Sharyl Attkisson, Veteran Journalist and Government-Fighter, Opens Up
Stonewalled is the title of investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson's first book – and stonewalling is what the Department of Justice is doing to her now. Determined to receive justice, she has a landmark lawsuit against the DOJ for electronically surveilling her computers. Multiple forensics exams have revealed the government-related remote efforts to monitor her. Government agents most likely did it because she had the "audacity" to dig into facts regarding wasteful green energy spending, as well as the Fast and Furious and Benghazi scandals.
Besides hitting a brick wall with those in the government who want to see the lawsuit eliminated, Attkisson also has to battle the enormous cost in terms of time and money.
"The government has unlimited taxpayer funds to fight my lawsuit," Sharyl tells me. "As the expenses have grown, my primary attorney has let me go on account for his time because he considers this one of the most important cases regarding the numerous violations of a person's rights. We have also had to hire multiple forensics experts and a constitutional law attorney."
She went on to say, "We are arguing violations of the 4th and 1st Amendments and that of the Telecommunications Act. There are free press and privacy issues. A GoFundMe page has been set up by a diverse group of bipartisan supporters that include conservatives, liberals, and civil rights activists."
As the organizers stated on that page, "[t]his is an extremely important case about the limits and consequences of government spying on Americans' personal and work computers, and is being watched by many. It is in the public interest to seek accountability. It is at our own peril that we give up on the old fashioned free press and privacy notions set forth in our Constitution."
This is not a Vince Flynn thriller novel, but reality. In 2013, CBS reported, "[A] cybersecurity firm hired by CBS News 'has determined through forensic analysis' that '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.'"
She had not just one, but five independent forensic exams that uncovered the remote surveillance, including government I.P. addresses, listening in with her computer microphone and monitoring her keystrokes. Classified documents were planted on her computer, perhaps to justify a wiretap or frame a particular whistleblower who was speaking to her.
A vicious cycle has arisen: the legal team has to attribute these abuses to specific people by name. Yet they can identify the perpetrators only through the legal "discovery process," which the government is fighting each step of the way. Sharyl noted, "What was done is a crime because there apparently was no FISA warrant, which is required to spy on a U.S. citizen. The DOJ is not making any attempt to find out who in the government was involved, and they are preventing me from also finding out."
What Americans need to understand is that just because the presidency changed from President Obama to President Trump, that does not mean that career government employees change. "I am fighting the bad actors at the DOJ who are still protecting people and who are still obstructing this suit. Many everyday workers and bureaucrats do not change from one administration to the next. They are often the ones who basically run the government, these faceless people. They are the ones that decide what information filters up and down. In this respect, it does not matter who is president."
Those in the Obama administration went beyond surveillance and attempted to suppress and intimidate Sharyl when she pursued investigative reporting as a CBS News correspondent. "Almost every day, various Obama administration officials would call or email different people at CBS, where I was working at the time, to try to controversialize or stop my stories. They called CBS managers in New York, talked to our White House correspondent, our Washington bureau chief, senior producer, and even had lead Democrats in Congress lobby against my stories. These tactics were all done behind the scenes."
Sharyl tells of posted emails by WikiLeaks from a federal intel-connected contractor that give a hint as to the Obama administration's apparent plan to crack down on journalists. They refer to an effort supposedly led by John Brennan, who later became Obama's CIA director. "These top officials at the federal contractor titled the email 'Obama leak investigations. For internal use only, do not forward.' They said how 'Brennan is behind the witch-hunt of investigative journalists learning information from inside Beltway sources' and that there was 'a specific tasker from the White House to go after anyone printing material negative to the Obama agenda.' I would think there are probably a dozen or so journalists that were targeted besides me."
Besides Brennan, former FBI director Robert Mueller (now the special counsel investigating President Trump) is also probably involved, though Sharyl didn't address that speculation. Mueller headed the FBI when documented surveillance abuses occurred and when the remote surveillance of Sharyl began. Did he know about or was he actively involved in conducting an illegal investigation of a journalist and limiting freedom of the press? She says, "There is a much bigger picture here that people are missing." Maybe the Republican Senate should investigate Brennan and Mueller, because this is definitely big government at its worst.
The press is also complicit. Imagine the outcry if someone in the Trump administration did this to someone in the press. The media and civil liberties groups are not circling the wagons around Sharyl. She believes that "if it happened during the Trump administration, it would be a whole different story. There was a broad effort led by the liberal smear group Media Matters to state and imply that the intrusions of my computers never happened, even though there's irrefutable forensic proof. They tried to discredit me, but in the end, people pretty easily saw through that." As for why other news reporters aren't doing stories on Sharyl's case? "I know there are a couple of outlets that worked on a story about this, but for whatever reason could not get the final story published. In terms of why it's important, it's a story about the government's remote intrusion of a journalist's computer."
Every American should be supportive of Sharyl's lawsuit. As stated on the GoFundMe page, "[i]f these violations go unanswered and unpunished, government attacks on journalists and citizens will be left, unchallenged, to expand. Sharyl's lawsuit has important Constitutional and freedom implications for every American. She is courageously proceeding – really on behalf of all Americans." Those in the Obama administration should be punished for "controversializing" reporters who put out stories that the administration perceived as negative to their interests.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.