I’m always skeptical about memoirs and tell-all’s, because the writer is highly motivated to lie. In the former case, self-promotion is at the heart of a memoir and no one promotes the negative things about themselves. The tell-all is the dead tree version of click bait. The writer says bad things about people or reveals embarrassing things about a public institution in order to sell books. In both cases, the bullshit ratios are way out of whack.
Sharyl Attkisson left CBS claiming they are a bunch of lefty hacks, something we all knew for decades. Her tell-all is being flogged by Drudge. He has a link to this story in America’s Paper of Record.
A former CBS News reporter who quit the network over claims it kills stories that put President Obama in a bad light says she was spied on by a “government-related entity” that planted classified documents on her computer.
In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.
“This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America,” Attkisson quotes the source saying.
Maybe. It is also possible she is just like most users and foolishly loaded all sorts of spyware on her laptop. Most people have no idea how their PC works. Apple users are the worst because they think they know how it works, even though they don’t. People see this stuff on TV and they think “hackers” can magically take over your PC.
She speculates that the motive was to lay the groundwork for possible charges against her or her sources.
Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”
The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.
This is pretty common stuff. The #1 way people load malware onto their PC is by opening an attachment. Once it is loaded, it sits there calling home and updating itself. It’s why you should never put your personal stuff on a laptop, by the way.
“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” she wrote in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”
This I doubt. This is the sort of thing you see on TV, not in real life. Loading spyware to take over a webcam is one level of clever. Stealing a Skype password and then re-engineering the program to function as a listening devise is quite another. It’s not impossible, but to deploy that type of resource on this woman sounds unlikely to me. There’s a small number of people able to do this work and they are in high demand.
Attkisson says her source — identified only as “Number One” — told her the spying was most likely not court-authorized because it went on far longer than most legal taps.
But the most shocking finding, she says, was the discovery of three classified documents that Number One told her were “buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re a some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists.”
“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point,” Number One added.
Again, this reads like a bad TV script. There are no hidden places in your operating system. There are places where code can be hidden away, but not documents. The value in hiding docs on her computer is also questionable. If you can go to these lengths to frame her, you can just have her killed in an accident, which is much easier than this.
If you cover the foreign policy operations in Washington or Europe, you are being followed, wiretapped and scrutinized. This has been true for a long time. Counter intelligence is a part of every nation’s toolkit and that naturally sweeps up the reporters. Most of the people talking to reporters are mid-level bureaucrats lacking the security clearances to access the good stuff. It’s very rare for a high level career spook to be known to the press, much less have a relationship.
Where the high level leaks come from are from the political class. The guys like Richard Armitage who are part of the permanent Washington policy elite. They are the guys spilling the beans to reporters about some program or policy. A gal like Attkisson is not privy to those people. She’s meeting the low-level nobodies at the Starbucks so they can dish the local scuttlebutt. They may know some things so this sort of reporting can leave a mark, but it is not worth the trouble of deploying A-level technicians to exploit her laptop.