Many of you have asked for the status of my computer intrusion lawsuit against the federal government.
On March 19, 2017, a federal judge denied the government’s motion to dismiss my computer intrusion lawsuit, and transferred the case from Washington D.C. to the Eastern District of Virginia.
Below are excerpts from the judge’s opinion, which provides a good summary.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
MEMORANDUM OPINION, by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan
As an investigative reporter for CBS News, Ms. Attkisson was responsible for investigating and reporting on national news stories. Between 2011 and 2013, she investigated and prepared various high-profile news reports, including ones related to the “Fast and Furious” “gunwalking” operation and the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya…
In 2011——at the same time that Ms. Attkisson was conducting investigations and issuing certain of her high-profile news reports——the Attkissons “began to notice anomalies in numerous electronic devices at their home in Virginia.” These anomalies included Ms. Attkisson’s work-issued laptop computer and a family desktop computer “turning on and off at night without input from anyone in the household,” “the house alarm chirping daily at different times,” and “television problems, including interference.” All of these electronic devices used “the Verizon FiOS line installed in [the Attkissons’] home,” but Verizon was unable to stanch the anomalous activity despite multiple attempts. In January 2012, the Attkissons’ residential internet service “began constantly dropping off.”
In February 2012, “sophisticated surveillance spyware” was installed on Ms. Attkisson’s work-issued laptop computer. A later forensic computer analysis revealed that Ms. Attkisson’s laptop and the family’s desktop computer had been the “targets of unauthorized surveillance efforts.” That same forensic analysis revealed that Ms. Attkisson’s mobile phone was also targeted for surveillance when it was connected to the family’s desktop computer. The infiltration of that computer and the extraction of information from it was “executed via an IP address owned, controlled, and operated by the United States Postal service.” Additionally, based on the sophisticated nature of the software used to carry out the infiltration and software fingerprints indicating the use of the federal government’s proprietary software, the infiltration and surveillance appeared to be perpetrated by persons in the federal government.
An independent forensic computer analyst hired by CBS subsequently reported finding evidence on both Ms. Attkisson’s work-issued laptop computer and her family’s desktop computer of “a coordinated, highly-skilled series of actions and attacks directed at the operation of the computers.” Computer forensic analysis also indicated that remote actions were taken in December 2012 to remove the evidence of the electronic infiltration and surveillance from Ms. Attkisson’s computers and other home electronic equipment.
As Ms. Attkisson’s investigations and reporting continued, in October 2012 the Attkissons noticed “an escalation of electronic problems at their personal residence, including interference in home and mobile phone lines, computer interference, and television interference.” In November of that year, Ms. Attkisson’s mobile phones “experienced regular interruptions and interference, making telephone communications unreliable, and, at times, virtually impossible.”
Additionally, in December 2012, a person with government intelligence experience conducted an inspection of the exterior of the Attkissons’ Virginia home. That investigator discovered an extra Verizon FiOS fiber optics line. Soon thereafter, after a Verizon technician was instructed by Ms. Attkisson to leave the extra cable at the home, the cable disappeared, and the Attkissons were unable to determine what happened to it. In March 2013, the Attkissons’ desktop computer malfunctioned, and in September of that year, while Ms. Attkisson was working on a story at her home, she observed that her personal laptop computer was remotely accessed and controlled, resulting in data being deleted from it. On April 3, 2013, Ms. Attkisson filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. The Inspector General’s investigation was limited to an analysis of the compromised desktop computer, and the partially-released report that emerged from that investigation reported “no evidence of intrusion,” although it did note “a great deal of advanced mode computer activity not attributable to Ms. Attkisson or anybody in her household.”
The Attkissons allege that the “cyber-attacks” they “suffered in [their] home” were perpetrated by “personnel working on behalf of the United States.” Accordingly, they have asserted various claims against the United States and against former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and unknown agents of the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Service, and the United States, all in their individual capacities. Those claims include claims against the United States under the FTCA and claims against the individual federal officers for violations of constitutional rights under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)…
Having determined that venue is improper as to the Attkissons’ FTCA claims and that the pendent venue doctrine is inapplicable, the Court may either “dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer [this] case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.” “The decision whether a transfer or a dismissal is in the interest of justice . . . rests within the sound discretion of the district court,” Naartex Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 789 (D.C. Cir. 1983), but the “standard remedy for improper venue is to transfer the case to the proper court rather than dismissing it——thus preserving a [plaintiff’s] ability to obtain review.” Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n v. Browner, 237 F.3d 670, 674 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The Court will use that standard remedy here and find that [quote]the interest of justice warrants transfer rather than dismissal so that the Attkissons’ claims can be adjudicated on the merits.[/quote]
For the reasons stated above, defendants’ amended motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART WITHOUT PREJUDICE. As to their assertion that the Attkissons’ FTCA claims are improperly venued, defendants’ motion is granted. Accordingly, this consolidated case shall be transferred in its entirety to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The remainder of defendants’ amended motion to dismiss is denied without prejudice so that defendants may refile it, if appropriate, upon transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia. Likewise, the Attkissons’ motion for reconsideration of the Order denying various motions related to third-party discovery is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE so that it may be refiled in and more appropriately resolved by the transferee court. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
Signed: Emmet G. Sullivan
United States District Judge
March 19, 2017
Stay the course, Sharyl.
Sara Johnson says
Way to go Sharyl. I pray for you whenever I see your name.
Congrats Sharyl, keep up the fight. I'm surprised that the Obama administration was spying on private citizens (sarcasm meant). Hopefully, this will be one more nail in their coffin. I wonder if anyone in the MSM has contacted you or reported on this? I would think, no matter what their politics, reporters being spied on by the government (democrats or republicans) would mean a great deal to them...or is it not important when it's the dems spying on a reporter who follows the truth and not the playbook. God bless Sharyl.
Douglas Doss says
If people crossing their fingers for you will help, here goes.
You keep kicking over the rocks. It may not seem like it in the milieu in which you work, but there really are more of us than them.
You're so strong. Thanks so much for doing this!
Frank Ferrari says
We got full measure of your litigation's status. Thanks for the update, hope prayers work for you too
Jacques Dupuis says
I enjoy your articles and your honesty. However, I miss not been able to G+ it. Am I missing something or is there something you can do on your end, I used to be able to do so in the past.
Donald Stone says
I've had a crude website since about 1999 called marylandcorruption.com never had many problems with it.
In 2011 some clown from Maryland filed an unsigned falsified criminal complaint against me with the Maryland Attorney General and demanded that I shut down my website.
I politely told them to go pound sand.
The final letter I received from the Maryland Attorney Generals office was asking me not to refer to the clown as organized crime.
Then in Sept. 2016 after Trump won the nomination for president my website was knocked down by a cyber attack, but I was able to resurrect it about a week later.
And since then in early 2017 it suffered two more attacks.
The government snooping around and tampering with people involved in muckraking goes with the territory.
Now I'm asking about Trump/Sessions nomination for Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein and about certain things that went down on his watch as U.S. Assistant Attorney under Battaglia and then as U.S. Attorney for Maryland.
Curtis Matsune says
Our federal government turning the resources of state against American citizens to achieve corrupt political ends must be stopped. The evidence Ms. Attkisson has amassed is damning and must see the full light of day, and she is to be thanked as a patriot fighting the good fight for liberty and freedom from government tyranny.
Les Stein says
WOW, this is scary stuff all around. Why don't "they" spend their time doing something useful, like play int he street???
Just another victim in o'bummers war against journalist's and truth tellers. The corruption is a disease that needs to be stamped out. I hope Sharyl wins her suit, though I have no faith in the credibility of our justice system.
Jeffery Tartt says
Dear Sharyl, I'm ...well, very, very happy to hear this news. I've told you before and I still stand with you and ANY other American who had their Rights violated by Obama and HIS administration. My continued hope is you and your family will receive the justice you deserve. Thanks for the work you do.
David Goldberg says
It has been a long time since WTVT in Tampa. I always felt and still believe your professionalism was above approach. You are one of the few dedicated journalist who understands the role journalist should play in our society. Sadly, the days of honest reporting framed with ethical standards regardless of ideological leanings has disappeared. More than likely it is about ratings and pandering to smaller and smaller audiences for the sake of advertising dollars.
I've got to wonder how many other reporters were hacked and had material stolen in which to blackmail them. I can't believe Max Boots stands so staunchly by the Russian hacking of Podesta and DNC without one scintilla of actual proof.
Tom Grace says
Good going, Sharyl. Many, many of us "silent citizens" support you. And thank you for keeping us informed.
Ralph Braly says
Warren Miller, CFA, CPA says
Hang tough with these thugs, Sharyl. We're rooting for you every step of the way.
Lise from Maine says
I am currently reading your book. Very informative!
Lise from Maine
John MacDonald says
Sharyl, congrats. Keep moving forward, for all of us.
You did some of the best reporting on Benghazi and Fast and Furious. I continue to hope that several people will eventually go to jail for the latter.
DEPLORABLE LoraC says
I have been praying you get Justice for what you've been put through by our own government.
This is a crime on ALL AMERICANS.
I wish you nothing but the best.
Good for you Sharyl. For us peons that's a pretty good ruling and I hope you prevail with millions in damages. You deserve it for being our "poster child for privacy". Oh God did I just launch a meme? 🙂
Please keep going with your investigative journalism. Without it our nation is in peril. I read your book "Stonewalled" and was shocked to discover what I did. I believe everything you have written and actually am mad as hell that a government can become so powerful that they are not held accountable. I'm hoping for more of the investigation into how the Trump team was scrutinized and why. Sadly, we're not hearing much about it and I think ALL Americans should be outraged at the potential of a government with this kind of power. I felt like the Patriot Act was a bad bill when they passed it and I'd like to know just how justifiable it has been in finding terrorists. There's not many places we can go to find the truth of anything and it's very concerning.
Congrats Sharyl, I'm happy for you! I hope your case continues to move forward and the truth comes out. I hope the consequences to Holder and the Obama administrations DOJ are severe. We cannot have a free press when the government does this sort of thing. Best wishes!
Tom Ratnik says
Thank you Sharyl for fighting for the truth. That's something that seems to be foreign to Dems, Liberals(Canadian), Obama and the Clintons.
When the news broke about Fast and Furious the stench reached all the way to Canada.
We pray for you and thank you for your courage.
Tom Ratnik says
What do you mean 'moderation' ? I get strange calls all the time, nobody answers, and my computer makes noises as if it was on, in the middle of the night. Iva is right.
Mauny Kaseburg says
Great work...stay the course...you are fighting for ALL of us!