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Ex-CBS Reporter Claims Government Agency Bugged Her Computer 235

RoccamOccam writes 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.
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Ex-CBS Reporter Claims Government Agency Bugged Her Computer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2014 @03:49PM (#48245149)

    It says SPYware right there in the search results. Obviously made by spies.

  • Honestly. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2014 @03:50PM (#48245163)

    "And as I was typing and working on questions for a Benghazi-related story, the data started wiping kind of at hyperspeed"

    Look, this isn't what hacking looks like, unless it's being done by a 14yo who installed VNC on your machine and is just fucking with you. Why would a super seekrit Obummer conspiracy go to the effort to plant spyware on her computer and then use it by PRESSING BACKSPACE? While she was editing? That's beyond nutty.

    • Re:Honestly. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @03:58PM (#48245241)
      I was once called in for a similar-sounding incident. It turned out to be the guy at the next desk who had the same make/model of wireless keyboard. But to answer your question, the article already answered it.

      It was described to me by the computer experts I consulted with afterwards that that was purely an attempt to let me know that they could do that, that they were watching, that they were in my computer.

      But it seems like you would have to read the book to get more details on who these experts were.

      • Re:Honestly. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@nOSPAm.wayga.net> on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:06PM (#48245341) Journal

        That seems kinda stupid. Why announce that they're 'watching you' and give you evidence that they're doing so?

        "Hey Agent P, I got a great idea. Let's h4xx0r her laptop, wipe out data, and let her know we're watching her. A member of the press would take that as a warning and not report on it, right?"
        "Cool. *type type type*"

        If you look at any person's laptop you'll find it absolutely coated with spyware. I run PC cleaning workshops for my church. Some of the stuff that comes in should really be nuked from orbit they're so bad. I'm starting to advocate people just start getting Chromebooks because there's not much of an OS to hack and 90% of what people do can be done from a web browser.

        • If they want to scare her they wake her up in the middle of the night with 4 people in her bedroom and quietly tell her that if she keeps it up bad things might happen. Then they proceed to make themselves visible at times, for example show up and do the same thing to their mother, let her see them talking to someone she cares about, etc.. It's far more intimidating, far more effective and completely deniable. She doesn't listen and she ends up in a "car accident" or commits "suicide".

          The people that would

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            If they want to scare her they wake her up in the middle of the night with 4 people in her bedroom

            That sort of thing leads to amusing (or tragic) tangles with armed professional law enforcement, and the toy soldiers do not cope well with such situations.

            • Do you actually believe they couldn't simply have the police guarding their exit? That they couldn't taint some food so she would be sure to be sound asleep? The people we're talking about have unlimited resources, the ability to silence any witnesses and even the ability to have law enforcement protect them while they do it.

              She's attributing cartoonish technical prowess (a stuck key for gods sake) and ignoring the simple fact that if they actually wanted her out of the way she would be out of the way. Putt

              • Re:Honestly. (Score:4, Insightful)

                by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @10:28PM (#48247979)

                Do you actually believe they couldn't simply have the police guarding their exit

                Do you really think spooks want professional law enforcement to watch while they carry out extralegal operations? Many Police actually think laws are worth enforcing and don't want to see a "might makes right" system such as in China or Soviet Russian - they demand "inconvenient" things like due process.

                The truly amusing thing here is you are being critical of someone's suspicions of a conspiracy but suggesting a Pinochet style system in it's place - we're not yet anywhere near the stage of setting off car bombs in Washington to silence inconvenient people. You've accused someone of having a wild fantasy and suggested something far wilder.

      • But it seems like you would have to read the book to get more details on who these experts were.

        Geek Squad strikes again!

    • Re:Honestly. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7@cor[ ]l.edu ['nel' in gap]> on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:00PM (#48245275) Homepage

      "unless it's being done by a 14yo who installed VNC on your machine and is just fucking with you"

      Which is probably what it was. My guess is: Some 14yo didn't like her political views and decided to fuck with her, and used some social engineering tricks to make her think it was the big bad gubmint.

      Betcha the classified documents came from Wikileaks or were forgeries.

      • No 14 year old gives that much of a shit. The symptoms she describes sound more like user error than someone "fucking with her".

        • by gtall ( 79522 )

          So...she was fucking with herself....the implications are mind boggling...sort of like Zaphod Beeblebrox isolating part of his brain from himself.

      • Her description of the location of the classified documents sounds like something my computer illiterate grandmother would say trying to relate the plot of "War Games" or "The Net."

        What IT person do you know in this world that says shit like that?

    • ... "a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware thatâ(TM)s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency."

      So the software is "commercial" but also "proprietary to a government agency" that cannot be identified.

      I think that she does not understand the meaning of the words she is using.

      But I also think that our government probably was spying on her. And lots of other people. Just not in the way she descri

    • I'm telling you Commander, that if we make it look like some pre-teen script kiddie, nobody will believe that it was NSA that erased her story.

      Now she'll have to type it in all over again.

      Next time let's encrypt the file and demand that she ransom it with her credit card, OK?

    • Actually a keylogger that detects keyword density in a string and then wails on the backspace button isn't all that unrealistic or uncreative. It's sort of dumb but sort of smart. I wouldn't rule out that her keyboard was damaged by moisture or her car walked over the keyboard though. She sounds a little paranoid.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's a good way to scare someone into stopping what they are doing, and appears to have worked. If they just deleted a few files now and then or edited the odd story she would soon figure it out anyway, so might as well just scare her into giving up.

      It reminds me of the goons from GCHQ/MI5 who visited the Guardian to watch them destroy some hard drives. Completely pointless, didn't do anything to stop the leaks, but it certainly made their position clear to the journalists.

      • by hondo77 ( 324058 )

        It's a good way to scare someone into stopping what they are doing, and appears to have worked.

        How did it stop her when she is writing a whole book about it?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Look, this isn't what hacking looks like, unless it's being done by a 14yo who installed VNC on your machine and is just fucking with you

      From what Snowden released that seems to be the mentality of parts of the sprawling outsourced clusterfuck that is the NSA, right up to the top with an operations room based on a fucking TV show and laid out by a Hollywood set designer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Colonel Mustard: Why is J. Edgar Hoover on your phone?
    Wadsworth: I don't know, he's on everybody else's, why shouldn't he be on mine?

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @03:53PM (#48245189)

    A former CBS News reporter who quit the network over claims it kills stories that put President Obama in a bad light ...

    There are News organizations that manipulate, encourage or suppress stories that may make a President look good or bad? When did this happen?

    • When did this happen?

      Post-9/11 America. If you weren't with the United States, you were with the terrorists. No reporter wanted an exclusive jailhouse interview from Gitmo.

      • Yeah, let's turn gitmo from a civil rights tragedy into a conspiracist boogeyman which you pretend is used for the elimination of the free press. It's a prison. It's a prison where horrible things have happened. It's a prison where horrible things have happened circumventing due process. But that's all. That's the end. That's bad enough, and you don't need to bake in conspiracy theories to make it worse.

        • It's a prison where horrible things had to happen to prevent ever more horrible things from happening.

    • A former CBS News reporter who quit the network over claims it kills stories that put President Obama in a bad light ...

      There are News organizations that manipulate, encourage or suppress stories that may make a President look good or bad? When did this happen?

      I think back in the Grant administration.

    • You forgot the sarcasm tag and there are lots of people that don't get sarcasm. Expect lots of serious replies.

  • Needs better proof (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @03:57PM (#48245239)

    I don't doubt this kind of thing is happening. The government has been moving itself into ever darker shadows of secrecy to avoid oversight, while at the same time has been violating privacy rights of its citizens ever more egregiously. This is not a problem with any particular party or political viewpoint. This is just the nature of power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The powerful elite will always consolidate and expand. In this country, the One Ring of Power is the law system, and the magic is provided by technology. I believe Ms. Attkisson.

    Having said that, she is going to need much better proof than she has or nothing will come of this. There has to be a smoking gun in the had of an actual federal agent. In this case that would be an actual order to spy, provably given by someone who is high enough to be responsible for their decisions. She will never have that.

    • To be honest. I'm not sure what to make of this. CBS had the issue with Bush and the National Guard. They got creamed on it. It pretty much caused Dan Rather to have to retire in a bit of shame. It's entirely possible that CBS heads are "unless we have 100% proof, spike it, we got burned before".

      There may be censorship, but may be more self-censorship. Rather "self" as in "corporate head censorship".

    • I don't doubt this kind of thing is happening.

      Nor do I, but the mere existence of spyware on someone's computer even a "journalist" is not evidence of Three Letter Agency spying. I'm *not* saying it didn't happen, but both stories referenced in the write-up sound very paranoid without a lot of (any?) hard evidence of government involvement.

  • Partisan bickering (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can't wait to see the partisan reactions. Fox News and the Glenn Beck empire will crow about how this is worst presidential act in history, MSNBC will dismiss it as a looney conspiracy theory, and people will approach the story with their biases.

    • I can't wait to see the partisan reactions. Fox News and the Glenn Beck empire will crow about how this is worst presidential act in history, MSNBC will dismiss it as a looney conspiracy theory, and people will approach the story with their biases.

      Here's the rub. I don't believe for one second she had her computer second, but I don't doubt for one second that CBS s**tcanned negative stories about Obama.

  • How do you know it was the US govt. bs some Romanian hackers.. or the Chinese? There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of evidence here.
    • From the 'evidence' in the article, she might have just accidentally rested a book on her keyboard's 'delete' key.
    • by neonv ( 803374 )

      The presence US classified documents implies US government. It's not proof, but that's probably what she's thinking. It may be other news agencies, competitive journalists, people she's pissed off, foreign governments, all just checking up on what's she's doing and ready to set her up for arrest.

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:11PM (#48245407)

    Aka Mr. Whats the frequency kevin ?
    Aka Mr. I don't need the documents authenticated I know they are real.
    Aka Mr. Why don't I turn my news network into a complete partisan embarrassment ?

    Seeing as he was de facto running the news network there for quite a bit, it wouldn't surprise me at all if their culture had taken a turn into lala land.

    As to being shocked at the spyware on her computer, i'd suggest "Number one" (seriously ?), I am hardly shocked at anything I see in the way of malware, especially if you let kids use a computer.

    • by porges ( 58715 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:34PM (#48245611) Homepage

      "What is the frequency" refers to Rather getting punched by a loon who several years later murdered an NBC stage hand. How this reflects badly on CBS, I don't know.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

      • I'd need more than that article, There's nothing there that says the alleged perpetrator was even charged with this crime. Consider D.A. Morgenthau was a bad joke, the kind of prosecutor that has Americans fearing their courts. I'd imagine he would have certainly tacked on the charges if he could actually make a case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Of course CBS went into Lala land. Didn't you see Lara Logan's fake Benghazi report? Her career imploded just like Rather's, but it was for pandering to people immersed in right-wing propaganda, rather than Democrats. It was exactly the same situation with a partisan hack falling for lies because of confirmation bias. It's a little odd that you'd bring up Rather, instead of the more-recent failure.
      • I haven't watched CBS news for a very long time. I don't care if you lean left or you lean right, you shouldn't want your news outlet trying to lead you by the nose.

    • More than half the internet is serving malware. If you visit random websites with IE on windows you will be loaded to the gills with malware in less than an hour. The existence of malware does not tie it to the government. It simply means the user doesn't understand the risks and how to avoid those infections.

  • " ... a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency ..."

    The government is selling that shit?

    She's just doing Chicken Little to sell her book.

    • by seepho ( 1959226 )
      Or she just watched "House of Cards" and thinks her Benghazi reporting was just so super important and groundbreaking that the big bad gubbmint had to step in and infect her computer with the same kind of spyware that's bundled with Banzai Buddy. Only time will tell.
  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:28PM (#48245549)

    She's well known for her anti-vax "reporting," so she's got more than a smidge of a credibility deficit.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicin... [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

  • ...I can't imagine how bad it would have been if not. He's had a lot of bad press recently. When it comes to bad news, some Presidents are Teflon (Reagan), some Presidents are Velcro (Carter). Obama is more on the Velcro side than the Teflon side.

    • A bear just finished taking a dump in the forest when a rabbit hopped up to he bear and asked, “Does shit ever stick to your fur when you take a dump?” The Bear grabbed the rabbit by the neck, wiped his ass with him and replied, “Nope.”
    • You can't get much more teflon than selling weapons to a country you've loudly proclaimed is an enemy (Iran) to provide funding to insurgents that routinely murder innocent people (Contras) and you get away with it because you tell everyone you don't remember.

  • Hokey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:46PM (#48245739)

    What is...

    used commercial, nonattributable spyware thatâ(TM)s proprietary to a government agency

    There are just so many things that are hokey about this story.

    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.

    Happens all the time to people that open random emails and follow unknown linkys.

    Attkisson says her source â" identified only as âoeNumber One"...

    Good grief. In other news, let's talk about "chemtrails"!

  • Expect every email, phone call, fax, web 2.0 interaction, contact to be tracked by the mil and gov.
    They just want to know how the gov or mil is trending in real time and ensure no staff are talking to the press in their own time :)
    So what can the press do?
    If you have a contact meet in a deep underground car park. That stops most look down views tracking top staff as two car pull up next to each other.
    Dont bring a phone, even removing a battery before a meeting can be tracked back in time with with
  • This is in "Black Helicopter" territory. It's the ebil gumment left wing conspiracy to suppress the uber-patriot only real American right wing truthers.

    One of the features of this mindset is that they assume that they are the only targets of bad government behavior. Spy on the left wing/Muslims/black people/Occupy Wall Street/anti-war/etc is great. By their lights, we are not doing enough of this, and it is always justified no matter what.

    Of course the so called intelligence community is spying on everyon

  • Even if was the government (or any of the associated companies, or a low-level new hire, or whatever) doing it, would be not the first time that the government uses the authority meant to fight terrorism with other purposes [eff.org].
  • The only thing Nixon did differently than anyone else was that he got caught.

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