(The Hill) - Planned Parenthood confirmed Monday that anti-abortion hackers have attempted to infiltrate the organization, potentially exposing sensitive data on their employees.
Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood executive vice president, called the incident a “gross invasion of privacy” that could put staff at risk.
“Today Planned Parenthood has notified the Department of Justice and separately the FBI that extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood's mission and services have launched an attack on our information systems, and have called on the world's most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members,” Laguens said in a statement.
“We are working with top leaders in this field to manage these attacks,” she added.
A hacker going by the name of “E” took partial credit for the cyberattack early Monday, claiming the hackers had pilfered internal files, emails and worker information.
The digital thieves have already apparently leaked information on Planned Parenthood employees, and are threatening to decrypt and unveil the organization’s internal emails next. The organization has not confirmed the intruders actually have this information.
The attack comes on the heels of a bruising week for the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health services, including contraception, cervical cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease testing and abortions.
Anti-abortion activists last week released edited videos (and also the unedited videos the media seems to not like mentioning) showing an organization official discussing the costs and methods of preserving fetal tissue for donation. The advocates had posed as buyers from a medical research company to get the meeting.
The videos spurred arguments on the airwaves and on Capitol Hill about the practice, and led to renewed calls to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
The hackers indicated that the videos had also motivated them to launch the digital assault.
“We've noticed quite a lot of attention has been diverted to a supposedly malicious organization known as Planned Parenthood,” the hackers said in a message posted to the website where the group’s alleged data was dumped. “The actions of this 'federation' are not seen as right in the eyes of the public. So here we are, the social justice warriors, seeking to reclaim some sort of lulz for the years and thousands of dollars that Planned Parenthood have wasted and made harvesting your babies.”
Laguens pushed back against the aggressive rhetoric.
"Planned Parenthood is the most trusted women's health care provider in this country, and anti-abortion extremists are willing to do anything to stop women from accessing the reproductive health care they are seeking,” she said. “Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos, and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy — one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk.” Sitting down for meetings and letting PP employees talk enough to hang themselves is hardly breaking laws even if the Obama administration has signaled a desire to investigate not Planned Parenthood, but the pro-choice players involved.
The organization is having to defend itself on more than the digital front.
The Senate just fast-tracked a bill to defund Planned Parenthood amid a growing Capitol Hill furor over the videos.
“I think the time is now to discuss whether taxpayer dollars should be going to such a gruesome procedure,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who introduced the measure, said on “Fox News Sunday.” Paul is also running for president.
Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the government each year. Roughly 40 to 45 percent of the group's revenue comes from government health services grants and reimbursements, according to recent annual reports.
Cecile Richards, the organization’s president, fired back on ABC's "This Week.”
"Planned Parenthood has broken no laws," she said. "We should not base any kind of decisions about healthcare in this country based on highly sensationalized folks who are nothing but militant anti-abortion extremists.” Hard to say that really isn't it? Several more videos have been promised to be released. This is also a creative use of the word extremist.