No reason to plant a bug or follow people around on foot. That’s expensive, time-consuming, and potentially traceable. Accessing communications through the major telecommunications companies or Internet providers and search engines—that’s free, easy, and undetectable. Piece of cake.
It’s dark now. Terry darts a glance up and down my neighborhood streets for the tenth time and redirects our walk back to the stoop. “I’ll do anything I can to help.”
| JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON THE HOT SEAT
Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, is hopping mad over the government’s antics in targeting news reporters. In July 2013, he poses a lengthy list of questions to Attorney General Holder at the Justice Department. Some of them have to do with my case. The questions are carefully crafted to cover a number of scenarios.
- During your tenure as attorney general, has any employee, contractor or other representative of your Department secretly, without notice to the subject, obtained information regarding the communication of any journalist, including Ms. Attkisson?
- During your tenure as attorney general, has any employee, contractor or other representative of your Department obtained access to any computer used by a journalist or news organization, including Ms. Attkisson and CBS News, without the knowledge of the journalist or organization?
- During your tenure as attorney general, has any employee, contractor or other representative of your Department attempted to remove, exfiltrate or otherwise transfer data to or from any computer used by a journalist or news organization, including Ms. Attkisson and CBS News, without the knowledge of the journalist or organization?
Though the letter should have been promptly addressed, five months would pass before the Justice Department would provide a response. And in the response, which follows, none of the relevant questions were answered:
“Your letter asks whether the Department is responsible for in- cidents in 2012 in which the computer of Sharyl Attkisson, a CBS reporter, was allegedly hacked by an unauthorized party. The Department is not. It also does not appear that CBS or Ms. Attkisson followed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance with these incidents,” writes the Justice Department to Coburn.
Instead of answering the questions at hand, the administration had posed an entirely different question and chosen to answer that one. Senator Coburn’s letter hadn’t referred to “hacks,” it didn’t narrow its questions to 2012, didn’t ask whether the Justice Department was “responsible” and didn’t isolate its questions to the Justice Department alone. I conclude there’s a reason they stuck to posing and denying a very narrow set of circumstances, using such specific language, rather than simply answering the questions Coburn asked.
I find irony in the fact that, in its brief response, the Justice Department implies I should have approached the FBI for “assistance.” Especially since I now have learned that, months ago, the FBI opened a computer intrusion case with me listed as the “victim” but, oddly enough, never bothered to reach out to me. How often does the FBI start a case without notifying, or trying to collect basic information from, the supposed victim? It doesn’t seem as if they’re trying very hard to help me get to the bottom of it.
I see Coburn on Capitol Hill and he tells me that my case may be the worst, most outrageous violation of public trust he’s ever seen in all his years in office.
“And it’s not because it’s you,” he adds. He wants me to know that he’s judged the gravity of the situation based not on how I might have been personally or even professionally affected. It’s about the broad implications for government, the press, and society.
“I know,” I say.
On February 18, 2014, Coburn issues a follow-up letter to the Justice Department pointing out that none of his questions from the previous July had been answered in its December response.
“The [Justice] Department’s restatement of my questions reflected neither the intent of the original questions, or the spirit of the inquiry at hand,” Coburn wrote. He then asked Holder to re-review the original questions and provide numbered responses.
Five months later, more than a year after the original congressional query was posed, the Justice Department had still provided no further response.
[hr]Read excerpt #1 here: The Computer Intrusions: Up at Night
#12: Obama’s War on Leaks
#16: URGENT dispatch
#23: The CBS Connection
#24: Spy Class 101
#25: Flaps and Seals