Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘Fast and Furious’ Reporter Scores Win in Lawsuit against Computer-Hacking Feds

'[Attkisson has] reason to believe that the hard drive evidence that CBS has in its possession may be different...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USAFormer CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson, who had her computers hacked by federal agents in retaliation for her numerous stories about the Obama-era Operation Fast and Furious scandal, scored a big win this week in her lawsuit over the matter.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stewart Aaron ruled Tuesday that CBS must produce the hard drive that the government hacked while Attkisson worked for the news network. CBS must also scour its internal records for all communications between CBS, government agencies and Congress about Attkisson and the computer intrusions.

Attkisson’s lawsuit stems from “anomalies” she noticed on her electronic devices while working on the “Fast and Furious” stories more than 10 years ago.

“Fast and Furious” was an operation overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which the government purposely allowed firearms dealers to sell marked weapons illegally with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels.

The operation turned into a major scandal when one of the firearms was used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

“On Feb. 13, 2012, unknown to Attkisson at the time but later revealed through forensic exams, remote intruders downloaded new spyware into Attkisson’s CBS Toshiba laptop at approximately 10:30 p.m. after she downloaded an mp3 file and clicked on an email,” Attkisson said of the government targeting her.

Attkisson sued then-Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials over the matter in 2015, but that lawsuit was largely unsuccessful because the courts ruled that Holder had sovereign immunity protections. (Holder earlier had been held in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with a GOP-led investigation into the matter, but he declined to prosecute himself for the crime.)

Nonetheless, Attkisson’s lawsuit proceeded against former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, who had been assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force at the time her computers were hacked, and undercover DOJ informant named Ryan White. She is also suing “unknown named agents of the DOJ,” according to court records.

In that case, CBS had filed a motion to quash Attkisson’s quest for these records last month, arguing that the news agency has already done plenty to aid the journalist in her lawsuit against the government.

CBS argued in its motion that the hard drives sought by Attkisson contain “proprietary CBS data and information protected by the reporter’s privilege, making it impossible to produce the drives wholesale.”

However, Judge Aaron shot down these arguments in his Tuesday decision.

“[Attkisson has] reason to believe that the hard drive evidence that CBS has in its possession may be different. Accordingly, no later than Thursday, April 27, 2023, CBS shall produce the hard drive evidence in its possession,” the judge said.

Meanwhile, Attkisson is apparently hunting down the DOJ informant, White, to serve him a subpoena.

“Efforts to locate and serve Ryan White for deposition continue, but are still unsuccessful,” she said in a status report last week.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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