The following is the 13th in a series of excerpts from my New York Times bestseller “Stonewalled,” which recounts the government intrusions of my computers. More excerpts to follow. Links to previous excerpts are below.
The AP story turns out to be the first in a rapid-fire succession of strange-but-true revelations about the government’s aggressive actions against news reporters. Less than a week later, on Sunday, May 19, 2013, comes word that the Obama administration has targeted another national news journalist: FOX News reporter James Rosen. Again, it’s supposedly part of a government leak investigation, this one into a State Department contractor who was later indicted. Attorney General Holder himself had approved the search warrant for Rosen’s Gmail account.
It’s so Orwellian for the government to aim its investigative resources and prosecutorial tools at reporters who are doing their legal job. Is this all part of a broad, secretive program to target the Obama administration’s reportorial enemies? Am I on the list, too?
It’s becoming clear that the administration is going after journalists and sources whom it views as the most harmful to its own self- interests. I think about when I was covering Fast and Furious and how the story reached all the way into the White House, prompting the president to declare executive privilege to keep from releasing documents to Congress. The government surely wanted to know what I knew and who was talking to me. Perhaps they felt they could justify monitoring me as another in this series of “leak investigations.” MyFast and Furious coverage bled over into the Benghazi period. The Obama administration was just as frantic over my reporting on that topic. Just as desperate to learn who was talking to me and what I was learning from them.
With the discovery about the intrusions on AP and FOX reporters, a new public sentiment seems to be building: ordinary people are frightened by and outraged over the perceived assault on journalists and their sources.
Just days into news of these controversies, I’m doing a round of radio interviews centered on my current Benghazi reporting.
I’m on the air with Philadelphia radio talk show host Chris Stigall of WPHT 1210 AM when he segues to the subject of the government intrusions on reporters. I haven’t publicly discussed my own situation, which predates the public revelations about AP and FOX. But Stigall pops an unexpected question:
“Do you know if your phone was tapped or your emails watched or seized while you were having conversations with unnamed sources on Benghazi, Sharyl?”
Does he know? I hadn’t given any thought as to what I might say about my own computers. I answer the question on the spot without opening the door too wide.
“I’m not ready to fully speak publicly about some things that have affected me because I’m trying to be methodical and careful about what I say. But there has been an issue in my house, and there’s been an issue with my computers that’s gone on for quite a long time that we’re looking into.”
Stigall seems as surprised by my answer as I was by the question. For several minutes, he continues to press for more information and I give limited responses. I bring the interview to a close by saying, “There’s definitely been an intrusion into my computer system. I re- ally can’t say more than that right now.”
I wouldn’t have predicted the avalanche of interest that this brief radio interview would generate. Within minutes, word of my computer intrusions is being circulated on Internet blogs and is being tweeted about on Twitter. I know nothing of the chatter until I get a call from the CBS News press office. Inquiries are pouring in. It’s not long before friends and family email to tell me that bloggers are speculating that the White House is bugging me. Or that I’ve mistaken a common computer virus or automatic Windows updates for something nefarious. Or that I’m being hacked by an old boyfriend. It’s funny to hear some work so hard to discredit so much with so few facts.
To Be Continued…
Read excerpt #1 here: The Computer Intrusions: Up at Night
#12: Obama’s War on Leaks