This is the fourth post in this 6 part series, telling the story of my Victimless Indictment…When the FBI sought my assistance regarding an Iranian hacking incident targeting U.S. universities.
March 23, 2018
…was the date that Department of Justice indicted nine Iranians for massive cyber theft on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an intelligence-gathering entity within the Iranian government.
They were charged with penetrating the systems of hundreds of universities and dozens of companies in the US and abroad, along with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the State of Hawaii, the State of Indiana, the United Nations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. (See the official indictment here.)
On June 6, 2018
…Special Agent Matt Pinto reached out to me, saying he wanted to meet for coffee, as he had some questions concerning “Iran”.
For background, SA Pinto was at that time a point of contact between the FBI and Micfo who occasionally popped into our office when delivering a subpoena. We had a friendly, collaborative relationship until this surprising turn of events. I have to wonder if I would have been treated like this if I weren’t an Iranian-American Muslim.
During our June 15, 2018 meeting,
…SA Pinto told me that the US government was investigating a major Iranian hacking incident targeting universities in the US and around the world. He asked me if I knew anything about the hacking incident and/or if I could assist with the investigation.
I said that I read the news as it was reported by some major outlets, including the BBC.
“US authorities described the global conspiracy as one of the largest state-sponsored hacking sprees to be prosecuted.”BBC
SA Pinto began reading out the names of alleged hackers and this time asked if I knew them personally. I said no, and that just because I am Iranian (never mind that my parents immigrated out of Iran when I was 3 years old.) It doesn’t mean I know every one of the 80 million Iranians living in Iran.
I also said that of course Micfo can help with any investigations if the subject(s) transited through Micfo’s network. I then asked SA Pinto if he had an IP address associated with the hacking attempts so that we could find out if the IPs belonged to Micfo— and if it did, then we would need a subpoena and/or court order to release the subscriber’s information.
At this point, SA Pinto switched topics and once more started asking me about my family history and connections in Iran, including:
- When was the last time I was in Iran?
- Which of my family members live in Iran?
- Do my parents go back and forth to Iran?
- Was I planning to take Kristin and my children to Iran?
- What mosque do I go to?
- Do I hang out with my “brothers”?
- Would I share anything I hear from my “brothers”?
Strangely, nothing about either the alleged purpose of the meeting—i.e. the university hacking—or reporting back on private conversations with my supposed “brothers” seem to have made it into SA Pinto’s official 1023 report on our meeting. (You can read the full report here.)
Towards end of the meeting, I told SA Pinto that Micfo had litigated an action against two former employees who stole Micfo’s trade secrets and confidential information and asked if this case would warrant the DOJ’s involvement.
[Related Post]: Tardy Patriotism or Extortion? You Decide.
SA Pinto responded that unless large sums of money are involved and/or there are many victims who have suffered from the alleged actions, the DOJ would not deem the case important.
Does it seem reasonable that SA Pinto would come to me for ‘help’ and then not provide any information that would help me help the FBI?
Why should he assume I would personally know the hackers, just because all of us are Iranian? Does someone from Switzerland know everyone in Switzerland? Does a New Yorker know everyone in New York City? Or even Brooklyn?
What do you think?
Please scroll down to the comments below and share your point of view on this perplexing situation. And again, thanks so much for your enthusiastic support! I don’t know how I could have made through all this without the love and support of my family and friends. This is the first step in our creating community around Helping Every Loving Parent (HELP) to spend time with their children. Every story is important.
[Next in this Series]: Disgraced Former Micfo Employees Made False Accusations, Resulting in FBI Investigation