How did the FBI manage to “lose” Sharyl Attkisson’s file?
Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter and independent journalist, has a long history of getting under the government’s skin. In her book Stonewalled, she detailed many of the battles she encountered when attempting to expose the truth in the tradition of the Fourth Estate and how unpopular stories tended to wind up being discounted or silenced. Later, her Nosy Nellie ways attracted the interest of the Department of Justice, though they have thus far failed to file any actual charges against her.
This week, Attkisson tells the story of how she finally sought to obtain her own FBI file and the mysterious answers she received. The bottom line for the FBI seems to be… Attkisson? Attkisson? Who is this Sharyl Attkisson person of which you speak?
Years later, in 2013, I learned of the intrusion of my work and home computers. The intruders utilized software proprietary to a U.S. government agency. I knew that the FBI had contacted CBS News and confirmed the computer intrusion. I knew that FBI case workers listed me as a “victim” in the computer intrusion, even though they never contacted me to investigate or help.
As part of my investigation to learn more about the identities of the computer intruders, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act request to review my FBI file (as every citizen has the right to do). I knew that — at the very least — my file would include information relevant to my White House HARD PASS background checks and the computer intrusion.
But I got stonewalled.
The FBI could conceivably get away with claiming to not have any records of somebody if they were a private person who never did anything in the public eye to attract their attention. (That you know of.) But in Sharyl’s case, she had been through the full background check in the 90s to obtain approval for White House access as a reporter. Did those records simply disappear? Did the dog eat their homework?
These aren’t the sorts of records we normally see being requested by Judicial Watch or anyone else. There’s obviously a case to be made for the government if someone requests records of an ongoing investigation where the public release of such could jeopardize their case or allow the bad guys to get away. But what about older records of presumably closed cases? I suppose there’s still a possibility in some cases that they might not want the information to go public if they believe that the details could tie into other cases which followed from it, but that hardly seems to be the situation here. And a security background check? Perhaps you don’t turn over everything you find if it seems like it would be a privacy violation, but you could at least acknowledge that you conducted the check and whether it was a go or a no go.
But even if you don’t want the details revealed, can the FBI simply claim they don’t have a file when one exists? It seems as if they would instead come back with an answer of saying that the information is sensitive and can’t be released. Or perhaps just turn over a page with everything redacted except the date and the title? Something doesn’t sound right about that.
If you’d like to see more of Sharyl Attkisson’s recent work she has a new Sunday morning news series. You can find the details here.