Readers pointed out to me on Saturday that my claim that Sharyl Attkisson was playing games with the dates of her alleged 'hack' is contradicted by her book, which does indeed place her phone video alongside her claim that in September, 2013 the White House was angry at her and that very day her computer was 'hacked.'
According to Attkisson, the reason she knew it was hacked is because characters on her screen were being deleted in real time, as she attempted to demonstrate via phone video which either showed the characters being deleted or her hands away from the keyboard but neither at the same time.
In my original story, I referred to a May, 2013 date which was incorrect. According to the quote published by Erik Wemple, Attkisson was referring to a 'second' hack that took place when the White House was chagrined over her (incorrect) Benghazi! reporting.
The obvious inference Attkisson was trying for was that the government could simply hack her whenever she did something they didn't like, and her video evidence is intended to prove that as some kind of fact.
That very night, with Schultz, Carney, and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I’m home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone. I press the mouse pad and keyboard to try to stop it, but I have no control. The only time I’ve seen anything like this is in those movies where the protagonist desperately tries to copy crucial files faster than the antagonist can remotely wipe them.
Attkisson grabs her phone and records video of the on-screen happenings. All manner of crazy things happen, including the disabling of a drop-down menu. “Eventually, I find that all I have the ability to do is close out the file,” she writes, noting that another open file starts undergoing ghost-driven deletions. Once she unplugs the computer from FiOS WiFi, the strangeness ends. Computer experts, she writes, “agree that [the video] shows someone remotely accessing my computer. Somebody who apparently wanted me to know it.”
Let's review timelines here. If you go to the Politico article, there's no mention of the video's date being September, 2013, but there is mention of the December, 2012 date.
Wemple wrote about the September, 2013 date but Attkisson released the video to Politico without specifying a date, causing them to refer back to December 2012.
Yes, the dates were and are confusing. But my original questions concerning the alleged 'hack' are not invalidated by the date confusion or the fact that she did confirm the September, 2013 date in her book, if not to Politico, who has not yet corrected their article.
Whether the second "hack" occurred in May or September, there are too many holes in the entire hacking narrative to make sense.
December, 2012: The "Wire"
Attkisson claimed that there was an 'extra wire' attached to her FIOS box, which she discovered in December, 2012 (the "first hack). She had Verizon techs out to inspect her equipment and remove the cable. Even that basic tech service act also gets spun as a sinister scheme on the part of the hapless service technician who visited her home, seemed "reluctant" to take the wire with him, and then it mysteriously disappeared.
This is my Verizon FIOS network terminal box, located inside the garage:
The wires can be identified as the television, telephone, and internet wires. The big black wire is the power cord.
Outside, there is another box that connects my network box to the FIOS network hardwired under the street. It looks like this:
It's locked up tight, with no place for wires to be inserted or exit other than the set of wires at the very bottom which run to the wires under the street.
Where, exactly, was this mysterious wire she claims was the key to the 'hack?'
What a marvelous story. Just vague enough to feel sinister without any foundation. You could almost believe the CIA sent out their black box guys to shove an extra wire somewhere and tap into her phones. Except, why bother?
As we've seen from the Snowden files, wires aren't necessary to eavesdrop. Why hardwire what can be done remotely? If the CIA can hack Senators without any extra wires, why would they bother to hardwire Attkisson?
Nevertheless, Attkisson teases the "hacking" story in May, 2013, which is where I got the date from, not realizing it was really the alleged hack from the mysterious wire that happened in December, 2012.
September, 2013: Benghazi! means a new "hack"
Attkisson then alleges that in the maelstrom of attention she received after CBS aired Lara Logan's false report about Benghazi, based on Attkisson's reporting, the White House was so utterly chagrined about it that they ordered a second hack, which was intended to let her know they were watching. The signal to let her know? Delete sentence after sentence of material on her computer, right before her very eyes.
She further contends that when her computer was examined by a security expert who will not confirm or deny her story under the terms of a confidentiality agreement, said expert said there had been data loss and that it was quite sophisticated.
Perhaps. But setting aside the bizarre keystroke behavior in Atkisson's video, the most destructive virus out in the wild in the fall of 2013 was Cryptolocker, which encrypted a user's data and ultimately their entire hard drive, after which a ransom to unlock the data was requested. There's no way to know from the video or her description what exactly destroyed data on her drive, but Cryptolocker was extraordinarily destructive to many users' computer systems.
Cryptolocker did not demand the ransom until all of the files were encrypted, a process that could take awhile. While it's not clear that this is why might have caused her data loss, it is just as plausible an explanation as her claim that the White House got pissed off at her and started leaning on her delete key right before her eyes.
In the end, all of this leads to the same set of questions I asked originally. Why, if you believe you're a target of government hacking, would you not ramp up your security measures on your computers in December, 2012 when the "wire" was discovered? Why would you leave your computer hooked up to a live Internet connection if you're so certain the government is spying on you to stop you from reporting that "important Benghazi information?" Why would you consult an IT security expert after hack number 2 if you thought there was a hardwired operation connected to your FIOS box?
I leave this discussion with the following thought from Attkisson herself:
To round out the revelations of “Number One,” he informs Attkisson that he’d found three classified documents deep inside her operating system, such that she’d never know they were even there. “Why? To frame me?” Attkisson asks in the book.
Every good spy story needs a few classified documents and the possibility of being framed, doesn't it?
From my vantage point, Attkisson crafted this mystery to sell books, while conveniently stoking up anti-government paranoia and getting to make the claim that this was worse than anything Nixon did.
Woodward and Bernstein, she's not.