Beginning in September, 2015, the FBI warned the DNC several times that its network was being hacked. They even visited Clinton campaign headquarters. But the DNC paid no attention to the warnings for eight months, not dealing with the problem until the end of April of the following year. And the DNC famously refused the FBI access to independently examine its servers.
Though the DNC wanted to keep the FBI as far away from its servers as possible, they certainly wanted to show vigilance and resolve against hackers. To that end, they’ve now hired Raffi Krikorian, an MIT graduate who’d run a large engineering team at Twitter, as Chief Technology Officer, and Bob Lord, former head of Information Security at Yahoo, as Chief Security Officer. The DNC now has a team of 35 IT specialists, who promulgated a Jason Bourne array of procedures for all employees, including: a “data bootcamp,” a phishing simulation platform called Wombat, the encrypted communications app Signal, 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication), and a password generator creating unique 15+letter passwords for each and every online resource login.
The 2016 election was a painful lesson for the DNC, and they now have a big, beautiful IT wall to protect them from hackers in the 2020 election.
This will guarantee that if Schumer, for example, wants to cheat Warren out of the nomination by conspiring with DNC cronies to lock up 500 superdelegates months before the first primary, as did Clinton to beat Sanders in 2016, all the emails and documents masterminding this subterfuge will remain hidden from voters forever.
Likewise, if Cuomo wants to cheat Booker out of the nomination by stealing millions of dollars from unsuspecting down-ticket Democrats running for office, as did Clinton, then all those emails and documents will also remain hidden from voters forever. Isn’t it wonderful to know that the DNC hackproof wall will save our democracy from being undermined? And, what a relief for Tom Perez or the DNC Chairperson du jour, knowing he or she won’t get sacked like Debbie Wasserman Schultz was in 2016.
Furthermore, with no evidence available, a repeat of the $200 million class action lawsuit by aggrieved Bernie Sanders supporters now being argued in Federal Appeals Court cannot happen.
Of equal importance as protection from hackers for the DNC is protection from leakers, since there’s a rushing river of leaks everywhere these days. Surely, the DNC has completely overhauled its vetting procedures to ensure a staff of Clemenza-loyal underbosses and soldiers. The last thing the DNC can tolerate going forward is ratfinks with Ellsberg or Snowden whistle-blower pretensions. Keep in mind, Ecuador cutting off Assange’s internet connection won’t prevent the rest of the WikiLeaks crew from uploading plenty of dirty dealings on a worldwide scale. So, it’s great to know that DNC operatives will protect our democracy fiercely from being undermined, by playing deaf-and-dumb when the 2020 presidential nomination gets cheated like 2016 was.
The U.S., the U.S.S.R., Russia, China, Israel, Syria, North Korea, and many other countries, for decades, have had very sizable foreign intelligence operations. Many in various ways have meddled in foreign leadership, covertly or overtly. It’s been documented that the U.S. is by far and away the champion foreign election meddler (See my article: “Russia Catching Up to US in Election Meddling Race,” Newsmax, 8/25/17). At least covertly, it’s got to be standard operating procedure even today for Russia and the U.S. to meddle in each other’s elections.
Old-school meddling techniques included outsourced putsches and assassinations (Mossadegh, Diem, Allende) and “King George’s Cavalry” (bags of cash). Even Obama meddled in both Kenya and Israel elections during his pristinely moral reign. All meddler nations also have now adopted cyberwarfare techniques to augment their legacy covert techniques. In the long run, meddling has most often been for naked geopolitical motives, and for the U.S., usually not to promote democratic values, as argued by apologists. The idea that election meddling is going to end tomorrow is as utopian as the idea that nuclear weapons will disappear.
Nobody has inserted themselves into the Russian political process as much as Bill and Hillary Clinton. In the lead-up to the 1996 presidential election, incumbent Boris Yeltsin’s popularity had plunged to single digits, but Bill Clinton did not want him to lose. Harming the International Monetary Fund’s negotiating leverage, Clinton publicly expressed support for a $10.2 billion loan, and Yeltsin then bought some votes by paying unpaid Russian back wages with the IMF money. Team Yeltsin also quietly hired an American campaign consultancy, Dresner-Wickers, who got a good deal of input from Clinton guru Dick Morris all along, and implemented American-style campaign analytics, arguably the deciding factor in pushing Yeltsin over the top.
And over the years, Hillary Clinton, whenever possible, was harshly critical of Vladimir Putin. As a Senator in 2008, she said that because he’d been a KGB agent, “by definition, he doesn’t have a soul.” In 2011, as Secretary of State, she criticized his involvement in parliamentary elections, making the accusation they were not “fair, free transparent elections.” And in 2014, she compared Putin’s annexation of Crimea “to what Hitler did back in the ‘30s.” Pretty ad hominem words, for someone who might someday have to negotiate with the man.
OK then, campaign snooping is just standard operating procedure for superpower intelligence, and the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of January 6, 2017, authored by officers of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, indicates the U.S. knew that Russian intelligence had accessed DNC networks. However, after the preambles, the body of the ICA report only devotes three pages to covert Russian activities, devoting another nine pages to the overt activities of RT.
The U.S. has Voice of America, translated into 40 languages, as its propaganda outlet; Russia will deny it, but RT (f.k.a. Russia Today) is its propaganda outlet. Over the nine pages, the ICA details criticisms leveled by RT against the U.S. political system, including: the negative health impact of fracking, the Occupy Wall Street movement’s assertions that the U.S. political system is dominated by corporations, civil liberty infringements in surveillance of U.S. citizens, the flaws of America’s two-party system, police brutality, drones, etc. Sounds like an average night on the Rachel Maddow show. Is it any wonder RT cites freedom of speech as its defense against such criticisms?
So, RT was broadcasting away and Russian intelligence had access to the DNC networks. Despite this, could it be that it was a DNC insider who in fact leaked the emails and documents to DCLeaks and WikiLeaks? The Seth Rich murder remains unsolved despite a possible $1 million total reward money, but it’s a dead end so far in terms of evidence, and now has become a goldmine for conspiracy nuts. But far more substantive was the July 24, 2017, report from some of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals (VIPS) group, which is also made up of CIA, FBI, and NSA officers, although retired. This was the same group that slammed Colin Powell within hours after he embarrassingly parroted CIA WMD lies in front of the UN Security Council in 2003.
In their report, the VIPS members pointed out a number of flaws in the ICA. The ICA states clearly that its “judgements were not intended to imply we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” Edward Snowden argued repeatedly proof the Russians leaked the DNC emails and documents would have been easily available, because the NSA’s #XKeyscore program would have picked up any foreign leak. This may be the reason that, while the FBI and CIA have “high confidence” in the ICA’s Key Judgments, the NSA holds back with only “moderate confidence” (“not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently”).
As noted above, the DNC flatly refused the FBI’s request to examine its server. The FBI uncharacteristically dropped that demand and willingly accepted the assertions made by the DNC’s notoriously anti-Russian outside contractor, Dmitri Alperovitch. The VIPS members’ analysis showed that the stolen DNC emails and documents could not have been leaked to DCLeaks and WikiLeaks online from Russia, but instead had to have been downloaded onto a thumb drive, and in the Eastern Time Zone of the U.S. It also showed that the Guccifer 2.0 leaker exhibited a “false flag” alteration of metadata inserting Russian material, in order to create the impression of a Russian hacker source. In short, the VIPS members claimed that after a DNC insider leaked the emails and documents to DCLeaks and WikiLeaks in June, 2016, Alperovitch hurriedly concocted a cyber cover-up making it look like the work of hated Russians, and the FBI bought this fairy tale, hook, line and sinker.
OK, the VIPS members’ scenario above does taste like a grassy knoll picnic, but the VIPS members do have very good credentials, and it seems inconceivable the FBI would just drop its demand to examine the DNC servers, and go along with Alperovitch, and that the NSA would not present the proof of Russian leaking which it would have had to have in its system. The ICA’s vagueness, caveats, lack of hard evidence of covert Russian activities, long-winded panning of RT broadcasts, and quasi-abstention of the NSA, all raise serious questions.
Arguably, credible support for the DNC insider leak argument may also come from Julian Assange himself. Assange asserted the leak did not come from Russia or any government official. Although he undercuts his journalistic seriousness with a lot of crudely-expressed views, Assange has never once lied about sources. His long-maintained policy is never to reveal them.
"We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion."
ICA, page i
Both Mikes, Pence and Pompeo, jumped on the above and asserted firmly the ICA did not conclude that Russian hacking affected the outcome of the election. But in reality, the Mikes got it wrong. The greater truth is that the leaking of DNC emails and documents did get Trump elected. Trump’s “Lock her up!” campaign mantra paralleled poll after poll revealing voters just didn’t find Clinton trustworthy. When the leaked DNC emails and documents provided concrete evidence that she had rigged the Democratic nomination, surely it did cost her millions of votes, as mobs of disgusted Berniacs stayed home. Meanwhile, Trump only needed a few thousand votes in swing states Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to win.
In a way, 2016 feels like a replay of 1972. Nixon won every state except Massachusetts. He was far and away the front-runner. Why in blazes did his campaign need to break into the DNC offices? Likewise, Hillary was considered the front-runner for the entirety of the 2016 campaign. Why in blazes did she need to corrupt the DNC to get the party’s nomination?
Democracy in the U.S. has flaws, most obviously the high cost of election advertising and the resulting reliance on huge sums of money from influential lobbyists. RT does have a point on that score. But at least candidates do not require approval of the clergy, as in Iran. And at least the system does not require dysfunctional coalitions, as in Italy. The idea that RT broadcasts and leaks of DNC emails and documents undermines our democracy is preposterous and Orwellian. Why not listen to criticism? Some of it might be right. Why not be thankful when wrongdoing is exposed, rather than retaliate against the whistle-blowers? We should just ask a very simple question, one that could be asked of any voter in the United States. Which undermines our democracy: a) cheating a presidential nomination, or b) exposing the cheating? The answer is very simple, isn’t it?
Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times, and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters, and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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