Sharyl Attkisson is still fighting to bring the truth out. Oral arguments for her lawsuit Attkisson v. DOJ/FBI will take place at the end of this month.
You likely recognize Attkisson’s name, as she was the CBS News reporter who uncovered much of what we know about Operation Fast and Furious, the bizarre and bloody gun-running operation overseen by the Obama administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF, a division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), had purposely allowed thousands of guns to be trafficked to Mexico. ATF officials told U.S. gun-store owners to allow known bad guys to buy all the guns they wanted. The ATF then just watched as the guns were smuggled south into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. These guns have since been used in an untold number of murders in Mexico and were used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent.
We wrote about Attkisson in 2015 after a judge forced the Obama administration to hand over thousands of emails and other records associated with Operation Fast and Furious. Some of the emails the Obama administration was forced to divulge further exposed a cover-up, others showed the spin and combative tactics the Obama administration used against those in the media who dared to investigate them.
The Obama administration’s pressure worked to some extent on Attkisson’s bosses at CBS. Her reporting on the Fast and Furiious scandal was marginalized. The pressure Not to pursue the story with would eventually convince Attkisson to fight to get out of her contract with CBS.
Attkusson’s departute from CBS, however, didn’t stop her fight for accountability.
She learned that her computer had been hacked and her phone tapped while she was at CBS. The Obama administration didn’t just try to get her fired, they also allegedly put her under surveillance.
“CBS hired an independent forensics expert who was able to quickly confirm the remote intrusions of my home and work computers,” Attkisson told us. “They also promised to follow up and to continue on with the investigation, but they did not.”
Attkisson says the need for her to sue became clear when she found out that the DOJ was unwilling to correct its own behavior; for example, the FBI opened an investigation into the remote surveillance after CBS News publicly announced it, listing Attkisson as a “victim,” but they never told Attkisson they opened an investigation, never interviewed her and still refuse to release documents relevant to their probe. Attkisson says she “began this journey with the intent to simply find out the truth about the invasion into my computer and life. That morphed into a suit for legal damages (compensation) because that’s what the law says has to be done in this context, but this has never been about money for me.What I’ve learned in this journey is just how one-sided the rules are when you take on your own government. I had experienced some of this—albeit slightly differently—in the context of reporting consumer safety stories over the years, but I had no idea how protective the rules and laws have become to shield our own government from accountability for its abuses. And that includes the special rules for delaying things (like the special law for a 180-day notice before you can even bring a lawsuit to the special pleading rules that permitted the government to go years without ever having to produce documents or answer questions under oath); the special rules developed to shield high-ranking members (like the attorney general) of our government from accountability, regardless of how egregious the conduct might be; and the special rules that have developed that allow the government to simply not produce information to its own citizens, even information about the citizen him or herself, when requested, seemingly without any real consequence or objective explanation.”
Attkisson says finding out how hard it is to get justice when the government has overstepped its bounds “has been a very difficult and frightening lesson.”
The financial costs for her have been high.
“Equally important, is how expensive this litigation process is, which means the courthouse is effectively closed for a significant portion of our society in situations like this where the government is alleged to have violated basic, fundamental constitutional rights of its own citizens,” said Attkisson. “I’m lucky because my primary lawyer, the one who has been with me since day one, is a personal friend. He is not only highly experienced in litigation, but he agreed to do this for basically nothing. Even with that, you cannot imagine how expensive this entire process has been for me and my family. We call ourselves a free country with the right to use the justice system to ensure that government abuses are stopped or redressed. That is far from the truth and it’s a very scary thing to witness first-hand.”
Attkisson says the need for her to sue became clear when she found out that the DOJ was unwilling to correct its own behavior; for example, the FBI opened an investigation into the remote surveillance after CBS News publicly announced it, listing Attkisson as a “victim,” but they never told Attkisson they opened an investigation, never interviewed her and still refuse to release documents relevant to their probe.
“The only way we learned of this probe is through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit,” said Attkisson. “We obtained a few documents that the FBI denied it had. One of them referred to the previously unknown case. The FBI, DOJ and Inspector General have also withheld for several years many relevant documents, despite my FOIA requests and lawsuits, and multiple requests from members of Congress. The Justice Department has also refused to comply with a senator’s request to investigate and will not release public documents relevant to that request.”
Attkisson’s lawsuit is now seeking to publicly identify all of those responsible for the harm to her and her family. “The systems and people that allowed it should be exposed and prevented from doing harm to other American citizens,” said Attkisson.
“If inappropriate government surveillance of journalists and other U.S. citizens is unchallenged, we are entering very dangerous and chilling territory,” said Attkisson. “This would make it nearly impossible for a free press to report fairly; for politicians to act without fear of blackmail and threats; and for ordinary citizens to live their lives freely.”
As for Operation Fast and Furious, Attkisson says, “More material may yet be released, but if the Obama administration views any documents [it] withheld as extremely problematic, I don’t believe they exist any longer and/or we’ll never get them regardless of how a court may rule.”
Attkisson's experiences with the Obama administration and with how the mainstream media reacted to Operation Fast and Furious, her treatment from the government and more led her to write Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington and The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.
As for media bias, she said, "Let's think what the news coverage might be like if the Trump administration got caught purposely letting thousands of weapons fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in numerous, extraordinary cross-border secret operations; repeatedly lied about it (including to Congress) but had to later acknowledge it; targeted journalists for reporting factually true information, as evidenced in internal emails; and if the trafficked weapons were linked to hundreds of murders and other crimes in Mexico and the U.S., including that of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and an ICE agent; and then if they declared executive privilege to keep White House documents secret after claiming the White House knew nothing of the operation bu emails proved otherwise. I'm just saying."
Hopefully, when her lawsuit is heard later this month, Attkisson and the American people will be given justice. the cleansing light of real justice is the only protection we have from a government that behaves as if it is above the law.