'Russian Interference' Didn't Happen
It is important to repeat that there was no “Russian interference” in the 2016 elections. It was invented by the DNC, Hillary’s campaign, and the Obama administration. The so-called Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), a declassified version of which was published on Jan. 6, 2017, was cooked under the control of James Clapper with the collaboration of John Brennan and James Comey.
The alleged interference contained two internet components. The big one was hacking. Podesta’s email account and the DNC and DCCC networks were indeed hacked. The DNC network was hacked many times. In April 2016, when Trump emerged as the expected Republican nominee, the DNC and the Obama administration started a joint attempt to spy on his campaign. In late April, the DNC suddenly “discovered” the hacking of its network, which it had been denying for at least nine months in response to the FBI’s warnings. Instead of fixing it using its own network administrators or hiring a reputable cybersecurity contractor, they hired CrowdStrike, known for making unsubstantiated claims attributing network breaches to Russian and Chinese intelligence, and CrowdStrike incorrectly attributed the hack to Russian intelligence. For more than a month, the DNC then allowed what they thought was Russian intelligence to collect data from its network, while simultaneously rebuffing the FBI’s requests to help or to collect forensic evidence. The DNC probably intended to leak some of the collected data to the Trump campaign and then accuse Trump of colluding with Russia. The Democrats' thinking and internal activities were accidentally revealed in recent books by their allies.
The DNC also asked the Ukrainian government to "investigate" Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The FBI apparently took part in that investigation. In June 2016, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, and within two months a NY Times headlines announced that “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief.” (Later, that ledger was called a forgery. And a couple of months ago, a Ukrainian court ruled that those NACB activities were meddling in the U.S. elections.)
But the hacking/leaking part of the scheme failed. The DNC's dirty laundry was published by WikiLeaks without the participation of either the Russian government or the Trump campaign. The DNC decided to blame Russia and Trump anyway. Through CrowdStrike, the DNC gave the FBI whatever data and information supported its false attribution, and then it destroyed the remaining forensic evidence on June 10-11 (CrowdStrike called that “expelling the intruder,” but a third-party description of the results of that activity is more consistent with the destruction of evidence hypothesis). Then the DNC had Steele insert the allegation of Russian intel hacking in collusion with Trump into his “report”: "TRUMP associate admits Kremlin behind recent appearance of DNC e-mails on WikiLeaks, as means of maintaining plausible deniability". The FBI was receiving Steele “reports” from July 5.
The second and smaller component of the alleged Russian interference was purported IRA (a St. Petersburg troll farm) activity on social media. It mostly consisted of a purchase of $100k of Facebook ads. Sounds like chump change for Russian intelligence. Worse, about half these ads ran after the elections. Almost all the other ads ran more than four months before the elections and not in the battleground states. But the biggest mistake that Ivan made was paying for the ads in rubles!
Can any sane person believe that this was part of a Russian intelligence operation? The congressional Democrats believe it. The MSM believes it. All this is nonsense, but Democrats use this nonsense to pressure Google, Facebook, and Twitter to deplatform conservatives, and analysis of “Russian social media activity” became a cottage industry.
Many people who don’t believe in any Trump/Russia collusion still believe in the Russian interference from which Trump benefitted. Because this position is only half-true, it is hard to defend. Trump correctly rejected the DNC allegations that it had been hacked by the Russian state. Since July 2016, Trump has been correctly saying that the hacker might be a “400-pound person” and pointing out the FBI’s failure to visit the crime scene -- the DNC -- or to collect forensic evidence from its network (more than one server).
After the Trump-Putin summit, sabotaged by Mueller’s indictment of the alleged GRU, the bloodthirsty MSM whipped up a frenzy in which Democrats and RINOs forced Trump to backpedal on the alleged “Russian interference.” Eppur si muove.
Putin didn’t have reason to aid Trump or to harm Hillary. Any Democrat was better for Putin than any Republican. Putin didn’t have any grudge against Hillary for anything that happened in 2010-2011. On the other hand, there was no sympathy between Putin and Trump. Hillary was expected to win anyway, and she is vengeful. Any attempt to harm Hillary would have cost Putin and Russia a lot.
So if one believes that Putin interfered in the 2016 elections to aid Trump and to harm Hillary, as the ICA claims, collusion is the most natural explanation. There is no evidence of collusion. To a believer, that suggests that the collusion was sophisticated, making it more sinister. The explanation that the alleged Russian interference was aimed “to sow division” is not convincing, and it still undermines Trump because the Left have projected onto Trump their own actions.
National cybersecurity is the biggest casualty of the Russian interference conspiracy theory. To support the Russian interference hoax, the FBI, CIA, DHS, and ODNI had to accept false CrowdStrike-style attribution of hacking incidents to imaginary state-sponsored threat groups. The tech industry, having embraced “the resistance” and seeing more money in misattributing hacking incidents performed by individuals to powerful state actors, used the ICA as justification for that. Since 2015, Google Capital led or participated in three investment rounds, providing CrowdStrike $400M. Microsoft has its Defending Democracy program, which both raises alarm about the “Russian interference” myth and rates fake news media as credible.
Obviously, the incorrect attribution of network breaches leads to incorrect solutions, just as an incorrect medical diagnosis leads to the wrong treatment. All that leaves U.S. cyberspace defenseless. Even discussing how to protect it is hard, in part because any practical measures for protection would interfere with Big Tech’s open borders business model.
The real technical cybersecurity community, to which I once belonged, concurs that there is no evidence that the DNC hacking was done by Russia, but those people must keep their mouths shut. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Apple have created a totalitarian dystopia: they know everything about everybody in the tech industry, and they can put any software or internet company out of business faster than one spells “InfoWars.”
The “Russian interference narrative” is also used to suppress and smear conservatives speaking through social media, sometimes by labeling us Russian bots. Democratic leadership encourages that behavior.
Leo Goldstein is a veteran of the computer software and internet industry. His website has more original information and analysis on cyber-security, the DNC leaks, and Mueller investigation.