The offices of a Dallas law firm representing a high-profile State Department whistleblower were broken into last weekend. Burglars stole three computers and broke into the firm’s file cabinets. But silver bars, video equipment and other valuables were left untouched, according to local Fox affiliate KDFW, which aired security camera footage of the suspected burglars entering and leaving the offices around the time of the incident.
The firm Schulman & Mathias represents Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator at the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General. In recent weeks, she raised a slew of explosive allegations against the department and its contractors ranging from illicit drug use, soliciting sexual favors from minors and prostitutes and sexual harassment.
"It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation," attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable. "It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information."
According to the KDFW report, the firm was the only suite burglarized in the high-rise office building and an unlocked office adjacent was left untouched.
The State Department, which has repeatedly disputed Fedenisn’s allegations, denied any involvement in the incident. "Any allegation that the Department of State authorized someone to break into Mr. Schulman’s law firm is false and baseless," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
After assessing the surveillance footage, Schulman said he believed the motivations were likely political, but did not suspect department involvement. "It wasn’t professional enough," he said. "It is possible that an Obama or Hillary supporter feels that I am unfairly going after them. And the timing of this is right after several weeks of very public media attention so it seems to me most likely that the information sought is related to that case. I don’t know for sure and I want the police to do their work."
Fedenisn’s case, in particular, has gained attention not just because of the substance of the allegations, but for her insistence that internal investigations into misconduct were "influenced, manipulated or simply called off" by senior State Department officials. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report she gave to CBS News, but softened in the final version.
Last month, her lawyers told The Cable that the department tried to intimidate her into silence. "They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself," claimed Schulman.
Schulman said the purpose of the visit was to get Fedenisn to sign documents admitting that she stole State Department documents — a charge Fedenisn denies.
Schulman & Mathias represent a range of clients on matters from fraud to wrongful death to bad faith insurance practices to medical malpractice. Any number of those cases could’ve exposed the firm to such a break in, but Schulman said he was skeptical. "I’m involved in other cases locally, but those cases are rather stale."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |