Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has released to Politico a video clip that shows an alleged hacker attack against her Apple computer. The video’s release comes just days before the Nov. 4 publication date of her book “Stonewalled,” which inventories her efforts to hold the Obama administration accountable, along with providing a running narrative about intrusions into her home and work computers.
The video itself shows a computer with a moving cursor erasing words from a document. In the background, a voice — purportedly Attkisson’s — says “not touching it” and “just deleting everything.” At one point, the footage shows a partial view of the computer’s keyboard, which is free of hands.
In “Stonewalled,” Attkisson provides a blow-by-blow account of this moment. It’s September 2013 and White House officials Jay Carney and Eric Schultz both are complaining to CBS News higher-ups about Attkisson’s Benghazi reporting. In an e-mail to CBS News Washington Bureau Chief Chris Isham, Carney slights a piece by Attkisson that he calls an “exclusive preview of a Darrell Issa press release,” in reference to the California Republican congressman who chairs the House oversight committee. Schultz pitches another CBS News staffer, Major Garrett, on a story that contains “exonerating material.”
Right against these e-mails, things get dicey for Attkisson and her computer. Let her tell the story:
That very night, with Schultz, Carney, and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I’m home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone. I press the mouse pad and keyboard to try to stop it, but I have no control. The only time I’ve seen anything like this is in those movies where the protagonist desperately tries to copy crucial files faster than the antagonist can remotely wipe them.
Attkisson grabs her phone and records video of the on-screen happenings. All manner of crazy things happen, including the disabling of a drop-down menu. “Eventually, I find that all I have the ability to do is close out the file,” she writes, noting that another open file starts undergoing ghost-driven deletions. Once she unplugs the computer from FiOS WiFi, the strangeness ends. Computer experts, she writes, “agree that [the video] shows someone remotely accessing my computer. Somebody who apparently wanted me to know it.”
“Stonewalled” contains other details on various technological oddities and disruptions in Attkisson’s professional and home life. One other notable example is that she found a stray cable sticking out of the Verizon FiOS box on the exterior of her house. A source told her that it could have been used to download data. The book includes Attkisson’s summation of input from various computer experts, though key sources are pseudonymous. One computer security firm identified by its real name told the Erik Wemple Blog that it couldn’t comment on the work.