Establishment media sees DNC Russian hack narrative undermined

crime | Aug 16, 2017 | By Martin Barillas

Some liberal media outlets are beginning to express doubts about the so-called “hack” by Russian operatives of emails at the Democratic National Committee. In the leftist magazine, The Nation, an article examined the findings of a report by former U.S. intelligence officers who claim to provide forensic evidence that the DNC was not hacked by Russians in July 2016 but actually an inside job. The report alleges that the insider leak was conducted in the Eastern time zone and by someone with physical access to a computer at the DNC. Another left/liberal publication, Salon, published an article alluding to the piece in The Nation.

The report contends that the DNC was not hacked by Russia nor by anyone else. It was "an inside job by someone with access to the DNC's system," according to The Nation.

Inside job

"There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee's system on July 5 last year — not by the Russians, not by anyone else," according to the Nation, which referenced forensic evidence revealed by former NSA computer experts. "Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak — a download executed locally with a portable device such as a USB memory stick. 

“In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC's system," the experts found. The amount of data stolen would have been technologically impossible from a remote location.

"This casts serious doubt on the initial 'hack,' as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer," the experts concluded.

The report claims that there is no evidence that Guccifer 2.0 — a hacker supposedly based in Romania — hacked the DNC for the Russian government. Additionally, according to the report, there is no evidence that it was Guccifer who provided the purloined documents to WikiLeaks, the transparency organization headed by Julian Assange. The report conjectures that Guccifer is a fabrication that was designed to deflect the focus on embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton during the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign that was released just days before the Democratic National Convention in July of last year. The report’s authors determined that some of the “Guccifer” files had been deliberately altered by pasting text into a “Russianified” word-processing document that uses Russian-language settings.

The article in The Nation was written by Patrick Lawrence (a.k.a. Patrick L. Smith)  and appeared on Aug. 9. The findings reported were produced by a group of experts who call themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), consisting of forensic investigators and former NSA and CIA officials. The group was founded in 2003 in the wake of faulty intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq during the George W. Bush administration. 

Russian fingerprints

Former NSA technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis William Binney -- a VIPS member -- told reporter Lawrence that intelligence agencies have hidden the lack of evidence for the Russian narrative behind the claim of having to maintain secrecy. According to the article, VIPS states with certainty that there was no hack by Russian on July 5, 2016, and that metadata from Guccifer’s June 15 document release was “synthetically tainted” with “Russian fingerprints.”

The investigators found that nearly 2,000 megabytes of data were downloaded locally (which is to say at the DNC) on July 5, 2016, on a portable device such as a USB memory stick. The download took just 87 seconds, with a transfer speed of 22.7 megabytes per second and thus greater than the internet capability for a remove hack, according to Lawrence. Doing so from oversea would have been slower than that.  — “a speed that far exceeds an internet capability for a remote hack,” as Lawrence puts it. What’s more, they say, a transoceanic transfer would have been even slower (Guccifer claimed to be working from Romania).

"Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent," according to VIPS. "Before Guccifer posted them, they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source — claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation.” The group concluded, "To put the point simply,forensic science now devastates this narrative."

"This casts serious doubt on the initial 'hack,' as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer," according to VIPS.

VIPS also determined that the NSA had the ability to know what had happened because its programs can spy on all electronic data transfers. The report said, "If NSA cannot produce such evidence — and quickly — this would probably mean it does not have any."  The report also discredits the chronology of events about the hack that had Democrats fingering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as the agent of the Russian government. The report includes the June 12, 2016 warning by Assange that he would publish hacked documents on Clinton's campaign and notes that it came before Guccifer 2.0's second claim on July 5 that he had remotely breached the DNC servers.

"With his June 12 announcement, Assange effectively put the DNC on notice that it had a little time, probably not much, to act preemptively against the imminent publication of damaging documents,” observed the article in The Nation. "Did the DNC quickly conjure Guccifer from thin air to create a cyber-saboteur whose fingers point to Russia?" The Nation asked. "There is no evidence of this one way or the other, but emphatically it is legitimate to pose the question in the context of the VIPS chronology. WikiLeaks began publishing on July 22," the Nation reported.

Seth Rich

"By that time, the case alleging Russian interference in the 2016 elections process was taking firm root. In short order," said the article, "Assange would be written down as a 'Russian agent.'"

“Based on the data we now have, what we’ve been calling a hack is impossible,” former IBM tech Skip Folden told The Nation.

The DNC’s computer servers were never examined by the FBI. The FBI instead resorted to a report by Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm that was paid by the DNC itself to conduct the work. The co-founder of Crowdstrike, is Dmitri Alperovitch, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

As to the identity of the person who downloaded the DNC emails, which proved so embarrassing to Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, reporter Lawrence tweeted last week that the theory that Seth Rich — a DNC staffer who was murdered after the hack became public knowledge -- may have been the party responsible for the leak.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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