A former CBS News investigative reporter believes the federal government tampered with her computer and bugged her phone lines because of her coverage of stories seen as potentially damaging to the Obama administration.
The reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, provides details of those suspected activities — which she says one computer security expert told her was “worse than anything Nixon ever did” — in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” which will be released Nov. 4.
Vignettes of the book have appeared in two articles. One in the New York Post relayed Attkisson’s tales of struggle with CBS News’ top brass over her reporting on the Benghazi and Fast and Furious gun-running scandals.
Her work on the stories, which she says the Obama administration was unhappy with, also won her the ire of CBS executives.
The Washington Post’s media reporter, Erik Wemple, detailed Attkisson’s fears that the federal government was monitoring her electronic devices.
“I’ve been reading your reports online about Benghazi. It’s pretty incredible. Keep at it. But you’d better watch out,” a “well-informed acquaintance” Attkisson calls “Jeff” cautioned her one day.
The five-time Emmy award-winning reporter had been tracking down Benghazi leads in order to put together a timeline of what administration officials knew about the killing of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, at the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11, 2012.
By November 2012, Attkisson writes, “there are so many disruptions on my home phone line, I often can’t use it.”
And at the time, her television “spontaneously jitters, mutes, and freeze-frames.”
“Jeff” searched the perimeter of her house and found a “stray cable” which he said could be used to download data, Attkisson writes, according to the Washington Post’s review.
She also had her computer analyzed by a “confidential source inside the government” — a person Attkisson calls “Number One.”
“Number One” searched the device during a meeting the two had at a McDonald’s. Though nothing “suspicious” was found during that visit, Attkisson wrote that “Number One” told her: “First just let me say again I’m shocked. Flabbergasted. All of us are. This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America.”
Attkisson recounts that “Number One” told her that her computer had implanted, untraceable spyware, and only a sophisticated entity such as the FBI, CIA or National Security Agency could use.
Intruders had also compromised her Skype account, “Number One” told the reporter.
Attkisson and CBS News went to a computer expert she calls “Jerry Patel.”
“In my professional opinion, someone has accessed this box…I see evidence that shows a deliberate and skilled attempt to clean the log files of activity,” “Patel” found, according to Attkisson.
She also tells of a night in September 2013, a day before her interview with former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, as the Obama administration was fuming over her continued digging into the Benghazi story.
“Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone,” Attkisson writes in the book.
The mysterious event prompted her to take the computer to another expert named Don Allison who works at a tech security company called Kore Logic.
“There’s key evidence of a government computer connection to my computer,” Allison said, according to Attkisson. “A sort of backdoor link that leads to an ISP address for a government computer that can’t be accessed by the general public on the Web. It’s an undeniable link to the U.S. government.”
The Washington Post reached out to Allison and to Kore Logic. But a company representative told the paper that it signed a non-disclosure agreement for the work it did on Attkisson’s computer and could not discuss the matter.
The passages relayed by the Washington Post are only one side of “Stonewalled.”
In the other, covered the New York Post, Attkisson relayed that her work on Benghazi and Fast and Furious won her the ire of both CBS executives and White House officials.
There was overlap between the two, Attkisson points out. CBS News president David Rhodes is the brother of Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser to President Barack Obama.
While covering Benghazi, Attkisson writes that then-White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor chastised her through email, writing “I give up, Sharyl…I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”
Her bosses at CBS were not much better. During her work on the Fast and Furious story, for which she won the Edward R. Murrow award, Attkisson went on the Laura Ingraham radio show. Afterwards, Attkisson’s bosses demanded that she not appear again on the show, saying that Ingraham is “extremely, extremely far right,” she writes. (RELATED: Ingraham: Obama Admind Involved In ‘Six-Year Game Of Hiding The Ball’)
Eventually, Attkisson says that her stories were pushed from television to the web. She left the network earlier this year.