A federal judge this week dismissed investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s case against former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who she alleged had illegally spied on her and her family.
Attkisson, the former CBS reporter who uncovered the “Fast and Furious” operation, had filed the lawsuit in January 2020 against Rosenstein and several Justice Department (DOJ) officials, claiming that she and her family were targeted by a multi-agency task force that was overseen by Rosenstein. The complaint alleged that the officials conducted “unauthorized and illegal surveillance” on her and her family’s computers and phones from 2011 to 2014.
At the time, Attkisson was reporting on a federal drug-trafficking investigation during the Obama administration that was later known as Operation Fast and Furious. The Attkissons alleged that following the broadcast of one of those CBS reports, government officials began to actively probe for government “leakers” who were providing information to Attkisson and CBS.
She was seeking compensatory damages for violations of their First and Fourth Amendment rights as well as violations of various federal legislations.
Despite a yearslong court battle with the DOJ, Attkisson has had little success with the effort because her legal team had been unable to secure the names of the officials involved in the surveillance operation. After “a person involved in the wrongdoing” came forward with information, Attkisson was able to revive her claims in the January 2020 lawsuit.
The informant alleged that Rosenstein, who was acting as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland at the time, order co-defendants Shawn Henry, Sean Wesley Bridges, Robert Clarke, and Ryan White to “conduct home computer surveillance on the Attkisson family in March 2011,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett said in his ruling (pdf).
In April 2020, Rosenstein and Henry asked the court to dismiss the case against them on several grounds, including a failure to state a claim.
Bennett on March 16 granted their request and dismissed the case against all defendants after accepting their argument that Attkisson had failed to state a claim for relief.
“The Plaintiffs have failed to allege any factual allegations with respect to actual conduct related to the purported surveillance of their Virginia home which occurred in Maryland,” Bennett wrote.
But he provided Attkisson with an opportunity to remedy the deficiencies identified in his ruling, saying that her legal team could file a second amended complaint by March 31.
In a statement on March 18, Attkisson said she and her legal team have yet to decide on their next legal steps.
“We are not surprised by the Court’s ruling in light of the Fourth Circuit’s earlier opinion, but we are disappointed. It would have been nice if the government had told the truth before the case was decided in Virginia and the Fourth Circuit, but at least we now know that our own government was directly responsible for conducting illegal surveillance of a journalist and that Mr. Rosenstein was involved, and that Rosenstein is hiding behind alleged legal ‘immunity’ and legal estoppel arguments to avoid responsibility,” the statement said.
“Although as despicable as this conduct is and was, the goal was to find the truth. As everyone knows, I attempted to avoid litigation, but the government lied to me, lied to Congress, and concealed the truth of what transpired. The truth is all we as a family ever wanted. I hope and pray this never happens to another family.”
Multiple independent forensic examinations have established that Attkisson’s computers and phones were breached and surveilled. On Aug. 31, 2018, a former FBI unit chief signed a sworn affidavit affirming that Attkisson’s computers were hacked using sophisticated software only available to government entities like the FBI, CIA, and NSA.
Sharyl Attkisson is a Contributor to The Epoch Times.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.