Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a name for herself last year when the Democrats booted her as Democratic National Committee boss. Now she’s back with a vengeance in a tale centering on her top information technology man, Pakistani-born Imran Awan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, not limited to issues related to Russia, had been investigating Awan for theft and abuses related to cybersecurity. Awan had been feeling the heat and attempted to flee to Pakistan last week but the FBI arrested him at Dulles airport on a charge of bank fraud.
According to Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, there’s a bit more to the story, even though Awan and his family have indeed been involved in swindles. As McCarthy has it, “this appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.”
Awan started as an IT man for Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, then shifted to Wasserman Schultz. The Florida Democrat empowered him to add to the payroll his wife Alfi – she attempted to flee the country in March while a criminal suspect – brother Abid, Abid’s wife Natalia Sova, and Awan’s brother Jamal. As McCarthy notes:
“Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.” The smashing tactic recalls the Clinton crew during the last election cycle.
McCarthy wonders how Awan and his family achieved access to highly sensitive government information, which requires a thorough security clearance. In his judgment, the Awan cabal could not possibly have qualified for such clearance.
As the IT intrigue unfolded, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been pushing back at investigators, and objecting strenuously to inspection of a laptop belonging to Awan. McCarthy doesn’t know what information Awan and company may have ripped off, or whether he sent it to Pakistan. But the former prosecutor is certain that “this is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case.”
The Daily Caller has been all over the story and according to investigative reporter Luke Rosiak Wasserman Schultz employed Awan and his wife and “refused to fire either of them even after U.S. Capitol Police said in February 2017 that they were targets of the criminal investigation.” Wasserman Schultz charged the Awans were victims of anti-Muslim profiling.
Other members of Congress had dumped Awan and Company but Wasserman kept him on board and was going to pay him, “even while he was living in Pakistan.” Rosiak also observes that Wasserman Schultz’s record on cybersecurity is shaky and the Hillary Clinton ally “was the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee when it was hacked.”
Last Thursday, President Trump reposted a Townhall tweet charging “ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office.” That prompted a New York Times piece by Nicholas Fandos headlined, “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”
Fandos wonders if the ongoing intrigue is “the stuff of a spy novel, ripe for sleuthing,” but quickly shifts gears. Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.”
DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, called the security charges “laughable,” claiming that Awan was never employed by the DNC and that “the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hack.” As for the attempt to flee, with bundles of cash, Gowen said Awan received threats online and traveled to Pakistan to stay with family and save money.
As Cheryl Chumley observed in the Washington Times, Awan’s first employer, Gregory Meeks, suggested the authorities are targeting Awan because he was born in Pakistan and ethnicity “is a factor” in the attention the family is receiving. And now Democrats are rushing to defend Awan, Chumley writes, “saying he’s the target of massive federal Islamophobia. What a crock.”
True to form, with smashed computers, cybersecurity lapses and such, the idea that Awan might be some kind of spy is entirely plausible. So is the concept that, as Sean Hannity has suggested, Awan was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.
Those who dismiss it all as Islamophobia, or a simple case of bank fraud, might consider this scenario.
Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.
In the style of Andrew McCarthy, some journalist might even flag “a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.” In the ensuing investigation, government investigators would doubtless leave no stone unturned.
Meanwhile, Awan has pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud, ordered to wear a GPS monitor, and surrender his passport. More details about his activities may emerge before his preliminary hearing on August 21.