In a report on the bizarre scandal centering on Pakistani-born Democratic congressional IT aides, a House investigation concluded the aides accessed the data of members for whom they did not work, sometimes logging in as lawmakers to cover their tracks.
The report summarizing the findings of a four-month internal investigation that said the behavior of the aides mirrored a “classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization,” the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
Authorities said there is evidence the members’ data may have been aggregated onto one server, which then was physically stolen.
As WND reported, IT staffer Imran Awan, his brothers Abid and Jamal, and their wives Natalia Sova and Hina Alvi, were highly paid IT administrators working for dozens of House Democrats until Capitol Police began probing them in early 2017.
The IT staffers allegedly ran a ghost employee scheme with a take of nearly $6 million over the years.
After wiring approximately $300,000 to his native Pakistan in July, Imran Awan was arrested by the FBI at Dulles International Airport. He was then indicted on four counts of bank fraud in connection with his wire transfer. He was carrying $12,000 in cash on him at the time of his arrest.
The loss of taxpayers’ dollars is “not the highest of our concerns,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told WND in an interview last fall about the case.
“The American people deserve to know the truth to this; it is a big deal,” King said. “It’s not just $6 or $7 million, $120,000 worth of equipment here or there. The biggest thing is that the brothers, Awan’s wife and friend all had access to the private emails and electronic communications of members of Congress and all their staff.”
King said there’s “no telling what they downloaded, what they know.”
The report, written by the House’s Office of the Inspector General, said Democratic leadership apparently misrepresented the issue to their own members as solely a matter of theft, the Daily Caller reported.
The Democratic members took no protective measures, even after the breach was discovered, including informing constituents whose personal information may have been exposed.
The report said the server being used “for nefarious purposes” was that of the House Democratic Caucus, a sister group of the DNC that was run at the time by then-Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
The report’s investigative summary says one of the Pakistan-born IT aides “logged into a member’s office two months after he was terminated from that office.”
The report concludes the “pattern of login activity suggests steps are being taken to conceal their activity.”
The Daily Caller said the statements of numerous Democrats indicate that the Democratic staff of the House Administration Committee and other House officials may have withheld information about cybersecurity breaches from members who employed the suspects.
And the Democratic officials appear to have misled them about the basic nature of the investigation.
Last February, Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper and Ranking Member Robert Brady issued an official statement about what they called “the ongoing House theft investigation.”
“House Officials became aware of suspicious activity and alleged theft committed by certain House IT support staff,” the lawmakers said. “An internal investigation determined that a number of House policies and procedures had been violated. This information was turned over to the United States Capitol Police and their investigation is ongoing. These employees have also been blocked from accessing House systems. All offices impacted have been contacted. No further comment will be issued until the investigation is complete.”
The Daily Caller noted, that nearly a year later – despite the finding of theft and unlawful access – there have been no criminal charges related to the House IT breach.
The indictments of two of the suspects were only for bank fraud, after prosecutors said the suspects transferred money from the House bank to Pakistan and tried to flee the country.
One of the lawmakers who employed Abid Awan, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., insisted it was simply a case of bank fraud.
“The staffer that I used, there was no allegation,” a TV station. “If you look at the charge of the brother, he was charged with bank fraud … that has nothing to do with national security.”
However, the Daily Caller noted, there are “strong indications that many of the 44 members’ data – including personal information of constituents seeking help – was entirely out of those members’ possession, and instead was stored on the House Democratic Caucus server.”
“The aggregation of multiple members’ data would mean all that data was absconded with, because authorities said that physically disappeared while it was being monitored by police.”
The House report found remote sessions on computers of members that remained active for months at a time.
A House committee staffer close to the probe told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “the data was always out of [the members’] possession.”
“It was a breach. They were using the House Democratic Caucus as their central service warehouse.”
The House report says that all five of the shared employee system administrators collectively logged onto the Democrat members’ system 5,735 times, an average of 27 times per day.
“This is considered unusual since computers in other offices managed by these shared employees were accessed in total less than 60 times,” the report said.
Imran Awan spent several months each year in Pakistan and continued accessing the House server remotely when he was abroad.
Democratic Party lawmakers – with the exception of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. – fired the Awan family members as employees a year ago when suspicions were raised.
Awan worked for Wasserman Schultz for 13 years, beginning when she was first elected to Congress in 2004.
No classified information?
Awan remained on the payroll of Wasserman Schultz – who served as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee when its IT network was hacked in 2016 – until he was arrested in July.
The Florida congresswoman insists Awan didn’t have access to any classified information.
But, in an interview with WND in October, Rep. King rebutted the former DNC chair’s claims, arguing that Democratic members of Congress who serve on intelligence committees would, by the nature of their work, correspond about sensitive information.
“The argument is that there was no classified information that was compromised or breached – that’s what they said about Hillary Clinton at first,” he said. “Some of them – like Andre Carson served on the Select Committee on Intelligence – would have access to the highest level of classified information that we have in the United States Congress.”
King said the Democrats essentially surrendered highly classified material to anti-American Pakistani workers who “don’t have allegiance to the United States.”
“The GOP wants to put the government back on its rails again and operating efficiently. Democrats want to pull it down,” he said. “When we hire people to work in our office, I want to make sure I am looking them in the eye. I want to know who’s doing what work and what they’re going to get paid for that. That’s our jobs to do that.
“Instead, they are funneling taxpayer dollars to people who, at a minimum, are not natural-born American citizens. If they’re sending money to Pakistan and absconding to Pakistan, they don’t have allegiance to the United States, either.”
The Awans could be just “a crooked family that found a way to scam the House of Representatives and skim wages out,” he said.
But the worst-case scenario, King argued, is the Pakistani family funneled information or money “into the hands of the Taliban or ISIS.”
Wasserman Schultz claimed it was “Islamophobia” that sparked the investigations.