The Evidence to Prove the Russian Hack

In this post, I’m going to lay out the evidence needed to fully explain the Russian hack. I think it will help to explain some of the timing around the story that the CIA believes Russia hacked the DNC to help win Trump win the election, as well as what is new in Friday’s story. I will do rolling updates on this and eventually turn it into a set of pages on Russia’s hacking.

As I see it, intelligence on all the following are necessary to substantiate some of the claims about Russia tampering in this year’s election.

  1. FSB-related hackers hacked the DNC
  2. GRU-related hackers hacked the DNC
  3. Russian state actors hacked John Podesta’s emails
  4. Russian state actors hacked related targets, including Colin Powell and some Republican sites
  5. Russian state actors hacked the RNC
  6. Russian state actors released information from DNC and DCCC via Guccifer 2
  7. Russian state actors released information via DC Leaks
  8. Russian state actors or someone acting on its behest passed information to Wikileaks
  9. The motive explaining why Wikileaks released the DNC and Podesta emails
  10. Russian state actors probed voter registration databases
  11. Russian state actors used bots and fake stories to make information more damaging and magnify its effects
  12. The level at which all Russian state actors’ actions were directed and approved
  13. The motive behind the actions of Russian state actors
  14. The degree to which Russia’s efforts were successful and/or primary in leading to Hillary’s defeat

I explain all of these in more detail below. For what it’s worth, I think there was strong publicly available information to prove 3, 4, 7, 11. I think there is weaker though still substantial information to support 2. It has always been the case that the evidence is weakest at point 6 and 8.

At a minimum, to blame Russia for tampering with the election, you need high degree of confidence that GRU hacked the DNC (item 2), and shared those documents via some means with Wikileaks (item 8). What is new about Friday’s story is that, after months of not knowing how the hacked documents got from Russian hackers to Wikileaks, CIA now appears to know that people close to the Russian government transferred the documents (item 8). In addition, CIA now appears confident that all this happened to help Trump win the presidency (item 13).

1) FSB-related hackers hacked the DNC

The original report from Crowdstrike on the DNC hack actually said two separate Russian-linked entities hacked the DNC: one tied to the FSB, which it calls “Cozy Bear” or APT 29, and one tied to GRU, which it calls “Fancy Bear” or APT 28. Crowdstrike says Cozy Bear was also responsible for hacks of unclassified networks at the White House, State Department, and US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I’m not going to assess the strength of the FSB evidence here. As I’ll lay out, the necessary hack to attribute to the Russians is the GRU one, because that’s the one believed to be the source of the DNC and Podesta emails. The FSB one is important to keep in mind, as it suggests part of the Russian government may have been hacking US sites solely for intelligence collection, something our own intelligence agencies believe is firmly within acceptable norms of spying. In the months leading up to the 2012 election, for example, CIA and NSA hacked the messaging accounts of a bunch of Enrique Peña Nieto associates, pretty nearly the equivalent of the Podesta hack, though we don’t know what they did with that intelligence. The other reason to keep the FSB hack in mind is because, to the extent FSB hacked other sites, they also may be deemed part of normal spying.

2) GRU-related hackers hacked the DNC

As noted, Crowdstrike reported that GRU also hacked the DNC. As it explains, GRU does this by sending someone something that looks like an email password update, but which instead is a fake site designed to get someone to hand over their password. The reason this claim is strong is because people at the DNC say this happened to them.

Note that there are people who raise questions of whether this method is legitimately tied to GRU and/or that the method couldn’t be stolen and replicated. I will deal with those questions at length elsewhere. But for the purposes of this post, I will accept that this method is a clear sign of GRU involvement. There are also reports that deal with GRU hacking that note high confidence GRU hacked other entities, but less direct evidence they hacked the DNC.

Finally, there is the real possibility that other people hacked the DNC, in addition to FSB and GRU. That possibility is heightened because a DNC staffer was hacked via what may have been another method, and because DNC emails show a lot of password changes off services for which DNC staffers had had their accounts exposed in other hacks.

All of which is a way of saying, there is some confidence that DNC got hacked at least twice, with those two revealed efforts being done by hackers with ties to the Russian state.

3) Russian state actors (GRU) hacked John Podesta’s emails

Again, assuming that the fake Gmail phish is GRU’s handiwork, there is probably the best evidence that GRU hacked John Podesta and therefore that Russia, via some means, supplied Wikileaks, because we have a copy of the actual email used to hack him. The Smoking Gun has an accessible story describing how all this works. So in the case of Podesta, we know he got a malicious phish email, we know that someone clicked the link in the email, and we know that emails from precisely that time period were among the documents shared with Wikileaks. We just have no idea how they got there.

4) Russian state actors hacked related targets, including some other Democratic staffers, Colin Powell and some Republican sites

That same Gmail phish was used with victims — including at a minimum William Rinehart and Colin Powell — that got exposed in a site called DC Leaks. We can have the same high degree of confidence that GRU conducted this hack as we do with Podesta. As I note below, that’s more interesting for what it tells us about motive than anything else.

5) Russian state actors hacked the RNC

The allegation that Russia also hacked the RNC, but didn’t leak those documents — which the CIA seems to rely on in part to argue that Russia must have wanted to elect Trump — has been floating around for some time. I’ll return to what we know of this. RNC spox Sean Spicer is denying it, though so did Hillary’s people at one point deny that they had been hacked.

There are several points about this. First, hackers presumed to be GRU did hack and release emails from Colin Powell and an Republican-related server. The Powell emails (including some that weren’t picked up in the press), in particular, were detrimental to both candidates. The Republican ones were, like a great deal of the Democratic ones, utterly meaningless from a news standpoint.

So I don’t find this argument persuasive in its current form. But the details on it are still sketchy precisely because we don’t know about that hack.

6) Russian state actors released information from DNC and DCCC via Guccifer 2

Some entity going by the name Guccifer 2 started a website in the wake of the announcement that the DNC got hacked. The site is a crucial part of this assessment, both because it released DNC and DCCC documents directly (though sometimes misattributing what it was releasing) and because Guccifer 2 stated clearly that he had shared the DNC documents with Wikileaks. The claim has always been that Guccifer 2 was just a front for Russia — a way for them to adopt plausible deniability about the DNC hack.

That may be the case (and obvious falsehoods in Guccifer’s statements make it clear deception was part of the point), but there was always less conclusive (and sometimes downright contradictory) evidence to support this argument (this post summarizes what it claims are good arguments that Guccifer 2 was a front for Russia; on the most part I disagree and hope to return to it in the future). Moreover, this step has been one that past reporting said the FBI couldn’t confirm. Then there are other oddities about Guccifer’s behavior, such as his “appearance” at a security conference in London, or the way his own production seemed to fizzle as Wikileaks started releasing the Podesta emails. Those details of Guccifer’s behavior are, in my opinion, worth probing for a sense of how all this was orchestrated.

Yesterday’s story seems to suggest that the spooks have finally figured out this step, though we don’t have any idea what it entails.

7) Russian state actors released information via DC Leaks

Well before many people realized that DC Leaks existed, I suspected that it was a Russian operation. That’s because two of its main targets — SACEUR Philip Breedlove and George Soros — are targets Russia would obviously hit to retaliate for what it treats as a US-backed coup in Ukraine.

DC Leaks is also where the publicly released (and boring) GOP emails got released.

Perhaps most importantly, that’s where the Colin Powell emails got released (this post covers some of those stories). That’s significant because Powell’s emails were derogatory towards both candidates (though he ultimately endorsed Hillary).

It’s interesting for its haphazard targeting (if someone wants to pay me $$ I would do an assessment of all that’s there, because some just don’t make any clear sense from a Russian perspective, and some of the people most actively discussing the Russian hacks have clearly not even read all of it), but also because a number of the victims have been affirmatively tied to the GRU phishing methods.

So DC Leaks is where you get obvious Russian targets and Russian methods all packaged together. But of the documents it released, the Powell emails were the most interesting for electoral purposes, and they didn’t target Hillary as asymmetrically as the Wikileaks released documents did.

8) Russian state actors or someone acting on its behest passed information to Wikileaks

The basis for arguing that all these hacks were meant to affect the election is that they were released via Wikileaks. That is what was supposed to be new, beyond just spying (though we have almost certainly hacked documents and leaked them, most probably in the Syria Leaks case, but I suspect also in some others).

And as noted, how Wikileaks got two separate sets of emails has always been the big question. With the DNC emails, Guccifer 2 clearly said he had given them to WL, but the Guccifer 2 ties to Russia was relatively weak. And with the Podesta emails, I’m not aware of any known interim step between the GRU hack and Wikileaks.

A late July report said the FBI was still trying to determine how Russia got the emails to Wikileaks or even if they were the same emails.

The FBI is still investigating the DNC hack. The bureau is trying to determine whether the emails obtained by the Russians are the same ones that appeared on the website of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Friday, setting off a firestorm that roiled the party in the lead-up to the convention.

The FBI is also examining whether APT 28 or an affiliated group passed those emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources said.

An even earlier report suggested that the IC wasn’t certain the files had been passed electronically.

And the joint DHS/ODNI statement largely attributed its confidence that Russia was involved in the the leaking (lumping Guccifer 2, DC Leaks, and Wikileaks all together) not because it had high confidence in that per se (a term of art saying, effectively, “we have seen the evidence”), but instead because leaking such files is consistent with what Russia has done elsewhere.

The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.

Importantly, that statement came out on October 7, so well after the September briefing at which CIA claimed to have further proof of all this.

Now, Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that Russia was his source. Craig Murray asserted, after having meeting with Assange, that the source is not the Russian state or a proxy. Wikileaks’ tweet in the wake of yesterday’s announcement — concluding that an inquiry directed at Russia in this election cycle is targeted at Wikileaks — suggests some doubt. Also, immediately after the election, Sergei Markov, in a statement deemed to be consistent with Putin’s views, suggested that “maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks,” even while denying Russia carried out the hacks.

That’s what’s new in yesterday’s story. It stated that “individuals with connections to the Russian government” handed the documents to Wikileaks.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.


[I]ntelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

I suspect we’ll hear more leaked about these individuals in the coming days; obviously, the IC says it doesn’t have evidence of the Russian government ordering these people to share the documents with Wikileaks.

Nevertheless, the IC now has what it didn’t have in July: a clear idea of who gave Wikileaks the emails.

9) The motive explaining why Wikileaks released the DNC and Podesta emails

There has been a lot of focus on why Wikileaks did what it did, which notably includes timing the DNC documents to hit for maximum impact before the Democratic Convention and timing the Podesta emails to be a steady release leading up to the election.

I don’t rule out Russian involvement with all of that, but it is entirely unnecessary in this case. Wikileaks has long proven an ability to hype its releases as much as possible. More importantly, Assange has reason to have a personal gripe against Hillary, going back to State’s response to the cable release in 2010 and the subsequent prosecution of Chelsea Manning.

In other words, absent really good evidence to the contrary, I assume that Russia’s interests and Wikileaks’ coincided perfectly for this operation.

10) Russian state actors probed voter registration databases

Back in October, a slew of stories reported that “Russians” had breached voter related databases in a number of states. The evidence actually showed that hackers using a IP tied to Russia had done these hacks. Even if the hackers were Russian (about which there was no evidence in the first reports), there was also no evidence the hackers were tied to the Russian state. Furthermore, as I understand it, these hacks used a variety of methods, some or all of which aren’t known to be GRU related. A September DHS bulletin suggested these hacks were committed by cybercriminals (in the past, identity thieves have gone after voter registration lists). And the October 7 DHS/ODNI statement affirmatively said the government was not attributing the probes to the Russians.

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.

In late November, an anonymous White House statement said there was no increased malicious hacking aimed at the electoral process, though remains agnostic about whether Russia ever planned on such a thing.

The Federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day. As we have noted before, we remained confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out on election day. As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.

That said, since we do not know if the Russians had planned any malicious cyber activity for election day, we don’t know if they were deterred from further activity by the various warnings the U.S. government conveyed.

Absent further evidence, this suggests that reports about Russian trying to tamper with the actual election infrastructure were at most suspicions and possibly just a result of shoddy reporting conflating Russian IP with Russian people with Russian state.

11) Russian state actors used bots and fake stories to make information more damaging and magnify its effects

Russia has used bots and fake stories in the past to distort or magnify compromising information. There is definitely evidence some pro-Trump bots were based out of Russia. RT and Sputnik ran with inflammatory stories. Samantha Bee famously did an interview with some Russians who were spreading fake news. But there were also people spreading fake news from elsewhere, including Macedonia and Surburban LA. A somewhat spooky guy even sent out fake news in an attempt to discredit Wikileaks.

As I have argued, the real culprit in this economy of clickbait driven outrage is closer to home, in the algorithms that Silicon Valley companies use that are exploited by a whole range of people. So while Russian directed efforts may have magnified inflammatory stories, that was not a necessary part of any intervention in the election, because it was happening elsewhere.

12) The level at which all Russian state actors’ actions were directed and approved

The DHS/ODNI statement said clearly that “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” But the WaPo story suggests they still don’t have proof of Russia directing even the go-between who gave WL the cables, much less the go-between directing how Wikileaks released these documents.

Mind you, this would be among the most sensitive information, if the NSA did have proof, because it would be collection targeted at Putin and his top advisors.

13) The motive behind the actions of Russian state actors

The motive behind all of this has varied. The joint DHS/ODNI statement said it was “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.” It didn’t provide a model for what that meant though.

Interim reporting — including the White House’s anonymous post-election statement — had suggested that spooks believed Russia was doing it to discredit American democracy.

The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian Government-directed compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the President-elect.

At one level, that made a lot of sense — the biggest reason to release the DNC and Podesta emails, it seems to me, was to confirm the beliefs a lot of people already had about how power works. I think one of the biggest mistakes of journalists who have political backgrounds was to avoid discussing how the sausage of politics gets made, because this material looks worse if you’ve never worked in a system where power is about winning support. All that said, there’s nothing in the emails (especially given the constant release of FOIAed emails) that uniquely exposed American democracy as corrupt.

All of which is to say that this explanation never made any sense to me; it was mostly advanced by people who live far away from people who already distrust US election systems, who ignored polls showing there was already a lot of distrust.

Which brings us to the other thing that is new in the WaPo story: the assertion that CIA now believes this was all intended to elect Trump, not just make us distrust elections.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.


“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

For what it’s worth, there’s still some ambiguity in this. Did Putin really want Trump? Or did he want Hillary to be beat up and weak for an expected victory? Did he, like Assange, want to retaliate for specific things he perceived Hillary to have done, in both Libya, Syria, and Ukraine? That’s unclear.

14) The degree to which Russia’s efforts were successful and/or primary in leading to Hillary’s defeat

Finally, there’s the question that may explain Obama’s reticence about this issue, particularly in the anonymous post-election statement from the White House, which stated that the “election results … accurately reflect the will of the American people.” It’s not clear that Putin’s intervention, whatever it was, had anywhere near the effect as (for example) Jim Comey’s letters and Bret Baier’s false report that Hillary would be indicted shortly. There are a lot of other factors (including Hillary’s decision to ignore Jake Sullivan’s lonely advice to pay some attention to the Rust Belt).

And, as I’ve noted repeatedly, it is no way the case that Vladimir Putin had to teach Donald Trump about kompromat, the leaking of compromising information for political gain. Close Trump associates, including Roger Stone (who, by the way, may have had conversations with Julian Assange), have been rat-fucking US elections since the time Putin was in law school.

But because of the way this has rolled out (and particularly given the cabinet picks Trump has already made), it will remain a focus going forward, perhaps to the detriment of other issues that need attention.

39 replies
  1. makomk says:

    The curious thing about 2 and 3 is the low level of sophistication demonstrated. It’s the kind of attack any reasonably smart 12 year old can carry out (and quite a few have, just against slightly lower-profile targets). It even used the good old .tk domain, a free service that’s been popular with phishing attackers for a couple of decades or so, pointed to a free web hosting provider. Barely rises above baby’s first phishing attack thanks to a handful of cute tricks, like the URL shortener and substituting letters with lookalikes to get through filters.

    • Jackrabbit says:

      I was wondering about that. Why is this presented as conclusive evidence of Russian state actors? I don’t see how this is iron clad evidence of government action.

  2. JerryN says:

    Great outline, it really helps organize the info and highlight the gaps. Obviously, I’ve got nothing to contribute in terms of any hard data, but I do have a few random thoughts:

    #2 & #5. Minor point, but I think it’s plausible that both Russian-backed and other actors hacked both the DNC and the RNC emails. Leading to –

    #6 & #7. Possibly the initial leaks were sourced from other parties (which could explain the somewhat random content) and the GRU took advantage of that to provide its info (much more highly targeted content) to the leakers. That would tend to explain the varying quality of the leaks.

    #13. I’m going to go with a variant of the “beat up Hillary” at least as the original motive. They had plenty of experience with her FP views as Secretary of State and I suspect they were not fans. Also, everybody’s prediction models had her as the clear favorite by early summer. Perhaps the thinking was that if they could at least make it a closer contest the Senate wouldn’t flip and a Republican Congress would be able to block her and also have plenty of fresh ammo to hound her with and keep her from doing anything aggressive in office.

    #13 again. If Hillary was the target, there was no value in releasing any juicy bits they had on the Republicans. So they got a windfall with the Trump victory, they may now have kompromat stockpiled for use going forward.


  3. bloopie2 says:

    Since I’m not on Twitter, I’ll use this forum to speak.  Current emptywheel tweet about Trump choosing Exxon CEO for State:  “Shorter Trump:  And who’s going to stop me?”  Honestly, when Democratic Presidents made Cabinet selections that would assuredly go through, did you bitch about that fact?

    • The Kid from Kerry says:

      Name the Democratic President as unfit and dangerous as Trump. Yeah, and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State? A worse nominee by a Democratic President, please.

      • lefty665 says:

        Hillary Clinton for both answers. America chose Trump as less unfit and less dangerous than Hillary for President. Hillary’s record as Sec State speaks for itself. It is on its face one of several reasons, no foreign intervention needed, she is not President.

        As time gives us a fuller appreciation of Bill Clinton, he’s shaping up to be right up there among the worst, so he’s a candidate too. Hillary’s loss is a predictable consequence of Bill’s exorcism of the Dems New Deal roots, his racist laws and shipping of middle class jobs to other countries.

        Trump sucks, but he’s not a neocon warmonger like Hillary and the mofos who have been running our foreign policy for the last 15 years. There is a real argument he’s a lesser danger for war with nuclear armed Russia, although Trump may make up for that in other dangerous ways.

        • GailStorm says:

          I would agree with that. I went third party, which hardly swung the election, but then you get 70,000 no votes in Michigan too which may have. Most who despised both weren’t swayed much by anything that happened post-primaries, at least not in my FB circles.

        • The Kid from Kerry says:

          What do you take to get rid of those buyers’ remorse blues? No one but the most ardent Trump enthusiast can think that his elevation is, by any definition, better than HRC running the show. Aren’t you sick of this lame show already. I am. By the way, many cures for buyers’ remorse blues” have been discovered in UK in the wake of that other disaster, Brexit. Google it.

        • The Kid from Kerry says:

          Trump won strictly because the networks and print media realized the huge money to be made off of 24/7/365 Trump. If a level playing field had been played on, Clinton would be making preps, Tillerson would still be plotting with Putin and Jackie Evancho would be in algebra class on January 20. BTW, would someone please have the cojones to say that it is a possibility, at least, that Trump knew all about the hacking and knew all his BFF Putin’s involvement in the takedown of HRC. Why else doth he protest too much?

    • emptywheel says:

      Jim Comey, John Brennan, Loretta Lynch are among the ones I bitched about. It’s just at the time everyone thought they were all great.

  4. themgt says:

    I’d just like to make a point – an alternate analysis was Russia did this to discredit our elections / sow internal discord. And in fact, if you were a clever Russian leader deciding how to proceed with electoral cyber/propaganda-war, there might have been a “two birds with one stone” whereby hoping to actually influence the election (or at least appear to do so) would be the best way to heighten internal discord.

    This doesn’t whatsoever exclude that Russia may have preferred a Trump win, but that specifically to have parts of US bureaucracy, elites, media, and polity all attacking each other over semi-valid concerns like gasoline Russia has poured on the fire, would probably be a happy result indeed for Putin.

  5. bevin says:

    The ‘argument’ that Russians were opposed to Hillary therefore they were out to stop her, ought to be viewed in the context of all the others of whom she had made enemies- the Syrians for example, Libyans, Honduran campesinos, Haitians of all sorts. China too and Serbia.

    And that is not to mention Americans- Democrats for example of many hues. Trade Unionists who remembered her role as a Wal Mart director, Sanders supporters who had every reason to feel cheated and bitter and were much better placed to hack these emails than anyone in Russia.

    Looking for suspects on the basis of motive is a mug’s game here.

    But the real story remains the ones- for there are many- that this wild goose chase is designed to divert our attention from: the content of the emails.

    Which reminds me: is anyone still claiming that any of these emails is fraudulent? Are the friends of Podesta still claiming that wikileaks forged emails?

    I suspect not, which relocates discussion where it ought to be around the substance of these revelations.

    And the debt that is owed to those, whoever they may be, who put this information where it ought to be: in the public forum, assisting the American People to make up their minds in an election in which they were repeatedly told that the issue was whether one candidate was fit for office, had the character or experience the office required or represented ‘dark’ forces and special interests.

    After all Trump, by election day was almost embarrassingly naked- every woman he had ever offended, every stupid thing he had ever put on the record, every contradiction, every charge against him, every allegation was widely aired in all the media. Nothing was hidden, nothing could be- the media was united in the Trump Hunt. Journalists who had never spoken truth in the presence of power, suddenly started asking tough questions.

    Has this been forgotten?


  6. sponson says:

    Why did the DNC e-mails as leaked contain no discussion of any oppo against Trump? Was this withheld by the “original source” or by WikiLeaks? Perhaps the CIA found the answer to this and it informed their conclusions?

    • Phil Perspective says:

      Maybe because Trump has been a public figure for close to 40 years?  Everything he’s done is pretty much public record.  His newspaper ad calling for the execution of the Central Park 5.  All the other statements and media he’s done, in what ever form.  He didn’t come from nowhere.  Remember, he had pretty much 100% name ID before he even jumped into the race for the GOP nomination.

    • makomk says:

      Well, a document presumed to be the DNC’s oppo research file on Trump was one of the first things leaked, so I’m not sure why any discussion in that area would be withheld.

  7. Ben Rosenzweig says:

    Seriously, is there a human being on any major e-mail system in the world who doesn’t get the fake-password-confirmation phishing effort regularly?

    If it wasn’t for spam-filtering and the like it would be more visible, but I think most would get them at least once a week, probably more. Gmail you say? If that method of phishing is really “is a clear sign of GRU involvement”, then the ex-reds are really trying to get the passwords to the underside of every bed in the digital world. Seems a flimsy thread on which to hang all of this.

    To me, none of this seems very convincing. But hey, maybe the Russians did come across materials reflecting badly upon HRC and found a way to release them without having to take responsibility for it. Possible I guess.

    The list of websites supposedly acting as channels for Russian propaganda put out by the Washington Post recently, however, was obviously itself an example of propaganda and fake news, a crude and McCarthyist effort of the sort which should have those pushing all of this thinking about what they are really trying to do, and why.

    Which should raise questions about the actual political and propaganda purposes of some of those pushing these stories.

    ‘Fake news’, the concept being used to imply somehow that what appears in the ‘official’ media is by contrast reliable, even as the stories about fake news seem themselves like engineered fake news to smear sites deemed beyond the pale.

    One doesn’t have to construct this kind of slimly-evidenced narrative when one wants to talk about the US government, whether under Democrats or Republicans, intervening into the political  and electoral processes of other countries, of course.

    Partly because those efforts were on the whole a lot less subtle than hacking into e-mails and maliciously releasing information (the truth of which e-mails I have seen no-one even remotely convincingly doubt).

    The spilled blood of Allende is one example, of course. The coup which put the Shah in power in Iran, to keep control for endless years with the viciousness of SAVAK, is another. And the coup which put Soharto in power in Indonesia, and more particularly the US government role in the subsequent bloodbath of hundreds of thousands of people, overwhelmingly landless peasants and others at the bottom end of a hierarchy that would be violently enforced by US-endorsed torturers and murderers.

    No risk of elections the US would have to interfere in with those – the interference was pre-emptive, I guess.

    In the case of Chile, the dictatorship the US helped put and keep in place ended one of the world’s longest running democracies. They didn’t end it by stealing and distributing accurate information, true. But even before the coup the US was actually interfering in every way they could get away with in Chilean electoral processes. And interfering far more extensively and dramatically than is suggested in even the most outlandish version of this current theory about the Russians. Of course, no-one in the US, or very few, seem to think this requires apologies, or reparations to the families of the dead for instance.

    Certainly no-one thinks anyone should ever have got in some kind of trouble legally for ‘interfering’ in the political and electoral processes of other countries. So far as I know no President has said that any of this was really a problem, despite the tortured people and mangled corpses of Pinochet’s creative enforcers. Despite the fact that they put in place in Chile a regime, the intelligence agencies of which would work with people like Walter Rauff – the person who invented the vans, which killed those in the back by directing exhaust fumes into an enclosed space, used in Nazi death camps.

    And of course this long history of US ‘interference’ wasn’t just about who wins elections, but about whether or not they thought it was useful that elections take place at all, and whether or not it was useful that such elections be, as these things go, ‘honest’.

    The Vietnam War, for instance, had to keep going year after year after year because the US government couldn’t accept any peace deal that would stop their ‘foreign interference’ and require real elections. Those fighting against the US supported/controlled torture-and-murder state proposed, every day for years, that they resolve the national crisis with elections – something which the US mainstream media of the time saw no need to talk about like it was some kind of big thing.

    Hundreds of thousands more had to be killed by US forces because the US government knew that the gangsters they had put in place at the helm of the South Vietnamese state enjoyed the confidence and support of less than twenty percent of the population, while those opposing the US would have won any election in a landslide.

    Thus the US decided that it could not permit real elections.

    Even though the Phoenix Program had involved them killing tens of thousands of non-combatants as US assassins went from village to village killing anyone involved or supporting even the most purely political or peaceful of oppositional activities – ‘civilians’, as we might say. Trying to wipe out any organized political force that could challenge their chosen psychopaths.

    While this was one of the more dramatic examples, examples of US ‘interference’ in the political and electoral processes of other countries are very easy to document throughout the twentieth century and right up until the present.

    Interference so far beyond what the Russians are being accused of as to make the performance of outrage appear comically repulsive in its hypocrisy, when coming from those in the US political elite.

    A state which never apologized, let alone gave reparations, to any of the literally millions killed in the course of and as a result of its ‘interference’ in political and electoral processes.

    The actions of the US in the Congo leading to the murder of Patrice Lumumba led to another US-supported death-squad dictatorship, like the ones both Democratic and Republican Presidents helped to impose upon a long series of Latin American countries, with body counts varying from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands depending upon just how much mass murder was needed to ensure – well, not to ensure free and fair elections untainted by US ‘interference’, that is for sure.

    Have any Democratic or Republican President ever apologised to the families of people killed by their paid for and trained psychopaths in El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua? The coups they engineered with US-friendly generals and gangsters and fascists seem to have disappeared from history, even the bits like HRC being absolutely as supportive as she could get away with in relation to the Honduran coup not very long ago at all.

    Like I say, maybe there is some reality to these stories, even if so far it seems more like an example of propaganda (and such) that an expose of it.

    It does have a bit of a ‘let’s re-run McCarthyism’ feel to it though, in a perverse way.

    • Rayne says:

      I want to address just this bit:

      Seriously, is there a human being on any major e-mail system in the world who doesn’t get the fake-password-confirmation phishing effort regularly?

      What happens after any ‘human being on any major e-mail system in the world’ gets phished? There’s quite a body of information about attacks arising from phishing — roughly 60-80% of hacking is criminal in nature. And yet what happened at the DNC doesn’t match anything that happens to corporate entities when an employee is phished.

      Like the hospitals or universities or at least one city attacked this last year — all were injected with ransomware. But not the DNC.

      Could it be because the aims of that particular phishing attack were different? Ponder as Marcus Aurelius bid, “Of everything that presents itself unto thee, to consider what the true nature of it is…” What is the true nature of this attack? Is it obvious on the face of it that it is not criminal but something else entirely?

      For that matter, what of the hacking of the RNC, which at least one RNC member confirmed based on his own email he saw had been leaked. It, too, did not result in obvious criminal activity.

      • Ben Rosenzweig says:

        The suggestion was that this method of phishing – fake password confirmation requests and websites – was somehow particularly GRU-ish, for which no evidence was presented, and which seems to contradict the experience of every single e-mail user on the planet. As the cornerstone of this suggestion that Russians must be behind it all, this simply doesn’t convince. Yes the motive of this hack might have been different from solely financially motivated phishing, but this doesn’t give any basis for suggesting it was the Russians implementing some master plan, just because anonymous CIA people allegedly say so, or because someone once said the GRU use this method. So this still doesn’t provide evidence in the direction it seems to want to make plausible, so far as I can tell. Which was a key point.


        The second point being that the people pushing this theory in the mainstream media don’t seem particularly concerned with reality over propaganda. Eg The Washington Post smear job on 200 websites alleged to be channels for alleged Russian propaganda – an act of propaganda itself making use of journalistic standards down with the worst of tabloid nonsense.

        The third point being that, coming from US political elites, outrage over someone releasing accurate information as a method of political/electoral interference is so insanely hypocritical as to be kind of revolting. Relying as it does on people not remembering the US role in world events over the last century, or, possibly, relying on people being so absurdly infected by the double standards of compulsory American exceptionalism as to simply not care.

        • Matthew Johnson says:

          “The third point being that, coming from US political elites, outrage over someone releasing accurate information as a method of political/electoral interference is so insanely hypocritical as to be kind of revolting. Relying as it does on people not remembering the US role in world events over the last century, or, possibly, relying on people being so absurdly infected by the double standards of compulsory American exceptionalism as to simply not care.” 

          You could not be more correct here. After losing an incompetent campaign Democrats are flailing around trying to come up with every excuse for losing the election instead of accepting responsibility for the loss (due to utter incompetence). Good thing Israel does not try to interfere with our political process.


    • D.Hussey says:

      Pretty sure the Electoral College was intended to ensure that the will of the people could never override the needs of America’s aristocracy …. but yeah, run with that theme

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        Yeah, like asking Electoral College members to disregard the results of the election and vote for what’s best for us isn’t going to set a horrible precedent? Can’t wait to see what horrible direction that would go. But getting back to the reason for the electoral college; Madison clearly said that the south would never accept a direct election because the slave population can’t vote. Back to the whole 3/5’s of a person issue. The EC has never overturned the results of an election. Getting rid of the EC is the best answer, not giving it more power.


  8. Internet Person says:

    I have an issue with #1.

    the crowdstrike article goes over the means and methods that the hacks were executed, but never explains why they tied the attacks to Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. That’s the central bit of this entire piece, and it is entirely unaddressed in your primary source beyond their word. I’m willing to accept crowdstrike’s word that the means and methods they exposed that were used to infiltrate the DNC are correct, but the central claim that they are Russian is completely unsupported by that article.

    Is there any hard evidence linking Russia to the attacks beyond various agencies saying “trust us”?

  9. tatere says:

    What makes me crazy about the whole miasma of words around this is the unmentioned part of the mechanism. Wikileaks putting emails up on a server does very little. It was CNN, NYT, NBC, CBS, ETC devoting so much air time, real estate, time and frenzy to find something in those emails – and coming up empty, really, despite working pretty hard to puff things up. Without the media crazy there’s nothing. So who’s responsible for any effect on the results?


  10. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    Really disappointed, Marcy. Why would you put forward one version of the story, and never even question the bona fides of Crowdstrike? I find it very suspicious that the source for the Russian “hack” story comes from Crowdstrike. This is no small security site, but a major actor funded by some of the top financial interests in the U.S. The CTO, Dmitri Alperovitch, who supposedly found the Russian link, is a longtime member of the Atlantic Council, which has been trumpeting near daily anti-Russian propaganda and trying to get the West to intervene around Ukraine. Those supporting Ukraine are among the most right-wing people imaginable, and are in an alliance with clear fascists. Yet none of this gives you pause? Does Crowdstrike have a reason to steer “evidence” to Russia?

    Of course, as Ben notes above, it’s quite convenient for the U.S. and its corrupt politicians to get on their high horse and criticize Russian “interference” in U.S. elections. The U.S. itself, and led by the CIA, has intervened violently to overthrow governments, organize coups, assassinate leaders, torture oppositionists, buy elections, etc., to a degree that would make Putin salivate, if we believed that Putin really wanted to do the same.

    What hypocrisy this faux scandal is! And then there’s the attempt to make the CIA the “good guys” by saving American democracy from the dastardly Russkies. Over and over the U.S. has to reposition itself as good, when in reality its policies have been horrifically destructive. After Vietnam atrocities, U.S. positioned itself as defender of “human rights” under Carter. After Iraq/Afghanistan, now the U.S. is the defender of the little countries, like Syria and Ukraine, against the Russian bear. Oh, and for “democracy” (funded by $$ from the medieval Saudi monarchy).

  11. Steve says:

    Regarding #13

    The joint DHS/ODNI statement said it was “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.” It didn’t provide a model for what that meant though.
    Interim reporting — including the White House’s anonymous post-election statement — had suggested that spooks believed Russia was doing it to discredit American democracy.

    Would Russia / Putin want to discredit US democracy because the US, and Clinton in particular as sec. of state, sought to discredit Russian democracy? The quotes below are from a CBS story in Dec. 2011.

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, accusing her of encouraging and funding Russians protesting election fraud ….

    Clinton has repeatedly criticized Sunday’s parliamentary vote in Russia, saying “Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation.”
    She confirmed her stance again on Thursday, saying the concerns over voting fraud in Russia’s election were “well founded”. She did not directly address Putin’s claims that the opposition movement in Russia was being supported or encouraged by the U.S.
    Putin’s United Russia party barely held onto its majority in parliament, with official results giving it about 50 percent of the vote, down from 64 percent four years ago. But the fraud allegations indicate that support for United Russia was even lower than that, and Russians appear to be growing weary of Putin and his party after nearly 12 years in office.
    Putin warned that the government might take an even harder line against those who try to influence Russia’s political process on behalf of a foreign government.
    He accused the U.S. State Department of spending “hundreds of millions” of dollars in Russia and his government has to “work out ways to protect our sovereignty from outside interference.”
    “We are the largest nuclear power,” Putin said, addressing supporters during a televised meeting. “And our partners have certain concerns and shake us so that we don’t forget who is the master of this planet, so that we remain obedient and feel that they have leverage to influence us within our own country.”
    He said “especially unacceptable is the infusion of foreign money into the electoral process.”

  12. greengiant says:

    Going with a thesis from the very clique that is executing drone wars,  performed renditions,  manufactured evidence,  persecuted whistle blowers?  IP addresses can be spoofed.   Myriad contractors and other state actors are fully capable of doing the same.   And yes,  what Ben wrote.

  13. josh says:

    Hi. Can you clarify this passage?

    “I’m portantly, that statement came out on October 7, so well after the September briefing at which CIA claimed to have further proof of all this.”

    the CIA claimed in September to have further proof of what exactly?  Do you have a source or link?


  14. Matthew Johnson says:

    Good thing Israel does not try to influence our political process. Clinton lost because she was an awful candidate that ran an incompetent campaign. Do you want to know why Clinton lost? Go to all of your facebook posts from the past year. In it I am sure you will see a ton of demonization of republicans. What you won’t find is a positive reason to vote democratic. Democrats had NO positive message to run on. Clinton wanted Trump as an opponent so that she could run a negative campaign. Negative campaigns drive people away from voting decreasing turnout. Democrats need high turnout, they did not get it. They lost. You guys are flailing. Any analysis of this election that does not deal with democratic incompetence is a waste of time. Listening to you guys makes me think Clinton lost because she had bad press. She did not. No democratic candidate in my lifetime has had a more compliant media than Clinton. Hell, Fox News was split on who to endorse. Major news organizations let Clinton campaigner edit news articles. If democrats require better press than that received by Clinton, democrats will never win another election. On top of all this, this new McCarthyism will drive us back to the cold war with disastrous consequences: millions of people dead and trillions of defense dollars thrown down the toilet. Warmongerer John McCain has already announced his intentions to help you out with this.

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