This is a long, complicated story that has been bubbling beneath the surface for a few years. It has now taken on a life of its own after FBI agents raided the former home of an I.T. staffer for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and took away several smashed hard drives.
The staffer, Pakistani-born Imran Awan, along with two of his brothers and their wives, are being investigated for potential cyber-crimes relating to the House of Representatives' computer network. There is evidence that Awan transferred some data to an outside server in clear violation of the law.
In addition to the I.T. staffer's ruined hard drives, FBI investigators have also seized a laptop belong to Wasserman Schultz that Awan may have worked on. The congresswoman has threatened the FBI if they don't return it.
The congressional source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, confirmed that the FBI has joined what Politicopreviously described as a Capitol Police criminal probe into "serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network" by Imran and three of his relatives, who had access to the emails and files of the more than two dozen House Democrats who employed them on a part-time basis.Capitol Police have also seized computer equipment tied to the Florida lawmaker.Awan's younger brothers, Abid and Jamal, his wife, Hina Alvi, and Rao Abbas, Imran's best friend, are also under investigation. There have been no arrests in the case.There is also evidence of financial schemes that extend beyond the Capitol Police's purview and may expand to Pakistan, where Imran spends significant portions of the year.Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in March that the Capitol Police are "getting the kind of technical assistance they need to do that. This is under an active criminal investigation, their capabilities are pretty strong but, they're also able to go and get the kind of help they need from other sources."The brothers' stepmother independently filed court documents in Virginia accusing the brothers of wiretapping and extorting her.Soon after Imran began working for Wasserman Schultz in 2005, his two brothers and two of their wives – plus Abbas and another friend – began appearing as IT staffers on the payrolls of other House Democrats. Collectively, the Awan group has been paid $4 million since 2009.Fellow IT staffers interviewed by TheDCNF said the Awans were often absent from weekly meetings and email exchanges. One of the fellow staffers said some of the computers the Awans managed were being used to transfer data to an off-site server.Shortly after the criminal probe was revealed in February, Imran abruptly moved out of his longtime home on Hawkshead Drive in Lorton, Va., and listed it for rent on a website that connects landlords with military families.One of new tenants – a Marine Corps veteran married to a female Navy Officer – said he found "wireless routers, hard drives that look like they tried to destroy, laptops, [and] a lot of brand new expensive toner."
There are several possibilities that would explain what's going on with Awan and his brothers – most of them frightening. Are he and his conspirators Pakistani spies? Are they al-Qaeda plants? Or are they simply selling the information they've collected to the highest international bidder?
And most interesting – but perhaps least likely – is any of this related to the hack of the DNC? Wasserman Schultz was DNC chairperson up until the hack in 2016. Could Awan have gotten access to DNC servers and sold the information on the black market?
At this point, the FBI is being unusually tight-lipped about what the investigators are looking for. That alone tells us national security is probably involved and that Awan and his cohorts may have tried to compromise sensitive information from the House of Representatives.