Ace reporter mystified by FBI refusal to look at email-hack evidence
Garth Kant 5-16-17
Garth Kant is WND Washington news editor. Previously, he spent five years writing, copy-editing and producing at "CNN Headline News," three years writing, copy-editing and training writers at MSNBC, and also served several local TV newsrooms as producer, executive producer and assistant news director. His most recent book is "Capitol Crime: Washington's cover-up of the Killing of Miriam Carey." He also is the author of the McGraw-Hill textbook, "How to Write Television News."
Even more bizarre following bombshell revelation on murdered DNC staffer
WASHINGTON – On the heels of a bombshell revelation that indicated it might have been a Democratic staffer rather than the Russians who hacked the party’s emails, a top investigative reporter is even more puzzled by the FBI’s curious lack of curiosity in perhaps the prime piece of evidence.
Five-time Emmy-award winning reporter Sharyl Attkisson shared her razor-sharp insights with WND on a truly bizarre aspect of the investigation: If the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, claimed its email system was hacked by Russia, why didn’t it let the FBI examine its email server?
And why didn’t the FBI examine the server regardless of whether the DNC objected?
“This has always been befuddling to me,” Attkisson mused.
“If our intel agencies truly believe Russia (or any foreign interest) tried to ‘hack’ our elections or steal emails of the DNC, then it seems to me they would have an obligation in the interest of national security to confiscate and fully examine the evidence, even if the party holding the evidence doesn’t consent,” observed the former chief investigative reporter for CBS News, now the anchor of her own Sunday morning national TV news program, “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.”
She pointedly noted, “The FBI doesn’t need the DNC’s consent to take their equipment and conduct a thorough forensic exam for the security of our nation.”
“The fact that the FBI didn’t press this issue seemed, at the very least, uninquisitive on its part,” Attkisson drolly observed with understatement.
Murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich reportedly sent 44,053 internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks before he was gunned down in while walking home from a bar in the wee hours of the night on July 10, 2016.
“Based on the FBI’s lack of examining the DNC equipment and its concurrent insistence that Russia did it, and that Russia posed a dire national security threat; we’re left to conclude that the FBI allowed a political party (the DNC) to hamper its ability to secure our nation and mitigate the dire threat.”
“This doesn’t make much sense to me,” she concluded.
These lingering unanswered questions and pertinent observations took on riveting new significance with a sensational revelation Monday, one that lent new credence to the theory that it might not have been the Russians who hacked the DNC.
Instead, it might have been one of the DNC’s own employees, Seth Rich, who provided key emails embarrassing to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
This is the story, in a nutshell, in a bombshell report from a local Washington television station that was corroborated by a federal investigator who spoke to Fox News:
- A private investigator looking into the July 2016, murder of DNC employee Seth Rich claims the staffer was in contact with WikiLeaks.
- A federal investigator told Fox News that Rich had emailed 44,053 DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
- The investigator, former D.C. police homicide detective Rod Wheeler, claimed the FBI and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police are covering up that information, contained on Rich’s laptop, which is in their possession.
- Twelve days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that indicated party officials conspired to make sure Hillary Clinton won the party’s presidential nomination over rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
- WikiLeaks has denied Russia was the source of the DNC emails it published and has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of Rich, while not confirming he was their source.
- Although police called Rich’s murder a botched robbery, nothing was stolen.
WND asked Attkisson, if WikiLeaks was getting DNC emails from Seth Rich, what does that do to the narrative of Russia hacking the DNC?
And, does that leave any evidence of Russian meddling in the election at all?
“According to the joint intel report ordered by President Obama prior to Trump taking office,” she replied, “our intel officials concluded Russia was involved in the DNC hacking.”
“However, as I have pointed out, other Obama intel officials indicated it’s not such an easy conclusion to draw for many reasons including, they say, computer interference can be made to appear as though it’s coming from one source when, in fact, it’s coming from another.”
Attkisson delivered a jab that could make some question the official version of events.
“Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that WikiLeaks has strongly denied Russia was its source, and (to date) WikiLeaks has proven a more reliable source of accurate information than some intel officials, including former Director of National Intelligence Clapper who has provided false testimony to Congress in the past.”
That doesn’t mean Russia didn’t try to meddle in the 2016 election, she noted.
Indeed, a congressional source did tell WND on Tuesday, “There’s significant evidence that it was the Russians – don’t think the Seth Rich issue will change that.”
But even if the Russians did attempt to hack the 2016 election campaigns, that doesn’t mean Rich might not have provided WikiLeaks the key emails.
“I do believe Russia and other foreign countries have attempted to interfere with our elections on many occasions, based on criminal cases in the past and intel sources, but I don’t think the DNC hacking is a closed case, based on the available public information and reliable intel sources,” Attkisson concluded.
She provided this summary of the joint report ordered by President Obama that led intelligence officials to say they had concluded Russia was involved in the DNC hacking:
- The U.S. believes two hacking groups tied to the Russian government are involved.
- The U.S. has nicknamed the hacking groups “APT28” or “Fancy Bear,” and “APT29” or “Cozy Bear.” APT stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat.”
- The U.S. believes the GRU, Russia’s military service, is behind APT28.
- The U.S. believes the FSB, Russia’s counterintelligence agency headquartered in the building of the former KGB, is behind APT29.
- The U.S. believes the groups accessed “a political party” by sending emails that tricked users into clicking links that planted malware or directed them to Russian servers.
- The U.S. believes APT29 entered into “the party’s systems” in summer 2015, and APT28 in spring 2016.
- The U.S. believes APT28 provided the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks denies.
Attkisson recommended those interested in more information read the article on her website, “Eight facts on the Russian hacks.”
This isn’t all abstract conjecture to the superstar reporter. She has had personal experience with having her computer hacked.
As WND documented in March, Attkisson has complied abundant evidence that the Obama administration hacked her computers and spied on her.
Included in the harrowing experience was watching her computer turn itself on and off.
“That’s one visible sign I noticed over many months,” Attkisson told WND in an email interview.
“At the time, I suspected it was some sort of phishing program seeking my passwords and contacts, and was confident my computer had sufficient protections. I never suspected it was connected to an intrusion of my systems until sources and forensics told me that it was.”
She also watched a different computer that she used delete files by itself..
Attkisson announced in January she is suing the Justice Department and seeking $35 million in damages for illegally hacking her computers and monitoring her work between 2011 and 2013.
Three separate computer forensic exams of her computers revealed what appears to be stunning evidence pointing straight to the Obama administration.
“The most important and irrefutable finding is: forensic evidence of a government-owned I.P. (internet protocol) address accessing my computer,” Attkisson told WND.
She said she was told that was “better evidence than the U.S. had when it accused China of various acts of hacking into our government, which the government accepts as proven.”
Her computers were examined by three independent forensics examiners including: a confidential source, an examiner hired by CBS News and an examiner hired by her attorney.
What they found was stunning.
Attkisson provided an itemized overview of some of their findings, and described what a confidential source and examiner hired by her attorney found:
- “A government-owned I.P. address was used to access my computer.”
- “We are able to see instances of exact date and time that the intruders entered my computers, and the methods they used to do so.”
- “They used commercial, non-attributable software proprietary to the CIA, FBI, NSA or DIA.”
- “The malware was constantly running on my computers. It included a feature that logged my keystrokes, accessed all my emails and collected my passwords.”
- “Skype was surreptitiously used to listen in on audio.”
- “My smartphone was also infected.”
- “Three classified documents had been put on my computer.”
- “Once sources notified me that I was likely being surveilled, and I discussed this in emails, the intruders took steps to erase evidence of their presence. However, the deletions themselves create a record of evidence.”
CBS and its analyst found:
- “Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.”
- “Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts.”
- “An intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data.”
- “This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion.”
- “[Attkisson’s] systems were indeed subject to non-standard interactions between June 2012 and January 2013.”
- “Definitive evidence that shows commands were run from Sharyl’s user account that she did not personally authorize.”
- “This history has been deliberately removed from Sharyl’s hard drive.”
- The intruders conducted an inordinate number of internal computer clock “time stamp” changes, likely to try to confuse any forensics that might be conducted.
WND asked the former CBS Washington bureau investigative correspondent, did she think the administration considered her a foe? And acted to stop her out of purely political concerns?
“I have no idea, the perpetrators would have to answer that question and they certainly aren’t stepping forward,” she replied.
“But,” she continued, “my computer intrusions occurred in context of the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers and a lot of my work deals with whistleblowers.”
“Additionally, we know the administration was aggressively trying to control the narrative on a number of stories it saw as damaging, especially as the re-election year of 2012 shaped up.”
Attkisson detailed her experience under surveillance in 2014 in her highly acclaimed New York Times bestseller, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”
Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, records previously obtained by the government watchdog group Judicial Watch indicate Attkisson was targeted by the Obama administration because of her critical reporting.
In 2014, Judicial Watch said it “obtained an October 4, 2011, email to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, Attorney General Eric Holder’s top press aide, (in which) Tracy Schmaler, described Attkisson as ‘out of control.’
“Schmaler added ominously, ‘I’m also calling Sharryl’s [sic] editor and reaching out to Scheiffer’ (an apparent reference to CBS’ Chief Washington Correspondent and Face the Nation moderator Bob Scheiffer). Schultz responded, ‘Good.
Her piece was really bad for the AG’ (attorney general).”
Given that Obama’s Justice Department had labeled her as “out of control” and tried to get the reporter’s employer to rein her in, WND asked Attkisson: What do you make of an administration that seeks to control reporters?
“I expect it,” was the sober response. “But it’s our job to resist it, and we aren’t doing a very good job of that as an industry.”
(Attkisson described problems endemic in the news media, including the genesis of fake news, in an interview with WND in December previewing her new book titled “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote,” due to be published on May 22, 2017.)
Did she think her experience and that of the Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen (both spied on by the Obama administration) were part of a pattern?
“Yes. I was informed about my case prior to us knowing about any of the other cases, just before the Snowden revelations, and prior to former DNI (Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper falsely telling Congress that the government was not collecting data of millions of Americans … but all of these events occurred in the same general time frame.”
So, was it the administration that was “out of control?”
“You decide!” she replied, echoing a famous news slogan.
Investigating the truth about her own story, the award-winning reporter has faced what she called a Catch-22 dilemma.
“To find out who accessed my computer, we need the government’s cooperation, but the government isn’t cooperating.
“In my lawsuit, we seek to learn who had access to the I.P. address that was used to infiltrate my computer,” she continued. “To date, the Department of Justice has taken multiple steps to block us from finding this answer.”
However, her persistence has revealed some compelling results.
“Finally, at my request, the DOJ (Department of Justice) Inspector General’s office sent investigators to look at a separate computer, my personal home computer.”
Attkisson said that although the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office will not release their notes and records, “and have improperly failed to respond to my Freedom of Information Act request for the information,” their forensics investigators reported to her that they found the following on her personal computer:
- “Evidence of suspicious deletions of files that could not have been done by me.
- “Use of my computer in ‘advanced mode’ (which was not done by me).”
- “‘Someone’ installed software onto my desktop and executed it and overwrote some important logs, effectively covering their tracks and erasing much evidence of their actions.”
- “As with my CBS computer, they found a lot of unusual time and date setting changes on my personal computer as well (15 times in four days).”
- “They executed data recovery, recovering previously deleted logs.”
Attkisson said the forensics examiners working for the Justice Department’s inspector general “told me they believed the intruder(s) were actually working in my house at the computer conducting these acts, rather than conducting them remotely, but, in fact, the acts were conducted remotely, as with the work computers referenced above.”
“Furthermore,” she continued, “the examiners indicated that prior to their supervisors signing off on their findings, ‘somebody’ narrowed their mission to only reporting on any ‘remote’ intrusions (i.e. not addressing the suspicious forensics they found by someone they believed was actually in my house working at the computer).”
And that’s when the investigation hit a wall.
“At this point, as their report was sent to higher-ups for approval, they dialed back their communications with me and would not deliver the promised final report or the notes that went with it.”
Attkisson said she filed a FOIA to obtain them, but it was ignored. Many months went by.
“When Congress pressed the issue, the DOJ IG issued only a summary and emphasized there was no evidence of ‘remote’ intrusion in that computer and left out the suspicious forensics they discovered,” explained the investigative super-sleuth. “To this day, the DOJ IG has failed to properly respond to my FOIA requests seeking the full information and report.”
As a result, “Many in the media misreported that this DOJ IG report was somehow conclusive evidence that my computers had not been infiltrated.”
“In fact,” she clarified, “the DOJ IG didn’t even examine the primary computers in question – referenced in the other exams above – because CBS would not allow them to look at the computers.”
Did she think the problem was specific to the previous administration, or was it due the growth of the surveillance community, its powers and lack of oversight?
“I think this is an outgrowth of technology that makes such surveillance possible, politicians and corporate interests who are willing to use it for improper purposes, and a weak and conflicted news media that has done little to stop it.”