News & Politics

Report: FBI Seized 'Smashed Hard Drives' from Dem IT Suspect's Home

FBI agents seized damaged computer hard drives from the home of Democrat IT staffer Imran Awan last February, The Daily Caller reported Sunday, based on the allegations of two sources now living in the Virginia residence. According to the Caller’s sources, it looked like someone had “tried to destroy” the hard drives.

Imran and his Pakistani-born brothers, Abid and Jamal Awan, are currently under criminal investigation by U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI on suspicion that they accessed congressional computers without permission and stole equipment. There is also evidence of “financial schemes that extend beyond the Capitol Police’s purview and may expand to Pakistan,” according to the Caller.

The Awan brothers worked for more than 30 House and Senate Democrats, as well as former head of the DNC Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Imran is reportedly still employed by Wasserman Schultz, even as the investigation continues.

Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, absconded back to Pakistan where she is “under government protection,” The Daily Caller reported in May. Alvi was also under criminal investigation.

Sources on the Hill speculated that the brothers were blackmailing members of Congress with secrets captured from emails. “Members of Congress have displayed an inexplicable and intense loyalty towards the suspects,” technology aides told The Daily Caller.

The baffled aides wonder if the suspects are blackmailing representatives based on the contents of their emails and files, to which they had full access.

“I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point” with no arrests, said Pat Sowers, who has managed IT for several House offices for 12 years. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”

Imran, the apparent ringleader of the group, has run technology for Wasserman Schultz since 2005. Rather than distancing herself from him, Wasserman Schultz seems to have helped Awan circumvent the network ban. She retitled him as an “adviser” rather than technology administrator.

According to a report in the Caller in May, Capitol Police seized a laptop used by Imran that “was hidden in an unused crevice of the Rayburn House Office Building.” Wasserman Schultz has been trying to get it back ever since, and even threatened that there would be consequences if Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa did not return her property.

Awan, too, has been desperately trying to retrieve the hard drives that were taken from his garage, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group reported.

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 the 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.”

The tenants called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and, not long after, FBI agents arrived together with the Capitol Police to interview them and confiscate the equipment. The Marine spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns for his wife’s naval career, saying she doesn’t want to be associated with a national security incident.

“It was in the garage. They recycled cabinets and lined them along the walls. They left in a huge hurry,” the Marine said. “It looks like government-issued equipment. We turned that stuff over.”

Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chief in July 2016 after the committee’s IT system was hacked. She has since refused to fire Imran despite learning that he is a target of a criminal investigation.

The Marine said Imran wanted the hard drives back so desperately that he threatened to sue the renter for stealing them.

“It was unbelievable. I don’t know where they get off thinking they’re going to sue us for items we have no obligation to hold onto,” he said.

Imran came to the house for the items “three to four times,” but the Marine wouldn’t let him enter.

“Their lawyer contacted us today via email and said we owed $350 in late charges and the items he left in the house,” the Marine said.

The Marine heard about the House investigation on the radio, and by that time, he had noticed other bizarre signs of desperation from his landlord.

“When we first moved in, a mailman came with certified mail from the House of Representatives. We were trying to be nice and signed for it. They lost their shit, saying ‘why did you sign for it, this is illegal!’ It was certified from the [Chief Administrative Officer of the House],” he said.

“The postman came a second time with a certified letter and I called Imran on the spot, asking ‘what do you want me to do.’ He said ‘just send him away, I’m homeless.’ They refused to forward their mail.”

Imran’s brother Abid has also been evasive about his location, failing to provide an accurate address for delivery of court materials in a lawsuit in which he is accused of defrauding the brothers’ stepmother. Imran’s wife, Hina, has traveled to Pakistan since the probe was revealed, according to neighbors.

Fox News reported last week that Wasserman Schultz now plans to allow federal investigators to scan the laptop that was seized from the unused crevice as part of their investigation as her lawyer “negotiates” with law enforcement.

U.S. Capitol Police have had the laptop for months and until now had been unable to get access. It’s unclear why the Florida lawmaker and ousted Democratic National Committee chairwoman had been battling law enforcement over the computer; however, her counsel began negotiating this week with Capitol Police in connection with the probe.

Investigators were apparently blocked from accessing the data on the laptop without her consent based on the Constitution’s “Speech and Debate” clause.

The clause in part bars law enforcement from interfering in lawmakers’ official congressional business. The clause was designed to keep law enforcement from targeting lawmakers for their political views or legislative work.

There was speculation when news of the investigation broke that the alleged cybersecurity breach was linked to the hacking and publication of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 White House race, which led to Wasserman Schultz’s resignation late last summer. Fox News is told that no longer appears to be part of the probe.

The Marine expressed disgust at congressional Democrats’ muted response to the scandal, saying: “I served in the Marine Corps for 14 years; if I downloaded files to an offsite server, I’m going to prison for a lot of years.”

He implied he’s a Democrat but said when it comes to national security “political ideology doesn’t matter.”

He believes “there’s no way they could get this far without help” from some of the Democratic members of Congress for whom the brothers worked. Other Democrats have ignored a major security breach because it could look like a “black eye” in that they failed to vet the Pakistanis, he said.

“He’s dangerous. This is a crime syndicate that has successfully infiltrated Congress,” he said.

“If Donald Trump and the Republicans had hired foreign nationals to be their top IT guys and somehow their congressional files had been compromised, this would have been all over the news,” he continued.

Since this story broke in February it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.