Five Pakistanis who handled tech services for Democratic Congress members had full access to the lawmakers’ correspondence, emails and confidential files, and there was almost no tracking of what they did, a former House technology worker told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Imran Awan, regarded as the ringleader, was named with his two brothers and two other relatives as the subjects of a criminal investigation Feb. 2 alleging illegal access and the theft of information, including “sensitive” information.
“They had access to everything. Correspondence, emails, confidential files – if it was stored on the member system, they had access to it,” a former House Information Resources technology worker with first-hand knowledge of Imran’s privileges told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
What’s more, the Pakistanis worked for Democratic members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who had granted their demand that they be given access to information.
Awan, the Daily Caller said, bullied central IT to bend the rules for him so there wouldn’t be a paper trail about the unusually high permissions he was requesting.
Congress members, therefore, had no way of knowing what information the tech workers may have taken, the central IT employee said.
Imran Awan and his relatives had earned a total of $4 million for their work since 2010. Imran ran technology for Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who resigned as head of the Democratic National Committee after WikiLeaks released embarrassing emails that showed the DNC’s effort to ensure Hillary Clinton won the nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for Security Policy said it was especially alarmed that Muslim Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., was among the members who employed the Pakistanis, because of his documented ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Carson is the ranking member of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is responsible for counter-terrorism oversight.
Carson also is a member of the Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture Subcommittee. He has had contacted with known Muslim Brotherhood front groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America.
He shared the stage at a CAIR banquet with Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing who had once declared: ‘You don’t get involved in politics because it’s the American thing to do. You get involved in politics because politics are a weapon to use in the cause of Islam.”
CAIR itself was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case.
The Daily Caller noted that technology employees who work for members must initially get authority to access the House email system from HIR, a component of the House’s Chief Administrative Officer, which maintains campus-wide technology systems.
The IT source said a form was required to ensure that there was a paper trail for the requested changes.
But Imran “was constantly complaining that he had to go through this process and trying to get people to process his access requests without the proper forms.”
“Some of the permissions he wanted would give him total access to the members’ stuff,” the source said.
“IT staff at HIR can be tracked for every keystroke they make,” said the worker.
But by comparison, “when these guys were granted access to the member’s computer systems, there is no oversight or tracking of what they may be doing on the member’s system.
“For example, they could make a copy of anything on the member’s computer system to a thumb drive or have it sent to a private server they had set up and no one would know.”
The House members have insisted, nevertheless, that their information is secure.
“After being notified by the House Administration Committee, [Abid] was removed from our payroll. We are confident that everything in our office is secure,” said Hilarie Chambers, chief of staff for Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan.
But a number of IT workers said it’s impossible for members’ offices to make that judgment.
Security ‘not really taken seriously’
The Daily Caller News Foundation said numerous members of Congress who employed the suspects wouldn’t say whether they have been fired or what steps they have taken to determine whether their information is safe.
Spokesmen for Diana Degette, Frederica Wilson, Jackie Speier, Julia Brownley, Karen Bass, Pete Aguilar and Ted Lieu all ignored requests or refused to say, the DCNF said.
“Unfortunately, as the recent election has shown, security of computer systems on the Hill is not really taken seriously,” the source said.
The Capitol Police, which is running the investigation, also doesn’t have the capacity to determine whether or not information was stolen, the IT staffer said.
“In effect, they are given administrative control of the members’ computer operations. They then set up a remote access so they can connect from wherever they are and have full access to everything on the member’s system.”