Attkisson: Reporters treated like ‘enemies of the state’ under Obama
The Obama administration treats investigative journalists and their sources like “enemies of the state,” a former CBS News reporter who accuses the government of spying on her told a Senate panel Thursday.
“The job of getting at the truth has never been more difficult,” Sheryl Attkisson testified at the Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
She said the DOJ’s surveillance of journalists could do “long-term damage to a supposedly free press” and urged Lynch to chart a new course.
Attkisson is one of several reporters the Justice Department has been accused of spying on. She was among a number of journalists who were investigating the DOJ’s failed gun-running program, known as Operation Fast and Furious, that lost weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
After her departure from CBS, Attkisson filed a $35 million lawsuit against outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder over the spying allegations.
“They bully and threaten the access of journalists who do their jobs, news organizations that publish stories they don’t like, and whistleblowers who dare to tell the truth,” Attkisson said.
The Fast and Furious investigation upset White House and DOJ officials, who called and emailed her superiors to put a lid on the story, she said.
The DOJ also shut her out from Fast and Furious briefings with select reporters, she said.
“They called back and said, ‘Don’t bother to come,’ that they wouldn’t clear into the building, although I have a press pass, I’ve been cleared through the FBI to walk up to the president of the United States,” Attkisson said.
She said this was an example of the Justice Department “handpicking the reporters that get to cover the story…the way they’d rather it be covered and keep out…the more knowledgable reporters.”
“Government officials weren’t angry because I was doing my job poorly,” Attkisson said. “They were panicked because I was doing my job well.”
Later, Attkisson said she discovered the government was spying on her.
She said she ordered three independent forensic examinations that indicated the DOJ was remotely surveilling her by monitoring her keystrokes, capturing her passwords and even listening to her conversations.
“If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don’t like, you will be attacked and punished,” Attkisson said. “You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of a surveillance devised for enemies of the state.”
Senate Republicans expressed concerns about what they said was the DOJ’s infringement on the “freedom of the press.”
“Do you think any of your colleagues and fellow journalists pulled punches because they thought they might be barred?” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Attkisson.
Attkisson responded that the Obama administration has threatened news editors with “loss of access” if they report stories the administration doesn’t like.
She also railed against the “pointless and senseless” process of requesting public documents from the Justice Department through the Freedom of Information Act.
“There’s still a large distrust of the Justice Department, and in some cases, the government in general,” Attkisson said.
This story was updated at 1:56 p.m.
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