Still no Evidence of a 'Russian Hack'

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its fifth and final report on Russian activities during the 2016 presidential election.  While the 966-page volume correctly concludes that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it still justifies four years of criminal investigations into the president’s associates, a two-year special counsel investigation targeting the president, himself, and a media obsession with delegitimizing President Trump’s victory by stating as fact that Russia “engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”  

The report points to online trolling and Facebook advertisements as part of Russia’s “multifaceted” efforts to influence a nearly three-billion dollar American election.  The “Russia hack” on the Democratic National Committee’s servers is the centerpiece of that allegation.  After all this time, however, not a single investigator or forensic analyst within the federal government or outside of it has proven the hack took place. 

Guccifer 2.0, you may recall, is the hacktivist persona who took credit for breaking into the DNC computer servers days after WikiLeaks announced that it had juicy DNC emails back in June of 2016.  The timing of Guccifer 2.0’s coming-out party was always a little too pretty.  On June 12, Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks had emails relating to Hillary Clinton.  On June 14, Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reported, after being briefed by the DNC’s computer security company CrowdStrike, that Russian government hackers had breached the DNC computer network.  On June 15, Guccifer 2.0 surfaced and claimed responsibility for the hack.  Interestingly, Guccifer 2.0 explicitly denied being Russian but then left so many breadcrumbs leading back to Russia that it became a universally accepted “fact” that Guccifer 2.0 was a persona operated by the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.  On July 13, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted twelve GRU agents for allegedly perpetrating the cyberattacks.   

If Guccifer 2.0 were the equivalent of one of our NSA counterespionage special operators, he was so sloppy in his tradecraft that he either intentionally wanted to be caught or should never have been trusted with anything more substantial than selling laptops at Best Buy.  Larry Johnson, a former analyst for the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism, published an article last December in which he lists all the ways Guccifer 2.0 dropped clues linking his work to Russia.  Johnson finds the sheer number of “forensic fingerprints” connecting Guccifer 2.0 to Russia so “inexplicable” that the “only thing that the Guccifer 2.0 character did not do to declare its Russian heritage was to take out full page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post.”   

Brennan, Comey, Rosenstein, and Mueller have presented a theory of the case that Russia was intentionally attacking “American democracy,” and many Democrat politicians and pundits have framed the 2016 WikiLeaks release of Clinton’s emails as nothing less than an “act of war” by Russia against the United States.  With so much inflammatory rhetoric during a time when misunderstanding and miscalculation between two nuclear powers could have unleashed any number of horrific consequences, the accepted narrative-of-record that Mueller set down in his report is that Putin attempted to undermine the 2016 presidential election by using cyberespionage specialists so incompetent at what they do and lazy in covering their tracks that they accomplished the digital equivalent of hanging a big flashing neon pink sign around their work saying, “Made in Mother Russia.”   

Johnson doesn’t buy it, and neither do former NSA officials Bill Binney, Ed Loomis, or Kirk Wiebe, all of whom are willing to testify that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks could not have been obtained by the type of “spearphishing” hack the Department of Justice has long pinned on the Russian GRU.  Binney, the former Technical Director of the NSA, teamed up with Johnson back in 2019 to write an essay entitled, “Why the DNC Was Not Hacked by the Russians.”  The paper proceeds to dissect the “last modified” digital time stamps of all the DNC email files stored on WikiLeaks and concludes that the data was obtained using a physical storage device, such as a USB thumb drive, and not downloaded over the internet as a result of a “spearphishing” or other online hack.   

Binney and Johnson go on to make three other observations in that paper: (1) CrowdStrike waited forty-five days after allegedly uncovering the “Russian hack” before taking concrete steps to secure the integrity of the DNC servers; (2) the DNC never allowed the FBI access to its servers in order to conduct a real forensic examination; and (3) the National Security Agency had the “technical collection systems” in place to identify when the information was taken and the “route it moved after being hacked from the server” but apparently found so little evidence to support the official 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment that Russia “hacked” the election that NSA only backed the report with “moderate confidence.”  Because none of these three facts nor the digital time stamps comport with the government’s theory of the case, Binney and Johnson conclude that Russian hackers had nothing to do with the theft of the DNC emails, that the theft was an inside job, and that “persons within our law enforcement and intelligence community” conducted “a campaign of misinformation.” 

If the DNC emails obtained by WikiLeaks came from a DNC insider or employee who physically copied content from DNC computers using a thumb drive, the theory of the case perpetuated by Brennan, Comey, Rosenstein, Mueller, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the Russian military hacked the DNC servers in the guise of Guccifer 2.0 in order to sabotage Hillary Clinton falls apart rather quickly. 

After pressure from then-Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell in May, Adam Schiff’s office released a number of witness transcripts, including one from CrowdStrike’s Shawn Henry, who stated under oath that CrowdStrike had no evidence that Russia “exfiltrated” emails from the DNC.   

After four years of investigations into a “Russia hack” that has been the central focus of efforts by James Comey’s FBI, John Brennan’s CIA, Robert Mueller’s special counsel, and Richard Burr’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to portray President Trump as the beneficiary of Russia’s actions during the 2016 election, the only entity allowed access to the DNC servers, CrowdStrike, is on the record admitting that no evidence of a successful Russian “hack” exists.   

If the national media pursued truth, rather than partnering with Democrats and members of the federal government to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy, this fact would shatter four years of reporting.  If the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence pursued truth, rather than balancing the political interests of its committee members, the glaring omission of direct evidence for a “Russian hack” would be highlighted and underlined on page one of each of its five lengthy volumes.

 Hat tip to YoBubba.

Image: Pixabay

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