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In 2013, journalist Sharyl Atkisson accused the Obama Administration of hacking and surveillance of her computers. Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Justice, investigated this and found no evidence to support Atkisson’s allegations. Related to this, Atkisson just tweeted this:

  1. Horowitz investigated but not main computer (CBS would not let IG examine).
  2. IG changed their scope & conclusions after chief counsel got involved.
  3. IG only released scrubbed summary, won't release docs/notes showing investigators told me they confirmed intrusions.

I’m interested in the part in bold. My question is, is Atkisson right that the IG changed the conclusion of his report after Bill Blier, chief counsel for the Office of Inspector General, got involved with the investigation?

  • This is a good question and needs attention – K Dog Dec 16 '19 at 14:53
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    @KDog Good luck, I predict you’ll get zero evidence to substantiate her allegations. Atkisson has increasingly become a right-wing conspiracy theorist in recent years. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 16 '19 at 15:59
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    Either way, it's worthy of an answer. – K Dog Dec 16 '19 at 17:57
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+100

The only source we have for the unchanged scope and conclusions is Attkisson's own word, as she writes in an article for The Hill:

On their last visit to my house, they wanted to be sure to segregate the malicious activity they identified from any work I might have done on the computer. They told me someone operated the computer in advanced mode, something I don’t know how to do. They found that — like the CBS laptop — the intruders had repeatedly altered the computer’s internal system times and dates. And they discovered that — like the CBS laptop — key files had been destroyed. (We already knew these things and more from our own exams.) We went through pages of their notes together. I asked for copies.

“You can get those later,” the lead investigator assured me. "When the investigation is finished.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t count on getting something from the government tomorrow. I made contemporaneous notes of the visit and findings.

Not long after that, my communications with the IG’s office changed. They notified me that their investigation had been “narrowed,” from looking into an illegal intrusion to determining only if there had been a remote intrusion. Nobody would explain to me who narrowed the scope of the probe or why. You’d think they’d be interested in any intrusion, remote or otherwise. Why the distinction?

In other words, according to Attkisson’s story, the IG's scope changed so that they were no longer investigating one particular line of intrusion. What was that?

The weirdest part of the visit was that, for the first time, the IG investigators began insisting the intruders weren’t working remotely but were in my house, sitting at my computer, doing these things. They had dates and times. I told them that was impossible; nobody was sitting at my computer upstairs in my home for hours while my husband was home on those days, at those times. Besides, we already knew from our own forensics that the intruders had operated remotely. My forensics team said the IG experts were not fully competent on their Apple work and, for some reason, seemed to be misreading the remote intrusions as local intrusions.

The IG's report found that the videos Attkisson sent them of "hacking" in progress showed a common error message and a stuck backspace key, and that a "tap" she claimed to have found in her basement was a "common cable" provided by her ISP -- Attkisson does not deny this. They seemingly did not feel it was their business to determine who had physically logged into the computer and changed the date and time, an incident which anyway happened two weeks after the alleged hacking.

In her complaint, Attkisson insists that it was literally "impossible" for someone else to physically access her computer because only her husband was in the house at her time, and presumably he told her he didn't see anyone. Her unnamed "forensics team" (friends of hers, or her husband's?) told her that this was indeed a remote hack, and that the Department of Justice’s inspector general didn't know how computers worked. However, Ars Technica quotes the IG as saying that Attkisson's "forensics team" damaged the computer records:

And examination of Attkisson's iMac found that file metadata for the computer's logs had been altered by whoever inspected it. "The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs," the report noted.

"However, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." And when the OIG asked for a copy of the report from the technician who did the examination, Attkisson said, "My attorney says our material isn't yet in a form that's ready to share."

Apparently, Attkisson still feels that she is unprepared to share the name of her "forensics team" with the public, so until then it is her word against the inspectors. With Attkisson being seemingly computer illiterate, the burden of proof appears to be on her to demonstrate that her mysterious "forensics team," who damaged the integrity of the computer by scouring it for data, is more knowledgeable about computers than the IG.

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  • This doesn’t answer my question, which is about Atkisson’s claim that the IG changed the conclusion of the investigation after the involvement of Bill Blier. The first quote at least talks about her allegations of the scope narrowing, but my question is about whether the conclusions ever changed. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 17 '19 at 16:06
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    My point is that no one knows what she was told before the end of the investigation besides her, and no one else has claimed the scope or conclusions changed. – Avery Dec 17 '19 at 18:17

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