing the Obama administration of illegally surveilling her computers, and seeking $35 million in damages. An excerpt from an affidavit in the case claims:
In several subsequent tweets, Attkisson revealed more details about the DOJ’s handling of her computer while it was in the inspector general’s possession.
“I asked them to look at one of them some years ago after the govt intrusion,” she tweeted. “Not the main one but one of my personal computers involved to see if they might come up with more info. Instead, they… withheld the report from me, did a lot of weird stuff.” Attkisson says that her team of forensic experts discovered the replaced hard drive and said they have “the forensic record and chain of custody documents” to prove it.
Attkisson wrote on her blog last August:
The IG investigators found and described to me significant suspicious anomalies in that system much like the CBS laptop, unearthing similar efforts by someone to erase data and evidence. However, when the IG computer experts finished their review, the findings went to higher ups and the resulting report was inexplicably withheld from me in its entirety.
I was shut out.
Many months later, under pressure from Congress, the IG eventually released a very different-sounding summary of its forensics report to the press. It recast or excluded much of what the investigators had told me they’d found. I attempted to obtain the full report and original notes, some of which I reviewed while the investigation was underway, describing the suspicious activity found on my personal computer. However, the IG has stonewalled my Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for these documents for several years. If the Department of Justice won’t comply with FOI law, then what recourse does a citizen have?
“The Justice Departement is fighting us,” she tweeted today, singling out Inspector General Michael Horowitz, an Obama administration holdover who still holds the position. This is the same Michael Horowitz who was appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to oversee the FISA abuses investigation.
Attkisson tweeted that career attorneys at DOJ “are getting orders from higher up. “I don’t know the names of exactly who,” she said.
This new information about her hard drive will become part of her lawsuit against the Departement of Justice, she said. Last month Attkisson gave an update on the case. You can watch it here: