the moment that Sharyl Attkisson met a shadowy source I’ll call Big
Mac, she was plunged into a nightmare involving mysterious
surveillance of her computers.
met at a McDonald’s in Northern Virginia at the beginning of 2013, and
the source (she dubs him Number One) warned her about the threat of
government spying. During their next hamburger rendezvous, Big Mac
told Attkisson, then a CBS News reporter constantly at odds with the
Obama administration, that he was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” by his
examination of her computer and that this was “worse than anything
Nixon ever did.”
forthcoming book--“Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces
of Obstruction and Intimidation in Obama’s Washington”—reads in part
like a spy thriller. Just when you think Attkisson’s imagination might
be running away with her comes wave after wave of evidence that both
her CBS computer and personal iMac were repeatedly hacked and its
files accessed, including one on Benghazi. A consultant hired by CBS
reached the same conclusion. Further scrutiny of her personal desktop
proves that “the interlopers were able to co-opt my iMac and operate
it remotely, as if they were sitting in front of it.” And an
inspection revealed that an extra fiber-optics line had been installed
in Attkisson’s home without her knowledge.
is chilling stuff.
is the strong implication that an administration that spied on the
Associated Press and Fox News correspondent James Rosen might have
been involved. A Justice Department spokesman said in an earlier
statement that "to our knowledge" the department "has never
'compromised' Ms. Attkisson's computers" or tried to obtain
information from any of her devices. A spokeswoman for CBS News said
the network had no comment on the book.
the fall of 2013, with White House officials accusing Attkisson of
being biased in her Benghazi reporting, the files in her MacBook Air
suddenly began deleting at hyperspeed right before her eyes. She
videotaped the process and showed it to two computer experts. "They're
[blanking] with you," one says. "They're trying to send you a
message," says the other. The experts also found evidence that the
intruders had tried to cover their tracks by erasing 23 hours of
computer melodrama forms the backdrop for the deterioration of
Attkisson’s relationship with CBS, where she worked for two decades
and won Emmys and other awards. Time and again, she writes, network
executives in New York and Washington derailed her stories and treated
her like a troublemaker:
rarely said the story wasn’t going to air. They just let it sit around
and ‘loved it’ until it began to stink like old fish.”
Attkisson names names, saying the blocking of her work became
virtually routine under CBS anchor Scott Pelley and his then-executive
producer, Pat Shevlin. Stories were repeatedly rewritten, watered down
and delayed until they never made air, she says. And Attkisson says
these weren’t just stories that took on politically charged
controversies involving the administration, but also pieces that
challenged government waste and corporate conduct, such as the
questions surrounding Boeing’s Dreamliner.
the most eye-opening tale involves CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Benghazi and
the president. During the second presidential debate in 2012, Obama
challenged Mitt Romney by insisting he had labeled the assault in
Libya a terrorist attack the very next day. This became a huge
controversy, especially since CNN’s Candy Crowley had sided with the
out that Steve Kroft had conducted a “60 Minutes” interview with Obama
the day after the attack, portions of which had never aired. When
Attkisson did a story on the flap, her CBS bosses instructed her to
use a particular script and a particular sound bite that seemed to
back up the president’s version.
was stunned when a CBS colleague later read her another exchange from
Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use
of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack.
correspondent then asked point-blank:
Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?
Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group
was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans.
writes, “I couldn’t get past the fact that upper-level journalists at
CBS had been a party to misleading the public.”
pressure from Attkisson and others, the network posted the exchange on
its website the Sunday night before the election, but it got lost in
the final hours of the campaign. She says CBS News President David
Rhodes promised her there would be an internal investigation, but she
never heard another word about it.
who will not comment until the book is published, resigned in
frustration last spring. She says there was a campaign to paint her as
a disgruntled conservative, while in reality she investigated George
W. Bush’s administration as aggressively as Obama’s.
important, she makes a broader case against agenda-driven journalism:
“We do stories on food stamps, but only to the extent that we prove
the cast that they’re needed, without also examining well-established
fraud and abuse. We look at unemployment but only to the extent that
we present sympathetic characters showing that benefits should be
extended rather than examining, also, the escalating cost and
instances of fraud. We cover minimum wage but only to the extent that
we help make the case for raising it, without giving much due to the
other side, which argued it will have the opposite effect than
doesn’t explicitly accuse CBS and the rest of the mainstream media of
a pervasive liberal bias. But that view is clear from sheer
accumulation of detail in her book.
Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays
11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in
Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click
here for more information on Howard Kurtz.