June 18, 1972 Revisited?

On June 18, 1972, the Washington Post reported that the night before, there had been a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. Although the break-in story made the Post’s front page, no one could then foresee the consequences that would spin out over the ensuing months.

This morning, the Post’s Erik Wemple reported that forensic analysis has confirmed multiple invasions of at least one computer used by CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson in late 2012. Attkisson has been one of only a handful of reporters who have dared to write critically about the Obama administration. In October 2011, we noted her statement that a representative of the White House had screamed and sworn at her because she was not being “reasonable” about the Fast and Furious scandal. A representative of the Department of Justice was more moderate; she merely yelled at Attkisson, but didn’t curse at her.

Last month, we noted Attkisson’s public statement that she had experienced multiple “intrusions” with respect to more than one of her computers. She said that she first noticed “irregular activity” on one of her computers in February 2011, when she was reporting on Fast and Furious and the Obama administration’s “green energy” scandals.

Forensic analysis has now confirmed Attkisson’s claims, at least in part. CBS News says:

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.

Additional shoes may drop, e.g. with regard to personal computers or additional time periods. DOJ has already announced that “to our knowledge,” it has never accessed Ms. Attkisson’s computers. There are, of course, multiple people and entities who might be interested in information stored on a reporter’s computer. Conceivably, a foreign government might want to know how much of a threat Fast and Furious posed to the Obama administration, for example. But the obvious potential culprit is the White House. If it turns out that the White House, or someone acting on behalf of the White House, carried out the illegal infiltration of Attkisson’s computer(s), the scandals already swirling around the administration will be seen in an entirely different light. For the first time, there would be serious talk of impeachment.

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