The Government Computer Intrusions: The Disruptions Continue

The following is the 9th in a series of excerpts from my New York Times bestseller “Stonewalled,” which recounts the government intrusions of my computers. More excerpts to follow.[hr]

It’s February 4, 2013. Three and a half months before revelations about the Obama administration’s seizure of AP phone records and those of the FOX News reporter. Almost exactly four months before the news that the NSA is secretly collecting Verizon phone records, as revealed by Edward Snowden.


When you challenge powerful institutions in the twenty-first century, you conduct your business with the notion ever present in the back of your mind that somebody’s listening. Tapping your phone. Reading your computer files. Trying to learn what your sources are telling you. Finding a way to stop you. These thoughts float through your mind, escalating in direct proportion to the strength of the story and the power held by whomever it challenges. You think of it, but you don’t really believe it’s actually happening. You certainly don’t think someone will turn up one day and hand you proof.

[hr]Support the Attkisson v. DOJ/FBI Fourth Amendment Litigation Fund to fight the government computer intrusions[hr]

In fairness, I’ve begun telling my sensitive sources that our communications aren’t secure. Funny thing is, none of them is surprised. They tell me they already assumed they were under government surveillance. But we do start crafting more secure ways to exchange information. For example, as I make contact with important confi- dential sources about the Benghazi attacks, I set up meetings on the phone but then later change the time and place in a way that can’t be monitored. Of course, the intruders now know that I know. And I know that they know that I know. And so on. It’s the loop of the paranoid wrapped in suspicion codified by truth.

CBS has remained strangely unfazed by the official news from Patel confirming what I’d told them: that an intruder has been in my computers and in the company’s news and corporate system. I’d thought that the moment they got the corroboration, it would set off processes and inquiries. That corporate forensics experts would descend upon me and my house, looking to secure my personal and professional information, to protect my sources and look for the origin. That my colleagues would be officially notified so that they, too, could make their sources aware and a damage assessment could be made.

But none of these things happens.

[hr]A diverse group of Constitutional free press and privacy advocates is supporting Attkisson v. Dept. of Justice/FBI to fight the government computer intrusions. Click here to support.[hr]

CBS does ask Patel to conduct further investigation, but there seems to be no particular urgency, and he comes to the Washington bureau to pick up my laptop. We’ve kept it off the CBS system since the day Number One first gave me the news. I sign the chain- of-custody document and hand over the computer. I wonder if the intruders have already penetrated my newly issued CBS News laptop. When I earlier recounted to Number One how I heard the castle lock sound one night and assumed the intruder had been locked out of the CBS system, he practically chuckled, like a patient elder speaking to an ingénue.

“You may have heard that sound but I hate to disappoint you—we can cut through that firewall like butter. It’s not an impediment.”

Patel and his company are working for CBS. They’re clearly tasked with protecting the network’s security, not mine. But they do sit down with me and Isham and have a serious conversation to say that I should find ways to better protect my computer privacy. Aware of the persistent interruptions in my FiOS service, they tell me that I should have my Verizon FiOS box replaced again, and relocated inside the house.

[hr]Read excerpt #1 here: The Computer Intrusions: Up at Night
#2: Big Brother: First Warnings
#3: The Computer Intrusions: Disappearing Act
#4: The Incredible, Elusive “Verizon Man”
#5: I Spy: The Government’s Secrets
#6: Computer Intrusions: The Discovery
#7: Notifying CBS About the Government Computer Intrusions
#8: The MCALLEN Case: Computer Intrusion Confirmed [hr]

“Insist on it,” one of the experts tells me. “Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let them leave the house until they replace it and move it.” Add to the glitches a new one: our Internet has begun disconnecting anytime a landline is in use. My kid’s on her iPad, the phone rings, I answer it, and blop, she’s bumped offline. I’m doing business on my Apple desktop, I pick up the phone to make a call, and blop, my Internet connection drops. You don’t realize how often you use the phone and the Internet at the same time until you can’t. So in early February 2013, a Verizon technician visits our home and two supervisors show up, too. A three-fer. The tech sits upstairs and works on my Apple desktop beside the router. The male supervisor comes, takes a look around, and leaves. The female supervisor chats up me and my husband downstairs in the kitchen. We mull over the familiar disturbances and I direct them to replace the whole outdoor box and move it inside. They tell me it’s not necessary. I keep thinking of Patel saying, “Don’t take no for an answer.” So I tell the Verizon pair that I have a security expert who insists this step be taken. But they’re formidable. It’s not necessary, they say. They know their business. As adamant as I am about moving the box, they’re just as adamant about not doing so. If I’m concerned about security, they say, there are lots of private consultants whom I can hire to help me. The tech gives me a name and number for one of them. He says there are many folks in Northern Virginia who need those special types of services. When the Verizon pair departs, our Internet is working, but the other same old problems persist.

[hr]To be continued…[hr]

Support the Attkisson v. DOJ/FBI Fourth Amendment Litigation Fund to fight the government computer intrusions[hr]

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