U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Reporter's Wiretapping Claim Against Feds Thrown Out

A lawsuit that reads like some sort of edge-of-your-seat political thriller has just been dismissed by the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiff, Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News investigative reporter, claimed that she was subject to unlawful wiretapping for over a year.

Raising massive credibility questions, the plaintiff's claim asserted that the wiretapping was initiated by the Obama administration after she published stories critical of the federal government. She specifically named high level officials, including Eric Holder and Postmaster Ron Donahue, as defendants.

Bad Service or Monitored Lines

Attkisson believed that she had been wiretapped because her telecommunications lines, including her phone and internet, experienced "anomalies." These anomalies included a laptop that would turn on and off at night, "phone line trouble," and trouble with her internet service. While most people would just chalk this up to bad service from their service provider, or maybe a bad tech savvy neighbor, or at worst a malicious hacker, Attkisson believes there is more to it, and maybe with some good cause.

During a service appointment, she claims that a technician found an additional fiber optic cable that the company had not installed, which she then had removed. Suspiciously though, she asked the technician to leave the mysterious cable that he removed, but he did not. Additionally, when she had her Blackberry examined by forensics, proprietary federal government snooping software was allegedly discovered.

No Bivens Extension

As has been the trend, courts have been failing to extend Bivens claims beyond where they have already been extended. Attkisson's major claim was brought under Bivens. The court noted that Bivens liability could not be used to reach high level officials like Holder or Donahue, and as such, Attkisson failed to state a claim.

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