Secret Service takes alleged stolen Romney tax records sent to Williamson political groups

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 11:56am
UPDATED: 2:45

Both the Democratic and Republican party offices in Williamson County received a letter and a flash drive last week allegedly containing the stolen tax records of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Secret Service agents confiscated the drives on Wednesday morning.

An anonymous individual or group claims they have gained "all available 1040 tax forms" of the presidential hopeful by accessing computers in the Franklin office of the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

An anonymous posting on a text-sharing website states that PwC had been hacked. In the past, the same website has been used by hackers who have claimed to have infiltrated computers from companies like Apple.

The hackers asked for $1 million to prevent the information from being made public or to be given the encryption key to make the documents public.

A representative from The City Paper has seen both the letter and the drive, but GOP officials would not allow them to be photographed. Jean Barwick, the county Republican Party executive director, said that an envelope was found at the front door of their headquarters on main street in Franklin on Friday. The envelope was crudely addressed to Republican officials with the name of the party misspelled.

Williamson County Democratic chairman Peter Burr said that they received a similar manila envelope addressed in blue highlighter ink containing the letter "and a 4 gigabyte cruiser thumb drive."

"We opened it and found a typewritten sheet of paper. I almost threw it out. The only thing missing was a Nigerian prince," Burr said referencing the popular Internet scam. "It seems like it's someone looking for some gullible fool, but who knows?"

The Franklin office of PricewaterhouseCoopers directed all inquiries to the company's New York offices. A spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers said that they were unaware of any breech.

"We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper access to our systems," a spokesman said. "We are working closely with the United States Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question."

A spokesman for the Romney campaign told CNBC that they were aware of the claim and that "authorities are investigating."

Upon reading The City Paper's report, county GOP officials began contacting local and federal law enforcement to turn over the letter and drive.

An excerpt from the hacker letter details the alleged theft of the data:

"Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney's tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives."

Romney's tax records have been a source of contention throughout the presidential race as he has refused to release older returns which would detail the extent of his investments and foreign accounts.

16 Comments on this post:

By: against_hivemind on 9/5/12 at 2:46

To buffy1...no one said anything about 'paper' copies. It just says 'copies.' Even if the medium is electronic, it's still a 'copy.' Let's just see how this plays out until we start bashing journalism and all that craziness.

By: buffy1 on 9/5/12 at 3:16

to against a mind....(how apropos') or should I say Ken?
One does not have to physically "break into" an office and set up in an empty office on the same floor to make a "copy" these days. Nor does a respectable hacker group even have to leave their basements to attain these imaginary files at PWC Franklin. The news report is straight out of the movie "Clockers" from 1995. Sheesh. We're in the 21st century...or didn't you know.
How about saving your breath and try getting yourself educated about scanning, encrypting and flash drives. Only kids use flash drives or even allude to them in something like this.

You guys have been had. Plain and simply. The report has been dropped from Drudge already and you had better start thinking of a way to repair your presupposed cred...because from a computer engineers perspective you have none at this point.

By: scavendish on 9/5/12 at 4:55
Buffy, 1) I loved Clockers. "Is that some kind of codebreaker?" "It's not A codebreaker. It's THE codebreaker." 2) We never reported that the person/group actually did it. They claimed they did it, posted it on the internet and sent letters and flash drives. It could all be some sort of elaborate hoax. Or it could be real. It was certainly real enough for the Secret Service to investigate it. 3) Our credibility neither rises nor falls with whether our stories are linked by Drudge. Our traffic may, but Matt Drudge doesn't determine what is or isn't good journalism. Thanks for reading The City Paper, Steve Cavendish, Editor
By: WickedTribe on 9/5/12 at 9:24

So... what was on the drives? Please don't try to tell me no one viewed them before turning them over to the Secret Service.

By: against_hivemind on 9/6/12 at 8:34

@Buffy

No I am not the author. I'm not sure why you are so dogmatic that you are right. I'm only saying that we need to see how this plays out.

In response to your comments, they are incorrect. As an IT professional for one of the world's largest banks, I can tell you that it is much easier to retrieve electronic documents from inside a company's network than it is outside. This is because these networks are protected from outside threats by highly protective firewalls. In order to break into these internal networks, first one must break through the highly secure external firewalls and then maneuver into their internal network. It is much easier to retrieve electronic data with internal security access. This is commonly known by every IT professional in the '21st century.'

With all due respect, you are the one who needs educating and obviously your agenda and arrogance is causing you to make ignorant statements.

By: talktotennessee on 9/6/12 at 9:30

@Guardian
Remember Watergate? Sounds more like a right-wing fanatic. But hey, these blackmailers are non-partisan, they are offering equal opportunity to both parties and who has more money than the Grand Old Party and their Corporate bedmates? Oh, hey, I forgot . . .Mr. Romney could buy them out in a heartbeat. Just a little dip into the Cayman reserves?
Anyone seen Julian? Where is he when truth is needed? Maybe Equador or still holed up in a embassy? Free Assange if you want truth!!!!! "Ye shall know the truth . . "oh well you conservatives know how it goes. . . .

By: Church State on 9/6/12 at 10:28

It is no big secret Utah Senator Orin Hatch and other LDS faithful lawmakers seem to have convinced the US Government that only LDS/Mormon return missionaries are capable of reading, writing and speaking a foreign language. Yet when they return these missionaries test at only an intermediate level of fluency - thus federally funded statewide elementary school level mulitple languages immersion programs were established (in what appear to be predominately LDS neighborhood schools. These children are expected to have advanced level foreign language fluency upon graduation for high school). Mormon return missionaries (60,000 serving worldwide) have been recruited by the CIA and FBI for decades. It is quite interesting how most international abductions, assaults, and deaths of Americans abroad go unsolved for months if not years, but when a LDS/Mormon church member is kidnapped (Russia & England), killed (China), or assaulted (worldwide) the crime is solved by either the FBI/CIA in 7-14 days or less. My bets are on Romney's hijacked tax returns mystery being resolved and the culprits arrested in less than 7 days.

By: Mike Burch on 9/6/12 at 11:30

It seems Romney and the Romulans are getting a taste of their own bitter medicine. It could be a prank. But there are some savvy hackers out there, and it really does take only one person on the inside to unlock such files. So it could be real.

Romney has made LOTS of enemies even among his insiders, so who knows ... maybe he browbeat one of his accountants, or one of his accountants has a conscience and doesn't want Romney to get elected because he knows the truth about the returns. Or perhaps the "gentleman" was a janitor who found a password written on a slip of paper, and he needed some spending money. The janitor would probably have no idea that Romney's returns were the target.

The only thing that would surprise me would be the tax returns being clean, but then of course Romney would have released them, making the hackers' job unnecessary.

By: GUARDIAN on 9/6/12 at 11:46

lmao @ talktotennessee ...do I remember WaterGate...I was on the Hill often and worked and lived in Langley...do I remember?...I remember the against his orders Nixon's people stole the records from the dnc that were in the WaterGate proving the McGovern socialist and the democrat party took money from the USSR....it's sad that Nixon wouldn't tell the American people but he sacrificed his office to save the two party system and I don't believe it was worth it.....the liberals stole my Party of Jackson and gave it to the communist that control the democrat party now.... yes talktotennessee I not only know I lived through it...now suasd..... GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: CitizensWin on 9/6/12 at 1:16

@ Guardian

There's nothing sad about Nixon except Nixon himself. Paranoid, delusional and failed, he exited the political stage in shame and on a helicopter. The rest of your rant belongs in a Ron Paul time capsule of paranoid, delusional, and failed attempts to change the subject.

Regardless of rather or not this thumb drive is hoax, the one undeniable fact is that Mitt Romney is hiding his tax returns from the public for unknown reasons.

By: buffy1 on 9/6/12 at 4:48

First to scav:

The SS has to investigate anything of import that concerns a POTUS or nominee or anyone who is connected. If there is anything that is of import then it is refererd to the FBI and the DOJ for criminal investigation. You prove that you have not researched that procedure by your reply which is my assertion to begin with. You just posted something that you thought would give you a little notice in the MSM during this election. Fine. I understand that business model and have watched many news outlets lose their standing with it. A quick buck does not make a trustworthy reputation. For once I would like to see a little integrity and careful consideration when posting a news item that you have not totally reviewed or researched. You took a posting on Pastebin with the absurd extortion request to cite an assumption that you didn't do your homework on. Where is the police report of the break in? If security was breached on site then there has to be a police report. It's available to the public. Where is the pdf.? According to the Franklin police there were no reports of break ins in August:

http://washingtonexaminer.com/reported-theft-of-romney-tax-records-being-probed/article/feed/2028707#.UEkZFUTgIdU

I'm amazed you thought so little of your news organization to not check that out. Secondly, PWC has already posted on CNBC that they were not breached.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/48916562

Have you reported on that?

Thirdly, your "Drudge" statement is incoherent. You posted more than one news article that is factually suspect on this so called "break-in" which has now been picked up by other sites. Drudge is an aggregator not an arbiter of fact driven journalism. If it was then they would block most of the AP, Reuters and MSM wires. You posted an article that would get attention because of the circumstances of the moment to drive viewers to your site. The only reason for that is for revenue. As a free market capitalist, I'm all for revenue. I understand your plight. You are a small effort in this market trying to make a splash now that the TN is on the ropes. I would just hope that you strive to better journalistic standards.

By: buffy1 on 9/6/12 at 5:18

Next to against-a-mind,

Thanks for the condescending response but you can keep that in your own camp. If you are in fact an IT professional for one of the "world's largest banks" then you would know that that getting past the firewall is peanuts for an experienced hacker thus no need to do a burglary...which BTW the Franklin police have reported as not having happened (see above post for link). The most sophisticated firewalls in existence are in the Federal Intel community and they are hacked constantly. And being an IT professional at one of the "world's largest banks" you would know that the group Anonymous hacked BOA with ease from offsite locations and posted the data online. So much for your IT credentials. Perhaps you should bone up on your storyline a little more to make it more believable.

My agenda...hmmm...how does accurate scrupulously fact checked reporting. Maybe that's too much to ask for some.

By: pswindle on 9/9/12 at 4:44

We have another Nixon like in Romney. He is Paranoid about anything in his past. He is such a liar and so was Nixon, and he hides behind his wife as does Romney.

By: govskeptic on 9/10/12 at 9:01

pswindle

Why do you always add your 3rd grade logic to subjects you couldn't
begin to understand. Yes, like Mr. Burch you despise Mr. Romney and
anything Republican or conservative. TCP has a right to run this story
as very shaky as it is, that what the press does when supporting the
other party. There's no question that one can get better and faster
info when inside a sources office, but can also be retrieved from
outside as well given the right info or good luck and a less than perfect
firewall. I suspect coverage and info dispersed will be greater if it's
a hoax than if true.

By: buffy1 on 10/1/12 at 1:56

So...here we are on 10/01/2012 and nothing........ZILCH. HAHA.

So much for the investigative reporting of the NCP...told ya' so. A sucker is born every min....

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