Many of the allegations made by former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson regarding alleged computer intrusions by the U.S. government are disputed in a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general. “The OIG’s investigation was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson’s computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise,” reads the inspector general’s report.
In her book “Stonewalled,” Attkisson had issued a wide-ranging set of claims — that her CBS News work computers and her personal computer had been hacked, that a strange wire was found hanging from the cable TV/broadband box outside of her home and that her phone service went fuzzy. The inspector general’s report found that the cable in question was a “common” cable used by Attkisson’s broadband provider. Here’s how the report sums up the situation:
Lastly, Attkisson reported to the OIG that a “suspicious” cable was attached to her Internet Service Provider’s connection box installed on her house. She opined to the OIG that perhaps this cable was being used to “tap” her house. Further investigation by the OIG revealed that the cable was a common cable used by the provider and could not be used to monitor or otherwise affect the phone or internet service at her residence.
And in response to Attkisson’s videotape of an alleged hacker deleting content from her computer screen, the report says that the activity was caused by “the back space key being stuck.”
The report notes that CBS News had declined to make available to the OIG laptop computers that Attkisson had used in her official capacity at the network. In June 2013, CBS News issued a statement confirming earlier statements by Attkisson that her computers had been breached.
Here are other key points from the report:
• When it evaluated Attkisson’s iMac computer, the IG’s office noted something awry: “The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs; however, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices.”
• In summer 2014, the IG asked for a copy of the report prepared by the technician who examined her iMac, or at least to speak with said technician. Attkisson responded, “My attorney says our material isn’t yet in a form that’s ready to share.”
• No FBI case. As part of the IG’s probe, it asked if the FBI if it had an open case involving Attkisson. No, came the answer: Attkisson is not and has not been under investigation by the FBI.
• CBS News examination? Counsel for CBS News told the inspector general’s office that the network didn’t commission any forensic studies of Attkisson’s personal computer. “Attkisson, however, continued to stand by her statement to the OIG that CBS News sent a technician to her house to examine her iMac computer on February 2, 2013,” reads the report.
• IP address. The report knocks down a finding by the technician reviewing Attkisson’s computer that unauthorized intrusions came from a certain Internet Protocol (IP) address. Though this portion of the report is redacted, it notes that IP addresses found on Attkisson’s machine track back to “common, non-suspicious sources such as internet cookies, Google searches, and web access to the [redacted] shipping web site.”
Attkisson is suing the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Service over the alleged intrusions. In testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as attorney general, Attkisson complained that a document request from Justice’s inspector general office yielded only a “partial” look at the report, which didn’t include forensic details. The inspector general’s report was entered into the Senate record as part of the Lynch hearings. Attkisson left her job at CBS News last year.
Much more to come on this.