Remember this from last month? On the heels of the revelation that the Department of Justice had been snooping on James Rosen’s e-mails because of his attempt to gain classified information on the administration’s efforts on North Korea from a leaker, Sharyl Attkisson told Chris Stigall on his radio show that her computer had been mysteriously hacked. Attkisson, who has reported on Operation Fast and Furious and Benghazi and sparked ire from the White House while doing do, demurred on the source of the hacking but said CBS News was investigating it.
Erik Wemple reported earlier that CBS has corroborated Attkisson’s claim, and that whoever conducted it went after her material:
“A cyber security firm hired by CBS News has determined through forensic analysis that Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012. Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed 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.
CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”
Attkisson took to Twitter to report the official statement herself:
What was going on in “late 2012”? Well, that would have been the controversy over the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi. And, checking the record, we see that Attkisson had a very interesting scoop on October 20th, relying on anonymous military sources that called into question the Obama administration’s claim that they couldn’t have responded in time to assist in the attack:
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
A White House official told CBS News that a “small group of reinforcements” was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many or what time they arrived.
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
Until CBS News releases more from its investigation, we won’t know who hacked into Attkisson’s computer. It could have been a competitor, or someone else with a grudge against her, although one would expect that kind of hack to go after personal details rather than work product. Before the Rosen revelation, the DoJ would have been unthinkable as a suspect. If I were CBS now, though, I’d be executing a FOIA demand to know whether Eric Holder and the Department of Justice acquired a Rosen-like warrant on Attkisson in the days after that scoop went live.
Several months ago, Attkisson had reported suspected intrusions of her computers, including her CBS News work computer, prompting CBS News to hire a firm to look into the hacking.
Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of last month’s revelation that the Justice Department had seized the emails and phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen.
To be clear, the federal government has not been accused in the intrusion of Attkisson’s computer; CBS News is continuing to work to identify the responsible party.
To be sure, it doesn’t pay to jump to conclusions, but it also doesn’t pay to dismiss possibilities, either.