CrowdStrike – the forensic investigation firm hired by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to inspect its computer servers in 2016 – admitted to Congressional investigators as early as 2017 that it had no direct evidence of Russian hacking, recently declassified documents show.
CrowdStrike’s president Shawn Henry testified, “There’s not evidence that [documents and emails] were actually exfiltrated [from the DNC servers]. There’s circumstantial evidence but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated.”
This was a crucial revelation because the thousand ships of Russiagate launched upon the positive assertion that CrowdStrike had definitely proven a Russian hack.
This sworn admission has been hidden from the public for over two years, and subsequent commentary has focused on that singular outrage.
The next deductive step, though, leads to an equally crucial point: Circumstantial evidence of Russian hacking is itself flimsy and collapses when not propped up by a claim of conclusive forensic testing.
THE COVER UP.
On March 19, 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, surrendered his emails to an unknown entity in a “spear phishing” scam. This has been called a “hack,” but it was not. Instead, it is was the sort of flim-flam hustle that happens to gullible dupes on the internet.
The content of the emails was beyond embarrassing. They showed election fraud and coordination with the media against the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. The DNC and the Clinton campaign needed a cover story.
There already existed in Washington brooding suspicion that Vladimir Putin was working to influence elections in the West. The DNC and the Clinton campaign set out to retrofit that supposition to explain the emails.
On January 16, 2016, a silk-stocking Washington D.C. think tank, The Atlantic Council (remember that name), had issued a dispatch under the banner headline: “US Intelligence Agencies to Investigate Russia’s Infiltration of European Political Parties.”
The lede was concise: “American intelligence agencies are to conduct a major investigation into how the Kremlin is infiltrating political parties in Europe, it can be revealed.”
There followed a series of pull quotes from an article that appeared in the The Telegraph, including that “James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence” was investigating whether right wing political movements in Europe were sourced in “Russian meddling.”
The dispatch spoke of “A dossier” that revealed “Russian influence operations” in Europe. This was the first time trippy words like “Russian meddling” and “dossier” would appear together in the American lexicon.
Most importantly, the piece revealed the Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties. This means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign.
Blaming Russia would be a handy way to deal with the Podesta emails. The problem was the technologically impossibility of identifying the perpetrator in a phishing scheme. The only way to associate Putin with the emails was circumstantially. The DNC retained CrowdStrike to provide assistance.
On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced: “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton . . . We have emails pending publication.”
Two days later, CrowdStrike fed the Washington Post a story, headlined, “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”
The improbable tale was that the Russians had hacked the DNC computer servers and got away with some opposition research on Trump. The article quoted CrowdStrike’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, who also happens to be a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The next day, a new blog – Guccifer 2.0 – appeared on the internet and announced:
Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.
I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.
Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.
Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?
Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.
Guccifer 2.0 posted hundreds of pages of Trump opposition research allegedly hacked from the DNC and emailed copies to Gawker and The Smoking Gun. In raw form, the opposition research was one of the documents obtained in the Podesta emails, with a notable difference: It was widely reported the document now contained “Russian fingerprints.”
The document had been cut and pasted into a separate Russian Word template that yielded an abundance of Russian “error “messages. In the document’s metadata was the name of the Russian secret police founder, Felix Dzerzhinsky, written in the Russian language. The three-parenthesis formulation from the original post “)))” is the Russian version of a smiley face used commonly on social media. In addition, the blog’s author deliberately used a Russian VPN service visible in its emails even though there would have been many options to hide national affiliation.
CrowdStrike would later test the computers and declare this to be the work of sophisticated Russian spies. Alperovitch described it as, “skilled operational tradecraft.”
There is nothing skilled, though, in ham-handedly disclosing a Russian identity on the internet when trying to hide it. The more reasonable inference is that this was a set-up. It certainly looks like Guccifer 2.0 suddenly appeared in coordination with the Washington Post’s article that appeared the previous day.
THE FRAME UP.
Knowing as we now do that CrowdStrike never corroborated a hack by forensic analysis, the reasonable inference is that somebody was trying to frame Russia. Most likely, the entities that spent three years falsely leading the world to believe that direct evidence of a hack existed – CrowdStrike and the DNC – were the ones involved in the frame-up.
Lending weight to this theory: at the same moment CrowdStrike was raising a false Russian flag, a different entity, Fusion GPS – also paid by the DNC – was inventing a phony dossier that ridiculously connected Trump to Russia.
Somehow, the ruse worked.
Rather than report the content of the incriminating emails, the watchdog press instead reported CrowdStrike’s bad explanation: that Putin-did-it.
Incredibly, Trump was placed on the defensive for email leaks that showed his opponent fixing the primaries. His campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was forced to resign because a fake ledger suddenly appeared out of Ukraine connecting him to Russia.
Trump protested by stating the obvious: the federal government has “no idea” who was behind the hacks. The FBI and CIA called him a liar, issuing a “Joint Statement” that cited Guccifer 2.0, suggesting 17 intelligence agencies agree that it was the Russians.
Hillary Clinton took advantage of this “intelligence assessment” in the October debate to portray Trump as Putin’s stooge”
“We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber-attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing,” said Clinton.
The media’s fact checkers excoriated Trump for lying. This was the ultimate campaign dirty trick: a joint operation by the intelligence agencies and the media against a political candidate. It has since been learned that the “17 intelligence agencies” claptrap was always false. Those responsible for the exaggeration were James Clapper, James Comey and John Brennan.
Somehow, Trump won anyway.
Those who assert that it is a “conspiracy theory” to say that CrowdStrike would fabricate the results of computer forensic testing to create a false Russian flag should know that it was caught doing exactly that around the time it was inspecting the DNC computers.
On Dec. 22, 2016, CrowdStrike caused an international stir when it claimed to have uncovered evidence that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery computer app to help pro-Russian separatists.
Voice of America later determined the claim was false, and CrowdStrike retracted its finding.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense was forced to eat crow and admit that the hacking never happened. If you wanted a computer testing firm to fabricate a Russian hack for political reasons in 2016, CrowdStrike was who you went out and hired.
Perhaps most insidiously, the Obama administration played the phony Russian interference card during the transition to try to end Trump’s presidency before it started. As I wrote in December 2017:
Michael Flynn was indicted for a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador on December 28, 2016, seven weeks after the election.
That was the day after the outgoing president expelled 35 Russian diplomats—including gardeners and chauffeurs—for interfering in the election. Yes, that really happened.
The Obama administration had wiretapped Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador, hoping to find him saying something they could use to support their wild story about collusion.
The outrage, for some reason, is not that an outgoing administration was using wiretaps to listen in on a successor’s transition. It is that Flynn might have signaled to the Russians that the Trump administration would have a different approach to foreign policy.
How dare Trump presume to tell an armed nuclear state to stand down because everyone in Washington was in a state of psychological denial that he was elected?
Let’s establish one thing early here: It is okay for an incoming administration to communicate its foreign policy preferences during a transition even if they differ from the lame duck administration….
….If anything, Flynn was too reserved in his conversation with the Russian ambassador. He should have said, “President-elect Trump believes this Russian collusion thing is a fantasy and these sanctions will be lifted on his first day in office.”
That would have been perfectly legal. It also happens to be what FBI Director Comey and the rest were hoping Flynn would do. They wanted to get a Trump official on tape making an accommodation to the Russians.
The accommodation would then be cited to suggest a quid pro quo that proved the nonexistent collusion. Instead, Flynn was uncharacteristically noncommittal in his conversation with the ambassador. Drat!
They did have a transcript of what he said, though. This is where the tin-pot dictator behavior of Comey is fully displayed. He invited Flynn to be interviewed by the FBI, supposedly about Russian collusion to steal the election.
If you’re Flynn, you say, “Sure, I want to tell you 15 different ways that there was no collusion and when do you want to meet.”
What Flynn did not know was that the purpose of the interview had nothing to do with the election. It would be a test pitting Flynn’s memory against the transcript.
Think about that for a moment. Comey did not need to ask Flynn what was said in the conversation with the ambassador—he had a transcript. The only reason to ask Flynn about it was to cross him up.
That is the politicization of the FBI. It is everything Trump supporters rail against when they implore him to drain the swamp. The inescapable conclusion is that the FBI set a trap for the incoming national security advisor to affect the foreign policy of the newly elected president.
Flynn made the mistake of not being altogether clear about what he had discussed with the ambassador. In his defense, he did not believe he was sitting there to tell the FBI how the Trump administration was dealing with Russia going forward. The conversation was supposed to be about the election.
He certainly did not think the FBI would unmask his comments in a FISA wiretap and compare them to his answers. That would be illegal.
Exhibit 5 to the DOJ’s recent Motion to Dismiss the Flynn indictment confirms the Obama administration’s bad faith in listening in on his conversation with the ambassador. The plotters admit, essentially, that they looked at the transcript to see whether Flynn said anything that caused Russia to stand-down. Had General Flynn promised to lift the sanctions, the Obama administration would have claimed it was the pro quo that went with the quid of Putin’s interference.
After Trump’s inauguration, the FBI and Justice Department launched a special counsel investigation that accepted, as a given, CrowdStrike’s dubious conclusion that Russia had interfered in the election. The only remaining question was whether Trump himself colluded in the interference. There followed a two-year inquiry that did massive political damage to Trump and the movement that put him in office.
Tucker Carlson rightly made Trey Gowdy squirm recently for Republican acquiescence in the shoddy underpinnings of the Russia hoax. It was not only Gowdy, though. Establishment politicians and pundits have been all too willing for years to wallow in fabricated Russian intrigue, at the expense of the Trump presidency.
This perfectly illustrates Republican perfidy: Gifted with undeserved victory in a generational realignment that they were dragged to kicking and screaming, they proceed to question its source and validity. Because if Trump was a product of KGB-esque intrigue, then Hillary was a victim of meddling. Trump was a hapless beneficiary. The deplorables were not only racist losers, they were also Putin’s unwitting stooges.
As I first noted in December 2016, the Washington establishment deliberately set out to fan Russian anxiety to conduct war against the Trump administration. Perhaps it is time to admit that those of us chided as “crazies” who doubted Russian interference – including Trump himself – were right all along.
In the after-action assessment of what went wrong, it should be noted that non-insiders are the ones who have called this from the beginning, in places like here, here, here, here, and here. That is partly what the president means when he Tweets support for his “keyboard warriors.” As Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointed out on Friday, the White House press corps has completely missed the story.
This scandal is huge, much bigger than Watergate, and compromising in its resolution is destructive.
The recent CrowdStrike testimony drop ended any chance at middle ground. This was a rank political operation and indicting a few FBI agents is not going to resolve anything.
CrowdStrike’s circumstantial evidence that launched this probe is ridiculous. We’ll soon know if the Durham investigation has the will to defy powerful insiders of both parties and say so.