Govt forced Apple to give Democrats’ data during Trump presidency: NYT

Published June 12, 2021
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) arrives for a national security briefing before members of the House of Representatives about how Russia has been using social media to stoke racial and social differences ahead of the 2020 general election. Reuters/File
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) arrives for a national security briefing before members of the House of Representatives about how Russia has been using social media to stoke racial and social differences ahead of the 2020 general election. Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Prosec­utors in the US Justice Department under former president Donald Trump seized data from Apple about two Democratic lawmakers on the House intelligence committee, as well as that of their staff and family members, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Subpoenas for the communications metadata targeted congressman Adam Schiff of California, a Trump foe who was then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, the paper said.

The record seizures came in 2017 and early 2018 as the department investigated leaks of classified information relating to contacts between the Trump administration and the Russian government, the paper reported.

Congressman Eric Swal­well told CNN on Thursday he was the second Democratic lawmaker on the committee who was targeted.

“I was notified... by Apple that they did seize my records. It’s wrong,” he said.

One of the family members targeted was a minor, the paper reported.

According to the Times, prosecutors working under then attorney general Jeff Sessions made unusual efforts to find the source of the leaks of classified information.

The Justice Department officials targeted electronic data not only of the lawmakers, but that of their staff and families, possibly targeting a minor because investigators thought the lawmakers were using their associates’ or children’s devices to hide contacts with journalists.

The Justice Department and Apple are yet to comment on the report.

Ultimately, none of the data or other evidence tied the lawmakers or the House intelligence committee to the leaks, the Times said.

But the leak investigations were revived by attorney general Bill Barr a year later, the paper reported.

The seizure of such records has rarely been seen outside of corruption investigations.

Schiff, while not confirming he was a target of the investigation, called for a probe by the Justice Depar­tment’s inspector general into “this and other cases that suggest the weaponisation of law enforcement by a corrupt president”.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021

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