Former CBS correspondent sues the feds for alleged hacking of her computers

Former CBS correspondent sues the feds for alleged hacking
By Tom Kludt   @CNNMoney  January 5, 2015: 6:19 PM ET


Former CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is suing the U.S. Department of Justice and the Postal Service for the alleged "unauthorized and illegal surveillance" of her laptops and telephones between 2011 and 2013.

The lawsuit, filed last week in a Washington, D.C., court, names Attorney General Eric Holder and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe as defendants.

Many of the incidents described in the suit were covered in Attkisson's 2014 book, "Stonewalled," which chronicles the electronic intrusions and the repeated push-back she says she drew from the Obama administration.

But the filing marks her most explicit accusation yet that government agencies were involved in the intrusions.

Attkisson has previously hinted at that possibility. In her book, she wrote, "Can you really turn to the Justice Department's FBI when the Justice Department might be part of the plot?"

Attkisson left CBS News in early 2014, claiming that her bosses had stifled her reporting on stories that were unkind to the Obama administration.

After her resignation, a CBS News spokeswoman rebutted her claims by saying the network "maintains the highest journalistic standards in what it chooses to put on the air."

The network has repeatedly declined to comment on the specifics of Attkisson's hacking allegations.

Attkisson's lawsuit was first reported Monday by Fox News host Howard Kurtz.

The Justice Department responded Monday by saying "we stand by our statement from 2013," when Attkisson first divulged her hacking claims.

The 2013 statement said, "To our knowledge, the Justice Department has never compromised Ms. Attkisson's computers, or otherwise sought any information from or concerning any telephone, computer, or other media device she may own or use."

In one alleged hacking episode, Attkisson says data was wiped off her laptop. She recorded that incident and in October, days before her book hit the shelves, released the footage of her computer malfunctioning.

Many were skeptical of the footage she provided. The liberal watchdog group Media Matters, a longstanding critic of Attkisson's claims, cited computer security experts who said the malfunction was probably a result of a stuck backspace key.

Attkisson's suit says her job as a reporter "was compromised" by the alleged hacking because it meant she couldn't protect her sources.

"This created a substantial amount of anxiety, jeopardized Ms. Attkisson's success as a journalist, and made her job more difficult than it would otherwise have been," the suit states.

Attkisson first went public with her hacking claims in May 2013, telling a Philadelphia radio host that she had dealt with "an issue with [her] computer that's gone on for quite a long time." CBS News later confirmed that Attkisson's computer had been "accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012." 

First Published: January 5, 2015: 6:01 PM ET


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