The Justice Department, under two administrations and 7 Attorneys General and acting Attorneys General, has avoided answering Congressional questions about the forensically-proven intrusions into the computers of investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
In fact, the Department of Justice continues to defend the guilty agents in court rather than trying to prosecute them and make sure it doesn't happen again.
If the information that was requested starting seven years ago had been unearthed, could the government's subsequent surveillance abuses been avoided?
Here is a brief timeline of the questions asked-- and still unanswered.
June 17, 2013: CBS News officially reports that its independent forensics exams had revealed intrusions into Attkisson's computers and into the CBS systems.
June 20, 2013: FBI secretly opens a case into the intrusions into CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson's computers, but never notifies her it has done so and never assists her in identifying and arresting the guilty parties.
See the records below that FBI initially denied having, obtained only after Attkisson filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the FBI.
July 9, 2013: Sen. Tom Coburn asks Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about the government's secret monitoring of the news media, including CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
- 1. 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?
- 2. 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?
- 3. 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?
Read the full letter to Holder below:
July 9, 2013: Sen. Coburn asks Justice Dept. Inspector General Michael Horowitz to conduct an "exhaustive" investigation into "whether any personnel within the Department of Justice may have been aware of or involved...with the breach and/or monitoring of Ms. Attkisson's computers. This investigation must encompass all email transmissions of Department of Justice personnel beginning in August of 2011...[including any] individuals that have separated from the Department."
There is no indication any such investigation was ever conducted or any emails obtained.
Dec. 12, 2013: After waiting five months, the Department of Justice responds to Coburn's letter. But the response avoids specifically answering any of the questions posed about monitoring Attkisson. The letter is signed by Justice Department official Peter Kadzik, a friend of Obama/Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta.
Read the Kadzik letter below:
Read about the friendship between Kadzik and Obama/Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta:
Feb. 18, 2014: Sen. Coburn writes Attorney General Holder a follow up letter, noting that the questions about monitoring of Attkisson had not been answered.
Read the full letter from Sen. Coburn below:
June 12, 2015: Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley also seeks answers about FBI monitoring from Director James Comey.
Dec. 16, 2015: Sen. Grassley writes a follow up letter complaining that the FBI has not answered his questions.
Read the Grassley follow up letter below:
March 2018: Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson asks for full report and notes on Dept. of Justice Inspector General (IG) forensics exam of Attkisson's personal computer (not the main CBS work computer at issue). (The IG has refused for years to turn over the material to Attkisson.) However, the IG only sends Johnson the abbreviated final report without the requested detail.
Jan. 9, 2020: Sen. Johnson follows up on unanswered questions with a letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray. He asks for Jan. 22 response but does not receive it.
Excerpts from Sen. Johnson's letter are below:
Johnson Follows Up on Unanswered Questions from Reporter’s Lawsuit Regarding Obama Administration’s DOJ
Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson refiled lawsuit Wednesday after CBS confirmed that her devices had been “accessed and compromised” in 2013
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General William Barr and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray seeking answers to long-outstanding questions highlighted in a recently refiled lawsuit by investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. Ms. Attkisson’s original lawsuit was filed in 2015 after her then-employer, CBS News, confirmed that her devices had been “accessed and compromised” by unknown parties. Around the time of the compromise, Ms. Attkisson was breaking stories on the Department of Justice’s “Operation Fast and Furious” in 2011 and reported on the attacks in Benghazi in 2012.
Today Chairman Johnson wrote, “In February 2011, CBS News investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson began reporting on ‘Operation Fast and Furious,’ an operation by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) that allowed Mexican cartel members and gun traffickers to illegally purchase firearms with the hope of tracking and later recapturing them. Instead, ATF lost track of ‘a larger number’ of those weapons. In October 2012, Ms. Attkisson began reporting on the attacks in Benghazi that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“In mid- to late-2011, Ms. Attkisson noticed ‘anomalies’ with several of her work and personal electronic devices. These anomalies persisted through 2012. ‘In mid-2013, [Ms.] Attkisson and CBS announced publicly that her personal devices had been accessed and compromised.’ …
“In light of the recently documented abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court applications by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), I am especially concerned about these unresolved questions regarding the alleged surveillance of Ms. Attkisson. It is well past time that Ms. Attkisson, Congress, and the American public receive answers to questions that have remained outstanding for over 6 years.”
...Judge James Wynn, Jr. wrote that “Attkisson never got a meaningful opportunity to pursue her claims because the government did everything in its power to run out the clock on [her lawsuit].” In fact, “the district court dismissed her case with prejudice against [the unnamed federal agents]” who allegedly compromised her electronic devices because she was not able to identify them “even though the government’s delaying tactics deprived [her] of any meaningful opportunity to engage in the discovery necessary to identify the[m][.]” Judge Wynn described the government’s position as “Kafkaesque” and “tantamount to asserting that early discovery should never be available in a  case against unnamed defendants.”
1) Was Ms. Attkisson ever a witness, subject, or target in an investigation by the DOJ, to include the FBI and ATF?
2) Has any employee, contractor or other representative of the DOJ, to include the FBI and ATF, ever obtained or sought to obtain records concerning Ms. Attkisson? If yes, please describe those efforts, their legal basis, and identify the individuals involved.
3) Has any employee, contractor or other representative of the DOJ, to include the FBI and ATF, ever attempted to remove, exfiltrate or otherwise transfer data to or from any electronic device used by Ms. Attkisson without her consent? If yes, please describe those efforts, their legal basis, and identify the individuals involved.
4) Has any employee, contractor or other representative of the DOJ, to include the FBI and ATF, ever obtained access to any electronic device used by Ms. Attkisson without her consent? If yes, please describe those efforts, their legal basis, and identify the individuals involved.
5) Other than the DOJ OIG’s review of her personal computer, has the DOJ, to include FBI and ATF, investigated the compromise by Ms. Attkisson’s electronic devices? If so, please describe the results of the investigation(s) or review(s). If not, why not?
The questions were not answered.
Feb. 10, 2020: Rep. Ken Buck raises unanswered questions about the date with FBI Director Christopher Wray.
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Fight improper government surveillance. Support Attkisson v. DOJ and FBI over the government computer intrusions of Attkisson's work while she was a CBS News investigative correspondent. Visit the Attkisson Fourth Amendment Litigation Fund. Click here.