Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark has responded to a letter sent to him last month by the Anderson County Financial Management Committee asking for an update on the ongoing investigation into last year’s security breach of the main server at the County Courthouse in Clinton. The letter was written by Finance Director Natalie Erb and expressed concerns to Clark about the investigation and indicated the committee’s desire to involve agencies outside the county in the probe.
Clark says that while normally and for a “variety of very compelling investigative, legal and ethical reasons,” his office does not typically comment or even confirm any ongoing investigation, he wrote in his January 12th reply to Erb’s January 3rd letter that he is making a “partial exception in this matter” due to the “unfortunate anxiety” of county employees.
Clark does confirm the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation that is being conducted by Detective Don Scuglia with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and points out to committee members that cases are rarely “completed within a one hour span like they do on television,” pointing to a backlog at the TBI Technical Services Unit, which conducts forensic analysis of computers and other devices, that typically stretches about 40 weeks.
Addressing questions as to who is investigating the breach, the nature and scope of which have never been fully disclosed, Clark says that the Sheriff’s Department is and has been handling the investigation since last year, and that investigators have reached out to specialists in the TBI and the FBI as needed. Clark specifically targeted public comments indicating that Scuglia lacks the necessary training for this type of investigation by stating that he (Scuglia) is a graduate of the prestigious National Forensics Academy and has nearly a decade of subsequent experience and training and calling him an “excellent” investigator.
Clark also states that nothing having to do with the investigation should prevent the county from moving forward on shoring up its digital defenses to prevent future breaches. The DA also adds that “the anxiety concerning any possible data loss or privacy invasion in this matter appears to disproportionate, regrettable and partially unfounded.” He says that this has “no doubt been fueled, in part, by public commentary that has been at times inflammatory or simply irresponsible.”
Clark says his office has no reason to believe that any personal or health data for any employees has been taken from the county computer system and that he has not received any reports of identity theft or similar crimes connected to the breach.
Clark also writes that “without pointing a finger at anyone in particular, this investigation has already been compromised by the publication or broadcast of public commentary or information released by officials, employees and/or others.” Clark says he has been told by law enforcement that due to these leaks, “some investigative tools and techniques have had to be abandoned.”
Clark concluded his response by requesting that the Financial Management Committee, to the extent it is possible, assist in “tamping down the unnecessary release of information.”