The Sentinel has received a report that the FBI is investigating the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s alleged hacking of the website iepolitics.com.
The FBI, which has a strict policy prohibiting comment with regard to ongoing investigations, did not confirm that report.
According to that unconfirmed report, some sheriff’s department higher-ups grew concerned about the provision of what was considered to be sensitive information to the website or its administrator, and sheriff’s department assets were used to hack the website to obtain the IP addresses of those in communication with the blog. An IP address is an identification code specific to a computer or device connected to a network.
Iepolitics.com is a website that was set up more than four years ago by one-time county employee Sharon Gilbert, which features both original reports and reprints of news articles from disparate sources, including newspapers and other websites, along with commentary by readers. The primary subject matter on the blog pertains to politics and government in San Bernardino County. It has become a magnet for input from a host of individuals identified and unidentified, including some purporting to be current or former members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Some of those have offered criticism and inside details about department operations and policies.
Information made available to the Sentinel is that administrators in the sheriff’s office who have long been concerned about the leaking of information to Gilbert and iepolitics became particularly alarmed at references on the blog to a major anomaly in the operations of the Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team (IRNET), which is composed of sheriff’s narcotic division detectives and deputies working in concert with other local and state agencies.
Word is that federal investigators at one point removed five San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators/IRNET members and possibly an IRNET investigator employed by the Rialto Police Department to an out-of-state location to either interview them as witnesses or interrogate them as suspects in an ongoing probe of IRNET and its activity. Reference to that matter on iepolitics.com, including the inclusion of information thought to be held only by members of the department’s command echelon or their staff, allegedly prompted the effort to crack the iepolitics.com system to determine the source of the leak.
The accuracy of the underlying report with regard to the FBI’s questioning of IRNET members could not be determined and the sheriff’s department has had no comment on the matter.
Gilbert, in a cryptic posting on iepolitics this week, alluded to being contacted by the FBI and stated, without referencing the hacking of her site directly, that “there has been a major new development in reference to the blog” and that as a consequence “the blog will go down on the 23rd for good or at least for a very long time.” As of press time, the iepolitics website was still in place, though the Sentinel’s efforts to reach Gilbert by email and phone were not successful