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FBI Investigates St. Louis Cardinals For Alleged Hack Of Astros System


And now a twist on what's becoming almost daily - computer hacking stories. This time, the FBI is investigating a security breach in the top ranks of major league baseball. Federal agents are looking to see whether the St. Louis Cardinals hacked into a database operated by their rivals, the Houston Astros. Joining me to talk about the investigation is NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson.

And Carrie, what can you tell us about how this security breach first came to light?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: This breach was first reported today, Melissa, by The New York Times, and it seems to involve using a series of passwords to break into a confidential database held by the Houston Astros, a database that stored information on players and trade talk. Some of that proprietary information got out in the press, and baseball called the FBI. The FBI's gotten really good at attribution. More or less, that means tracing the source of a hack, whether it's from China, or in this case - to the surprise of many people involved - the trail led to a property with ties to the St. Louis Cardinals, but no names of individual executives have emerged.

BLOCK: OK. So what is the FBI saying about the investigation?

JOHNSON: FBI officials are not directly confirming the subject of the investigation, but others involved are talking a little bit. The Cardinals say they're cooperating but they don't want to talk a lot about it because the federal probe continues. And for now, FBI agents in Houston are the ones leading the case. A spokeswoman there, Shauna Dunlap, told me they look into all threats and to public and private sector systems and they're determined to hold people accountable when they find criminal violations.

BLOCK: So is there a possibility of criminal charges here?

JOHNSON: There is a possibility. We're in the early stages, Melissa. I'm hearing from law enforcement sources no charges are imminent. The penalties, of course, for computer intrusion crimes these days can be pretty intense. And it may be the feds decide this should be best be handled by baseball officials.

BLOCK: OK. So what is the baseball commissioner saying about all this?

JOHNSON: Believe it or not, Commissioner Rob Manfred had a briefing this afternoon. He's been asked about this case and he says he's aware of the FBI investigation. Baseball's been cooperating. He can't remember an allegation like this before about proprietary information being stolen, and Manfred says baseball just doesn't have the power to issue subpoenas for third-party computer servers. But the FBI does, so Manfred says he's relying on the feds for the facts. Here's what he had to say.


ROB MANFRED: There's the question of who did it, who knew about it? You know, is the organization responsible? Is the individual responsible? There's a whole set of issues that are going to need to be sorted through.

JOHNSON: And Manfred said once the FBI finishes digging, executives at baseball will evaluate the next steps and make decisions about personnel and discipline.

BLOCK: That's NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Carrie, thanks.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.