Yes, journalists: even you can get hacked. On Friday morning, a spokesperson for CBS News announced that veteran reporter Sharyl Attkisson's computer had been "accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012," thereby confirming one of the stranger (but otherwise peripheral) stories to arise over the past month, which has seen disclosures that the Department of Justice obtained the private phone records of reporters at the Associated Press and Fox News. In the midst of these alarming stories in mid-May, Attkisson disclosed on a Philadelphia radio show that her computers showed signs of infiltration, heavily implying (with the help of the show's host) that government agents had hacked her computer in retaliation for reporting unflattering stories about Obama administration officials — a charge that Department of Justice officials vehemently denied.
Friday's announcement reignited concerns, concentrated mostly in conservative media, that shadowy entities — perhaps associated with Obama or the Democratic Party — are trying to bully or somehow discredit Attkisson, whose stories about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and the 2011 "Fast and Furious" gun-running controversy have been seized on by conservative outlets. "There's no evidence that the government was involved," wrote National Review columnist Charles C.W. Cooke, linking to the CBS statement. "But if it was, this will be massive." Referring to Fox News reporter James Rosen, whose email and phone records were secretly subpoenaed, Ed Morrissey at HotAir added: "If I were CBS now, though, I’d be executing a FOIA demand to know whether Eric Holder and the Department of Justice acquired a Rosen-like warrant on Attkisson."
Of course, Attkisson may have simply fallen victim to an experienced hacker seeking to prey on a prominent television reporter. After promoting this theory in a long dissection of Attkisson's comments, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple publicly tussled with Attkisson, who declared that his "malicious-toned article was heavy with false assumptions and inaccuracies." (Wemple had written, in part, that "Attkisson’s lack of care, patience and methodicalness ... now weigh on the credibility of CBS News.")
It's difficult, as well, to ignore the context in which Attkisson expressed fears of being breached. A week prior to her radio appearance, she sat for an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network, during which she revealed her frustration with the amount of coverage CBS and other networks were devoting to certain stories. (Indeed, a month prior, Politico reported that Attkisson had threatened to leave CBS, where she has reported for two decades, over unspecified disagreements.) If her goal is to draw more attention to stories like the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks, well, her latest gambit certainly worked.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.