The following is an excerpt from the brief being filed today in Maryland state court in Attkisson v. Rosenstein and others for the government computer intrusions.
Plaintiff Sharyl Attkisson, an award-winning journalist—along with her husband and child—have tried for years to pursue their significant and credible claims of illegal government surveillance, but the U.S. Government has stonewalled them at every turn. Yet, despite the Government’s repeated efforts to obfuscate and delay, the Attkissons detailed in their Complaint:
- Expert forensic computer analysis of the Attkissons’ computers, revealing that an unauthorized entity or entities gained remote access to the Attkissons’ computers for a prolonged period, and that one of the pathways by which the intrusions occurred were IP addresses controlled by the U.S. Government.
- Confirmation, via testimony, that the U.S. Government controlled the IP addresses identified in the Attkissions’ computers.
- The degree to which senior figures in the Department of Justice were concerned about, and took steps to block, Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting, as well as her use of confidential governmental sources;
- Many documented instances of abnormal, otherwise unexplained behavior of the Attkissons’ computer systems and devices.
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Nevertheless, despite these factual allegations, the Attkissons have been stymied in large part because the Government has blocked their every effort to identify the names of specific Government agents who were directly involved in the unlawful surveillance of their computers. And the Government has created so many and varied obstacles to litigation that the Attkissons have been prevented from conducting meaningful discovery in order to identify these Government agents. In other words, the Government entity that is supposed to hold the responsible parties accountable is instead shielding them and controlling the information the Attkissons need to identify them. Ultimately, the Fourth Circuit—while expressing astonishment that the Government lawyers arguing the case refused even to represent the John Doe defendants, Oral Argument at 21:26-24:02, Attkisson v. Holder, 925 F.3d 606 (4th Cir. 2019) (No. 18-677)—was forced to dismiss as to those defendants without prejudice to refile when those defendants could be identified. Attkisson v. Holder, 925 F.3d 606, 628 (4th Cir. 2019).
That day has now arrived.
Plaintiffs’ investigator has interviewed Ryan White, a Government whistleblower (and named Defendant). During this interview, White made the following significant assertions:
- White worked with defendants Sean Bridges (who was then a Secret Service agent) and the FBI’s Shawn Henry in Baltimore and reported directly to defendant Rod Rosenstein.
- White and Agent Bridges were ordered to conduct various clandestine operations involving hacking computer systems, servers, emails, and phones.
- White and Agent Bridges were directly involved in the illegal surveillance of the Attkissons’ computers and the exfiltration of data.
- The rogue order to target the Attkissons came directly from Agent Henry and Rosenstein.
- Later, Agent Bridges and another federal agent were convicted of corrupt acts for their involvement in the Government’s notorious Silk Road Task Force, also based in Baltimore, in which corruption by federal agents was uncovered, resulting in the convictions of Bridges and another federal agent.
This information—to be further developed during discovery—places the Government’s repeated stonewalling of this case in a new and more nefarious light. It now appears that the Government has been using procedural obstacles and motions to deliberately obfuscate and run out the clock on this litigation despite the merits of the claims. The Government’s new 12(b) motion, throwing up a laundry list of procedural objections—some bordering on the frivolous—must be viewed in this context.
This memorandum addresses each of the Government’s objections in turn. But the bottom line is that the Attkissons now can identify at least some of the previously unnamed federal agents. Moreover, they have obtained detailed whistleblower testimony to accompany their substantial forensic evidence to support their claims. Thus, the Government must not be allowed to block the Attkissons’ claims yet again. These claims clearly deserve full discovery and a trial in order to finally address the merits of these claims once and for all.