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‘Many, Many Others’ Affected by Obama-Era Surveillance

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From the Wall Street Journal editorial board: The larger truth here is now undeniable: The Obama Administration spied on the political competition, it continued that spying even after Mr. Trump was elected, and then it tried to cover up what it had done. If Mr. Trump had done anything remotely similar, folks would be calling to bring back the guillotine (WSJ). Peter Kirsanow notes “the mainstream media, who’ve suddenly become invincibly incurious about Russia-related matters, have posed not one question, either directly or indirectly, to the person to whom all the players in the scandal reported: Barack Obama” (National Review). One reporter who did cover it, Catherine Herridge, was attacked by the rest (NY Post).

‘Many, Many Others’ Affected by Obama-Era Surveillance, Says Former CBS Reporter Sharyl Attkisson

By Rudy Takala, Mediate, May 21st, 2020, 4:44 pm

Four years after the intelligence community began to surveil some of President Donald Trump’s campaign officials, details of what that surveillance entailed are still emerging. The Justice Department is still waiting on U.S. Attorney John Durham to finish investigating. The president this month even assigned it a new nickname: “Obamagate.”

For many observers, the idea that the intelligence community would flout certain rules in order to investigate American citizens is news. But for former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, “Obamagate” is just the latest development in a nearly decade-long battle.

“I would say I may not be one of the first victims, but I am one of the first people who was able to identify myself as a target of illegal spying under the Obama administration,” Attkisson told Mediaite in an interview this week. “I believe many, many others were spied on but do not know. It was only thanks to help from intelligence contacts that I even learned that government agents were spying on me. Otherwise, I never suspected it or would have known.”

Attkisson has long asserted that the feds wrongfully surveilled her electronic devices from 2011-14, part of an operation tied to her reporting on the Justice Department’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun-running scheme and, later, on the 2012 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. A three-judge panel voted last year to dismiss a lawsuit she had filed over the issue, but in January, Attkisson moved to reopen the case, telling the court that a whistleblower had provided new information.

That information implicated five specific individuals, according to court filings — including Rod Rosenstein, a familiar target of Trump’s grievances. Court filings allege Rosenstein, who served as the Obama administration’s U.S. attorney for Maryland, “ordered the unlawful surveillance and hacking” of Attkisson’s devices. (He subsequently served as Trump’s deputy attorney general, a capacity in which he appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump’s staffers.)

Rosenstein has denied the charges, arguing that the case should not be allowed to proceed based on information from an anonymous informant. “Nowhere do the Attkissons provide any more information to credit their accusations based on this supposed anonymous source,” Rosenstein’s attorneys wrote in an April motion to dismiss the case. “Not who communicated with the individual, how the plaintiffs received information from that person, where that person worked … or what that person knows about the alleged ‘incursions’ into the plaintiffs’ electronic devices.”

Despite Rosenstein’s departure from the Justice Department last year, conservatives have had issues with the way the department has been managed under Attorney General William Barr. Those fault lines became more visible on Monday, when Barr said he didn’t expect Durham’s review to involve the charge that either President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden had acted criminally. Trump told reporters later in the day that he was “a little surprised by that statement.”

Attkisson said the department has a tendency to protect its own regardless of which president is in power. While she declined to criticize Barr specifically, she highlighted that the problem included former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned in 2018 and is presently running for his old Senate seat in Alabama — without Trump’s support.

“Prior to becoming attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions told an acquaintance he was well aware of what had happened to me with the government computer intrusions, and that it was shameful,” Attkisson told Mediaite. “But when he became attorney general, the Justice Department continued using taxpayer funds to fight my case. Numerous members of Congress for years, including several of them recently, have asked the FBI and Justice Department for information about the case, under two presidents, multiple attorneys general and multiple FBI directors, but they continue to get stiff-armed.”

It will also be at least another month until the judiciary decides if new facts will be allowed to emerge. The court hearing the case suspended operations in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and is not set to reopen until mid-to-late June.

Attkisson said it would be appropriate for Trump to weigh in on the matter and to direct his Justice Department to examine other Americans who may have been the subject of surveillance in recent years.

“Certainly he is entitled to give direction to his Justice Department, as all presidents do, and convey priorities,” she said. “It seems to me that there are dishonest actors who have tried to convince him that he is not entitled to do these things. I do think somebody at the Justice Department should review the forensic evidence proving the government source of the intrusions, if there were any doubt, offer an immediate apology, stop fighting the lawsuit, begin an honest investigation as to who was responsible and who else was spied on.”

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