Sharyl Attkisson has been making the media rounds lately to promote her memoir, but none of her interviews have been as tough as the one she faced Friday night with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
Unlike his rival Bill O’Reilly, who lapped up Attkisson’s claims earlier this week, Hayes repeatedly pressed the former CBS News reporter to offer specifics on the computer intrusions that she details in her new book, “Stonewalled.”
He asked her for specifics on the cell phone video that purportedly shows her losing control of her laptop.
“That I would call a visual anecdote of something that happened some months after the three computer forensics examines confirmed these highly sophisticated remote intrusions,” Attkisson explained. “Hacking is one way to call it, I guess, but I consider it as a non-technical person, a long-term monitoring and surveillance based on the dates that the computer forensics showed that it was going on.”
Hayes wanted to drill the point down. Was the video, he wondered, an “instance of some remote surveillance.”
“The video is an instance of when I was working at home at a time in particular facing a lot of specific push back and problems with the White House,” she recalled. “In fact that day in particular, in which the access of my computer I couldn’t control it for a period of time, and although some people have kind of mistakenly, without the forensics of course and the context, analyzed it, what really happened If you look in the first couple of seconds, pages were wiping in a matter of a couple seconds. It wasn’t sort of backspace key, which doesn’t exist, or a delete key on the computer being held down.”
That was a shot at Media Matters, the liberal media watchdog that rounded up some computer security experts last week to splash cold water on the video.
Hayes, for his part, never dismissed Attkisson’s claims, saying that he “could be persuaded” that the government would interfere with a reporter’s computer. He just wondered what a lot Attkisson’s fellow journalists are wondering: Where is the evidence?
“One of the things the forensic evidence showed was, although they were monitoring me surreptitiously, they had the ability to operate my computers remotely as if they were sitting in front of it,” she told Hayes. “So I knew that the capability existed. I wouldn’t have known that a year before.”
At that point, Hayes zeroed in on Attkisson’s deliberate ambiguity, vagueness that has continued to typify her accounts even after the release of a book that provided some clarity on who was responsible for the intrusions. It was a memorable exchange.
HAYES: “Who is the ‘they’?”
ATTKISSON: “In which sentence? I’m sorry.”
HAYES: “The ‘they were able to surveil, they were monitoring the computer, they had the capability.’ Who is the ‘they’?”
ATTKISSON: “Whoever it would be who was responsible.”
HAYES: “But who is that?”
ATTKISSON: “Well, therein lies the question. I think that that’s a large part of what the computer forensics investigation is aiming toward and what we’re trying to look at.”
HAYES: “But you write in the book that you had a source who told you who it was, right?”
ATTKISSON: “Yes, yes.”
HAYES: “So, then you should know.”
ATTKISSON: “I think I know who was responsible in the micro-sense for being behind the effort, not necessarily the guy sitting behind the keyboard if such a thing exists. But yes, but I’m not gonna throw out the name because that was based on a human source that I trust, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with naming and releasing.”
HAYES: “So, there’s one source who told you unnamed who was doing this to your computer, who was engineering what you say was a surveillance of the computer?”
ATTKISSON: “That’s right.”
HAYES: “And now when you talk about these, but you don’t want to name that person or you don’t want to confront those people publicly because you don’t want to expose that source or you’re not confident in it?”
ATTKISSON: “I just have reasons. I’m following advice of my attorney. This is very much ongoing and I’m just not comfortable with using the name right now. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”