A federal judge has ordered True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and researcher Gregg Phillips to identify their source in their investigation of the election software company Konnech by Monday or face jail.
Earlier this month, the CEO of Michigan-based Konnech, Eugene Yu, was arrested and charged by Los Angeles County prosecutors for allegedly storing election worker data on servers based in China.
Engelbrecht and Phillips had been investigating Konnech since January 2021, and last month, prior to Yu’s arrest, the CEO filed a defamation lawsuit against them.
The lawsuit has continued, despite Yu’s arrest, and in Houston on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt gave Engelbrecht and Phillips a deadline of Monday to turn over any Konnech data it possessed and disclose the name of their source
True the Vote has characterized the lawsuit as an effort to try to silence the organization. Konnech obtained an ex-parte temporary restraining order in secret, True the Vote said, so the election integrity group would have no opportunity to contest it.
Phillips, in a message on Truth Social, said he and Engelbrecht “were held in contempt of court because we refused to burn a confidential informant or our researchers.”
“We will go to jail Monday unless we comply.”
Last week, calling it “probably the largest data breach in United States history,” Los Angeles County prosecutor Eric Neff said Chinese contractors working for Konnech had direct control over U.S. election data through an app for poll workers called PollChief.
The complaint cited as evidence a message from a Konnech project manager through a Chinese-owned messaging app that said “any employee for Chinese contractors working on PollChief software had ‘superadministration’ privileges for all PollChief clients.”
Sam Faddis, former CIA officer, put that statement in perspective in a Substack post.
“An individual with super administration access to a system can do effectively anything inside that system,” he wrote. “He or she can delete data, steal data, alter data, change programming, etc.”
Independent reporter Ivory Hecker was in the courtroom in Houston on Thursday and gave a report on her podcast:
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In August, True the Vote disclosed their Konnech investigation at an invitation-only event in the Phoenix area. Engelbrecht and Phillips said their team had notified the FBI, and the agents with whom they communicated were alarmed by the potential national security implications.
Later, however, after working together on a “counter-intelligence operation,” Engelbrecht and Phillips said the FBI turned against them. It was then that the True the Vote investigators decided to make their findings public and seek the help of independent researchers.
Yu’s arrest, Oct. 4, came one day after the New York Times published a story mocking True the Vote as “election deniers” for claiming Konnech was storing personal information about poll workers on servers in China, posing a serious security risk.
Alluding to the New York Times, among others, True the Vote said in a statement after Yu’s arrest that Konnech “was assisted by many reporters who unblinkingly accepted their now discredited claims as fact, and simply repeated them.”
“Election integrity should not be a partisan issue, nor should media try to suppress all conversation about it in a way that benefits one party,” said Engelbrecht.
“We will continue to report evidence of threats to our election process,” she continued, “and work with law enforcement to ensure our elections are a secure space for all American voters.”
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