The following is an opinion and analysis
Why did Washington Post gossip blogger Erik Wemple appeal to Hillary Clinton confidant Philippe Reines for a “wide-ranging discussion” about me in 2013 (the year CBS News first confirmed the intrusion and exfiltration of files from my computer by uninvited, outsiders)? And why was Wemple willing to let Reines “stipulate” the ground rules for the discussion? After all, pretty much the only thing Reines would be able to contribute about me is whatever opposition research had been dug up by the likes of the pro-Hillary Clinton smear group Media Matters.
Wemple’s search for dirt–or, uh, background–about me was revealed in a blog he wrote today. The blog focused on Washington bickering that’s frankly of little interest to anybody but the news media and the political insiders being reported about. But buried deep in the article was this admission by Wemple, as he refers to himself in the plural. Wemple writes:
In his email criticizing this blog, [Clinton confidant] Reines needled us by attaching a smidgen of correspondence from 2013 in which this blog sought a wide-ranging discussion about then-CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. Reines asked about ground rules, to which this blog responded, “You stipulate!
Interestingly, Wemple–who often accuses the news media of lack of transparency and ethical lapses–doesn’t disclose the “smidgen of correspondence” to which he refers. He doesn’t explain why he would rely on Hillary Clinton’s surrogate for information about a journalist reporting critically on Hillary Clinton. Neither does he reveal the content, the date of the email exchange, or the result.
The revelation provides an inside glimpse into how the business of the Washington Smear works.
The Washington Smear Game
Because of the investigative reporting that I do, I’m grown accustomed to being targeted by paid operatives, their sympathizers and their surrogates. In 2013, Media Matters and other groups were frantically trying to controversialize my Emmy award-nominated reporting on Clinton and President Obama. They were also attempting damage control over news that there had been repeated illegal compromises of my computers by unauthorized intruders using software proprietary to a U.S. government agency. As CBS News reported on Aug. 7, 2013:
CBS News announced Friday that correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was hacked by “an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions,” confirming Attkisson’s previous revelation of the hacking.
Media Matters, Wemple and others have since published and passed around multiple blogs about my computer intrusions implying they were the stuff of fantasy; these blogs repeatedly generated and promulgated false and misleading information. It’s a typical story of how the press and smear operators work in tandem to try to stop reporting that they view as damaging to their interests. They also attack and attempt to controversialize journalists, news outlets, politicians and whistleblowers who expose alleged wrongdoing.
[button link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYAQ-ZZtEU”]Watch Attkisson’s Tedx Talk on Astroturf and the Manipulation of Media Messages[/button]
I have filed lawsuits against the federal government alleging illegal wiretapping and violation of civil privacy rights. The federal government is fighting discovery and has, to date, improperly refused to comply with notice for deposition. The government holds the information as to those who had access to a government computer IP address that forensics exams determined accessed my computer without authorization.
If the government wishes to say it’s not responsible for the intrusions, then it should be happy to provide the information we seek that would presumably prove its point. Instead, the government is using taxpayer dollars to keep the information hidden.
To where does one turn when it’s the government that allegedly committed the crime, yet the government is keeper of the information proving who was responsible?
[button link=”https://sattkisson.wpengine.com/top-10-astroturfers/”]Read: Top 10 Astroturfers[/button]
The government investigation
In 2013, before the intrusions of my computers were made public, I reported the crime to the Department of Justice Inspector General and asked it to investigate, since forensic evidence and sources implicated a link to the U.S. government. Contrary to widespread false and misleading reporting, the Inspector General (IG) never examined the CBS computers at the center of the crime. That’s because CBS News would not permit the IG examination. Therefore, the many bloggers, armchair technical “analysts” and quasi-news reports claiming the IG ruled out intrusions… are false. These reports display reckless disregard for the truth.
Two forensic examinations– one by a CBS News expert and the other by an expert hired by me– had also confirmed intrusions into my personal home computer, as well as the CBS work computer. I gave the IG my personal computer in hopes it might attribute the intrusions to a specific government agency player. Although I considered it unlikely that government investigators would, in fact, finger the government as the intruder, it didn’t hurt to see what they would do since my own court-admissible forensics were already preserved.
During their investigation, the IG experts told me they discovered extensive evidence of anomalies, unusual activity and “a lot of logs [that had been] deleted or overwritten.” Specifically, the IG said the somebody had overwritten the host file that would reveal details of any remote compromise and had changed the access date. Additionally, the IG found unusual activities that involved the tampering of my computer’s internal time clock and date settings. These anomalies and more had already been flagged and documented by other analysts regarding both my personal computer and my CBS work computer. The changes and deletions were seen as the intruders attempting to cover their tracks, after the fact.
Odd turn of events
The IG investigators were helpful and diligent in their work, which spanned several months. However, when it came time to finalize their report, something happened. The process dragged on for months, apparently stalled at the political approval stage. When the investigation concluded, I was not allowed a copy of the report. When I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the report, the Justice Department IG unlawfully ignored it.
Many months later, on the eve of my testimony to Congress about alleged Justice Department misbehavior, the IG produced a brief summary of my long-awaited forensics report but not to me–to Congress. This IG summary excised mention of the evidence the IG investigators had discussed with me and appeared carefully worded to give the misimpression that intrusions of any sort had been disproven. The summary was quickly circulated to selected members of the press and quasi-press. They quickly reported spin and misinformation.
Noticing that the summary was incomplete and wasn’t signed by the agents who actually conducted and oversaw the investigation, I again asked the IG for the full report and the background documents and notes.
It’s never been produced to me.
Below is the rest of the 2013 CBS News announcement about my computer intrusions:
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said 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. 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.”
Several months ago, Attkisson had reported suspected intrusions of her computers, including her CBS News work computer, prompting CBS News to hire a firm to look into the hacking.
Attkisson is the Emmy Award-winning host of the weekly news program Full Measure and author of the New York Times best seller “Stonewalled.”