Threat Management, Threat Intelligence

Democratic aide didn’t pilfer U.S. data to sell to foreign governments, prosecutors say

A former Democratic IT aide who's become a flashpoint for conspiracy theorists did not work as a foreign spy exfiltrating sensitive data from government systems, federal prosecutors said this week in a plea deal for Imran Awan.

Awan, worked for a number of Democrats in Congress, including former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., struck a deal with prosecutors on bank fraud charges. 

"The Government agrees that the public allegations that (Awan) stole U.S. House of Representatives equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegal conduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to the determination of the sentence in this case," according to prosecutors. 

Awan was arrested July 2017 at Dulles Airport after he attempted to join his wife, an alleged co-conspirator in a fraud plot, who had traveled to Pakistan months earlier. The former IT aide, who had worked for more than 24 Democratic members of Congress over a 13-year period, was accused of filing illegally for a home equity loan on rental property, which violates the Congressional Federal Credit Union rules. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mirando told a court last year that Awan's iPhone “had been wiped clean just a few hours before” his arrest. The IT pro's attorney had argued that “Awan had recently bought the phone, so of course it didn't have any data on it.” 

In the wake of the DNC breach and contentious 2016 presidential campaign where Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton's emails became a centerpiece of the election, his travails drew the attention of critics who slammed the controversial Wasserman Schultz for keeping the aide on even after suspicions about his activities surfaced. It was only after Awan was arrested at the airport that Wasserman Schultz fired him – other members of Congress had fired him in February when the probe was revealed and Awan's access to the House IT system was yanked. Wasserman Schultz came under heavy criticism for keeping Awan onboard, raising the hackles of ethics watchdog groups and other critics.

On social media platforms ripe for conspiracy, Awan was cast as a foreign spy bent who pilfered U.S. secrets to pass on to foreign governments. 

"We rely on our justice system to produce a fair result, after a considered, objective review," David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, said in a statement, a role that “is even more important at a time when” detractors spread “dangerous distortions with the intent of falsely smearing his political opponents."

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