“This is a massive, massive scandal.”
Authorities are investigating whether the IT aides that worked for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and other lawmakers stole sensitive information and sold it to Pakistan and Russia.
The New York Post reported:
Investigators now suspect that sensitive US government data — possibly including classified information — could have been compromised and may have been sold to hostile foreign governments that could use it to blackmail members of Congress or even put their lives at risk.
“This is a massive, massive scandal,” a senior US official familiar with the widening probe told The Post.
In February, reports surfaced that four House employees face an investigation for breaching House IT systems and stealing equipment. Media named Hina, Abid, Imran, and Jamal in reports the following days. Lawmakers fired the four when the suspicions arose and barred the brothers “from computer networks at the House of Representatives.”
The New York Post pointed out that investigators found valuable government data that is believed to have been taken from the network and placed on offsite servers, setting off more alarms.
These IT workers could not produce the stolen equipment, which prompted firings. Wasserman Schultz decided to keep Awan on her payroll and changed his job title.
On July 23, the FBI seized destroyed hard drives from Awan’s home after a Marine Corps veteran and his Navy Officer wife discovered the items. The veteran described the equipment as “wireless routers, hard drives that look like they tried to destroy, laptops, [and] a lot of brand new expensive toner.”
Then Awan found out and became angry when he couldn’t get back his equipment:
The Marine said Imran wanted the hard drives back so desperately that he threatened to sue the renter for stealing them.
“It was unbelievable. I don’t know where they get off thinking they’re going to sue us for items we have no obligation to hold onto,” he said.
Imran came to the house for the items “three to four times,” but the Marine wouldn’t let him enter.
“Their lawyer contacted us today via email and said we owed $350 in late charges and the items he left in the house,” the Marine said.
Wasserman Schultz brushed off allegations, according to The New York Post:
Wasserman Schultz attempted to downplay his alleged conduct, saying he was “transferring data outside the secure network, which I think amounted to use of apps that the House didn’t find compliant with our security requirements.” Such transfers though, could be a serious, potentially illegal, violation.
However, investigators know that he “had access to Wasserman Schultz’s e-mails at both Congress and the DNC, where he had been given the password to her iPad. After DNC e-mails and research files were stolen during the presidential election.”
The New York Post continued:
“It’s clear that large bytes of data were moved off the secure network,” said another source close to the investigation, adding that Awan and the other four staffers under investigation had “full and complete access” to lawmakers’ e-mails, calendars, schedules, hearing notes, meeting notes and memos and other sensitive information.
Investigators are trying to determine if any classified information was compromised. Although the network that was breached is an unclassified system, it’s possible that members or staff cleared to handle classified information inadvertently sent such information in e-mails after getting classified briefings, sources believe.
“Logic dictates that sensitive data was compromised,” the senior official speculated. “An accused criminal with close ties to Pakistan had full and complete control over data that went out over the network.”
The New York Post reported that the Democrats did not vet the suspects very well. Abid has “a rap sheet with multiple offenses, including a conviction for DWI a month before he was hired, and filed for bankruptcy in 2012.”
They also did not have much IT experience, but managed to make $4 million over the decade they worked in Congress:
One, a former McDonald’s worker, was suddenly making as much as a chief of staff.
“These lawmakers allowed an insider threat to come into the House,” the official charged. “Computer equipment was stolen, taxpayers were robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sensitive data was compromised and possibly sold overseas.”
Last week, a grand jury indicted Awan and his wife on four counts even though she is already back in Pakistan with their daughters.
Authorities arrested Awan at Dulles airport in July, where he planned to fly to Pakistan after he wired almost $300,000 to the country. His arrest prompted Wasserman Schultz to finally fire him.
From Fox News:
Awan and other IT aides for House Democrats have been on investigators’ radar for months over concerns of possible double-billing, alleged equipment theft, and access to sensitive computer systems. Most lawmakers fired Awan in February, but Schultz had kept him on until his arrest in July.
The indictment itself, which merely represents formal charges and is not a finding of guilt, addresses separate allegations that Awan and his wife engaged in a conspiracy to obtain home equity lines of credit from the Congressional Federal Credit Union by giving false information about two properties – and then sending the proceeds to individuals in Pakistan.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.