Craig Murray’s Description of WikiLeaks’ Sources

One of the weaknesses of my post on the evidence needed to prove the Russian DNC hack (one I’ll fix when I move it into a page) is that I didn’t include a step where the intelligence community had to dismiss alternative theories. It is not enough to prove that tools associated with Russian intelligence hacked the DNC (whether or not you’re convinced they necessarily are used exclusively by GRU), but you also have to prove that no one else either hacked the known sources of leaked documents or otherwise obtained them. That was particularly important given early reports that FBI wasn’t sure that the documents stolen by hackers presumed to be GRU were the same documents dealt to WikiLeaks.

One alternative theory I know some researchers tested, for example, is whether hackers could have gotten into the accounts of DNC staffers by testing passwords made available by past hacks (of LinkedIn and MySpace, in particular) for reuse. For a while, that definitely seemed like a plausible alternative theory, but ultimately I don’t think it could explain the known evidence.

The most important alternative theory, however, comes from Julian Assange, who has been first intimating and more recently asserting directly that Russians were not his source (even while showing immediate concern that Obama’s hacking review targeted Wikileaks directly). Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has also made such a claim, first in a series of posts on his blog, and at more length in an interview with Scott Horton.

Murray’s interview is well worth the listen, as he has nowhere near the same personal stakes in this story as Assange and — as he makes clear in the interview — because he seems to have had a role in handing over the second batch of emails. Ultimately, his description is unconvincing. But it is an important indication of what he claims to believe (which must reflect what Assange has told him, whether Assange believes it or not). Importantly, Murray admits that “It’s perfectly possible that WikiLeaks themselves don’t know what is going on,” which admits one possibility I’ve always suspected: that whoever dealt the documents did so in a way that credibly obscured their source.

Murray explained that the two sets of documents handed over to Wikileaks came via two different American sources, both of whom had legal access to them.

He describes a lot more about the Podesta emails, of which he said he had “first hand knowledge,” because of something he did or learned on a trip to DC in September. In this interview, he says “The material was already, I think, safely with WikiLeaks before I got there in September,” though other outlets have suggested (with maps included!) that’s when the hand-off happened. In that account, Murray admits he did not meet with the person with legal access; he instead met with an intermediary. That means the intermediary may have made false claims about the provenance.

And even the claims about the provenance don’t make sense. Murray claimed the documents came from someone in the national security establishment, and implied they had come from legal monitoring of John Podesta because he (meaning John) is a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia.

Again, the key point to remember, in answering that question, is that the DNC leak and the Podesta leak are two different things and the answer is very probably not going to be the same in both cases. I also want you to consider that John Podesta was a paid lobbyist for the Saudi government — that’s open and declared, it’s not secret or a leak in a sense. John Podesta was paid a very substantial sum every month by the Saudi government to lobby for their interests in Washington. And if the American security services were not watching the communications of the Saudi government paid lobbyist then the American intelligence services would not be doing their job. Of course it’s also true that the Saudis’ man, the Saudis’ lobbyist in Washington, his communications are going to be of interest to a great many other intelligence services as well.

As a threshold matter, no national security agency is going to monitor an American registered to work as an agent for the Saudis. That’s all the more true if the agent has the last name Podesta.

But that brings us to another problem. John Podesta isn’t the lobbyist here. His brother Tony is. So even assuming the FBI was collecting all the emails of registered agent for the Saudis, Tony Podesta, even assuming someone in national security wanted to blow that collection by revealing it via Wikileaks, they would pick up just a tiny fraction of John Podesta’s emails. So this doesn’t explain the source of the emails at all.

But if we believe that Murray believes this, we know that the intermediary can credibly claim to have ties to American national security.

Horton and Murray go on to discuss how WikiLeaks got the first batch of emails, the ones from DNC. That’s specifically the context where Murray talks about the possibility Assange doesn’t actually know. Though he suggests the leaker is a DNC insider angry about Bernie Sanders’ treatment.

There’s a section on the murdered DNC staffer, which I’m not going to focus on because I find it distasteful. But Murray explains that Assange offered a reward pertaining to his murder because he thought the staffer might be mistaken for the real source, but was not the real source. Which suggests Assange implied to Murray that the documents were directly leaked by someone in a similar position. Again, someone who could pose as a DNC staffer.

Here, Murray states clearly that “Guccifer is not the source for WikiLeaks.” He explains that claim based primarily off the assumption that the Russians would never employ such as buffoon as Guccifer, not direct knowledge. Remember Guccifer stated publicly he had given the documents to WikiLeaks, with no rebuttal from Assange I know of.

In other words, that doesn’t seem to make sense either. And with Assange you are by necessity dealing with documents passed through at least one and in the Podesta email case, perhaps two or more intermediaries. So even assuming the best effort to vet people on Assange’s side, he does have limited resources to do so himself.

One more comment. Murray ends with a description of the reception of the emails that doesn’t make sense at all. He suggests the “mainstream media” ignored concerns about the Clinton foundation (he doesn’t even mention that this coverage might come from the legally FOIAed emails). He says they ignored other details, such as that Donna Brazile gave Hillary a debate question and that the DNC conspired against Bernie. He claims members of the media “colluded” with the Hillary campaign.

I know some people believe these topics should have gotten more attention. Even if you believe these things, though, believing the traditional media didn’t cover them requires a blind spot about the massive Trump corruption they might have been covering instead.

All that neither proves or disproves that Murray believes he got documents from someone in the national security establishment that were legally obtained. It just might explain why he’d believe something that, in this case, makes no sense.

Update: Now Assange is saying his source wasn’t Guccifer. He also snipes about Murray’s comments.

“Craig Murray is not authorized to talk on behalf of WikiLeaks,” Assange said sternly.

 

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

26 replies
  1. lefty665 says:

    If Murray and the CIA are unreliable sources, where do we get reliable information on the DNC/Podesta leaks/hacks?

    The dog that hasn’t barked is the NSA. They have knowledge of who accessed those accounts and from where. Do we infer from that NSA does not have evidence of hacking and therefore leaks are the source(s)?

    Some folks in the intelligence business think that’s the case:

    https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/

    and journalists

    https://theintercept.com/2016/12/14/heres-the-public-evidence-russia-hacked-the-dnc-its-not-enough/

     

     

    • greengiant says:

      Did the Podesta 60,000 emails come from a leak,  a hacked or seized computer, ( user,  server,  backup), with local copies,   a login to his gmail account,  or other  means.   Abedin is said to have over 600,000 emails in local copy on Weiner’s laptop.   Several DNC staffers were reading Podesta’s gmail for him,  they may well have local copies as Abedin did of Clinton’s email.    Like Mark Ames, I think this needs to be viewed from at least one angle from a viewframe with the tip of the iceberg of  (Ukraine XXX)/Clinton/Biden/Kerry/(Andrea Chalupa)/WaPo/Propornot vs.   Mantafort/(Ukraine ZZZ)/Putin   another with the view of “DC Leaks” and “Gucifer 2.0”.

      http://www.alternet.org/media/anonymous-blacklist-promoted-washington-post-has-shocking-roots-ukrainian-fascism-eugenics-and

      Plenty of room for analysis.   My take is that Trump’s “team” was also a recipient of the Podesta email’s independent of Wikileaks.   This would be the beauty of either Watergate style hubris or a “false flag” operation to toss illegally obtained information into the Trump camp.

      • lefty665 says:

        Wish half as much attention had been paid to the content of the emails as to how they were obtained and released. Content shows inside Dem operations as arrogant and corrupt. Whoever obtained them and released them deserves the nation’s thanks.

        From Wall Street staffing Obama’s cabinet to the DNC rigging the primaries for Hillary it is a sordid tale. I have worked political campaigns and do understand the level of emotions and hyperbole that show up in emails. What we see in the DNC and Podesta emails is a long history from the selling out of  “Change We Can Believe In” through the primaries earlier this year where Sanders got 46% of the vote despite a corrupt DNC serving equally corrupt elite anointed candidate Hillary.

        It is my hope the elite Dems get their heads out of their bubble butts and embrace the reality that their chosen candidate was terrible and ran an equally terrible campaign. How terrible you ask? So terrible that America elected Donald F#$%^&ing Trump instead. That’s terrible.  It wasn’t Sanders, Comey, Russia, or Greens, it was Hillary and her campaign that lost the election pure and simple. The nation and world now have to live with the result. Thanks Dems, thanks for nuttin’.

        It is past time to purge the party (perhaps Trump can arrange time in Siberian re-education camps for the elites and DLCers) and re-embrace New Deal roots. As of January 20th Dems have no national offices, minorities in Congress, less than 20 Governorships, and 900 fewer state legislative seats than 8 years ago. How low do they have to go before they get a clue?

        We’re seeing precious few signs of progress so far. With leaders like Chuck “the Senator from Wall St.” and “Netanyahoo’s Poodle” Schumer and the ancient Pelosi/Hoyer team in the House the prospects are dim and dimmer. Maybe the Dems could trade in their donkey mascot for the Cheshire Cat. If they don’t change for real, soon there will be nothing left but the smile.

         

  2. bevin says:

    Three things:

    1/ It is hard to judge evidence that is never presented. No evidence of Russian involvement has been presented.

    2/ Whoever released these emails was performing a public service. For which we should be grateful.

    3/ No country’s governments have intervened in foreign elections on anything like the scale that the US has. There has hardly been an election in the world, during the past seventy years, in which the US government has not intervened. As a Socialist I have always been conscious of this influence of the US Embassy.

    The textbook case was Italy in 1948, about which Arthur Miller wrote in Dissent, so far as I can recall, I have a copy of the magazine, which also has a review of an Ayn Rand meeting in Manhattan, somewhere.

    As to Russia- the interventions to save Yeltsin’s appalling regime in the 1990s were openly boasted of at the time. Putin’s most recent election victories have been in the face of open US opposition led by the Ambassador in Moscow!

    Let us not even talk about the regime changes carried out by the US without electoral interventions.

    As I have said before what I cannot understand is why anyone would imagine that Putin would not want Clinton, corrupt, inept, compromised and a bar to that sloughing off of the DLC crucial to any rebirth of the Democratic Party, as President.

    It is Trump, an unknown quantity, that he fears.

    Oh and please don’t tell me that Trump is a conscious agent of the Russians. Please.

  3. bloopie2 says:

    The Intercept has a good takedown of the so-called “evidence”.  None of it, it shows, is really convincing to the effect that the Russian government did this–there are alternative explanations for everything.  As noted herein, no solid proof has been presented, only things that “add up” if you look at them one way and not the other.  “The U.S. intelligence community must make its evidence against Russia public if they want us to believe their claims. The integrity of our presidential elections is vital to the country’s survival; blind trust in the CIA is not.”  Full stop.

  4. bevin says:

    This how Matt Pepe puts it at the IHT and Counterpunch:
    “…..The most grievous case was in post-war Italy, when a Socialist-Communist coalition was dominating the polls and set to win the upcoming elections. The CIA mounted an all-out campaign to subvert the popular will by donating millions to opposition parties; forging documents that included personal and sexual details to make party members look bad; organizing letter writing campaigns from Italian Americans encouraging Italians not to vote for leftist parties; broadcasting radio propaganda featuring Italian American stars like Frank Sinatra; and threatening that in the case of a Communist victory that American aid would be cut off.

    “The U.S. has even been involved in interfering in elections in Russia itself. In 1994, when Boris Yeltsin’s approval rating was standing at a dismal 6 percent, American political strategists began providing advice that would help Yeltsin to overcome his Communist opponent. The American advisors from a San Francisco firm had suspicious connections to Bill Clinton, and while they did not admit involvement by the U.S. administration, they admitted their work was “made available to the Clinton White House….”

  5. JB says:

    Would WikiLeaks be willing to compromise it’s hard-earned reputation by

    making false statements?  I doubt it.

  6. Chromex says:

    Lobbyist registration legal requirements  are broad and all-encompassing. It may be that Tony is an actual lobbyist for the Saudis and his brother does little or no work for them, But that does not mean he would necessarily escape registration requirements. It does not mean he  would be required to register either, but it is more than just possible. During my years as an attorney I was often required to register as a lobbyist for certain clients despite the fact that I did not lobby for them. I remain skeptical at the thought the Russian intelligence hacked- even though  if Putin himself had done with Assange at his side, I would not consider exposure of truth as rising to the level of “interference”.  BTW I am not a Trump supporter, did not vote for Trump and would not under any circumstances do so. To me all the fuss over this and “fake news” ( which the MSM has been generating since time immemorial see eg, Berke Breathed’s many takedowns in Bloom County of the 1980s)is the last desperate ploy of the center-right dems who are loath to let go. In the media’s and public’s wholesale swallowing of these stories and their resulting hashtags and memes, you have more than enough proof that the voting American public is dumb enough to fall for Trump as well.

  7. martin says:

    What a fascinating,  online, week by week, chapter by chapter, blockbuster story. I really like the fact, that unlike books, we can’t even see how many chapters there are, nor are able to peek at the final chapter, which makes my spine tingle with anticipation for tomorrows revelations. I mean…this is even better than Walking Dead! Moreover, there’s more than one author too! Kinda like a live, day by day collaboration of people who each submit their own story line, leaving the reader to decide which one they think will connect the dots to the final chapter, of which, at least the first chapter gave a clue to it’s name, Electors.  Just wow. I submit this will win a Pulitzer for best non-fiction of the year! And think of all the ramifications that will create spin-offs and possible 2nd and 3rd generation re-du’s!  Someone is gonna make a killing on the publishing rights too! Not to mention creating JOBS for people like…oh, I don’t know..prosecutors? Journalists! FBI people!..god the list is endless!! All I know is I now wake up every morning with a smile on my face, knowing today’s episode won’t end up with a preview of the Series of episodes that won’t be available for a fucking year. Yahoooeee.  Man, I can’t wait to re-watch the whole kit and kabootal on Netflix too. Just think of nightly binge watching for hours!! This will make Ripper Street look like Howdie Doodie Time!

    note to self.. stock up on Popcorn.

    ps..eat your heart out House of Cards!!!

  8. martin says:

    sheeezus, now that I think about it…holy moly! Just think of all the plots, scenes, subjects…wow.  Fake news. Political and Foreign Intrigue! Hackers! Emails! The debates, election and nutjob candidates! Twitter!! Blogs!! Pizzagate.. child porno.. guns! Wikileaks! Julian Assange! News publications!!  CIA!! FBI!! NSA!! Nutjob Military and Wallstreet Cabinet appointees!! Racist appointees!! McCarthy era intimidation!! The alt-right!!  Campaign manager fights!! Guccifer2!! Russian involvement!! Democracy at stake!!! Recounts!!! Suits!!!  Election rigging!! Lies upon lies upon lies!! Ambassadors!!  The State Dept.!! Surveillance!! James Comey!!..  Congress!!!  The White House!!  Clinton Foundation!! Trumps Bidnesses!! China!! Taiwan!! WAR!! Transition Team nutjobs!! Emailgate!! Weiner!! Sex!!  …it’s got it ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Man..this story will redefine the word…BLOCKBUSTER!!!!  It’ll make TRILLIONS!!!  Talk about a journalists wetdream!!..wait…  er… umm..

     

    naw. I must be dreaming.  No one would believe it.  You couldn’t  make this shit up in a thousand..no..make that a MILLION YEARS.  Ok… nevermind.

    carry on.

    ps. Insert two rolling eyes and double face palm smileys here.

  9. Jay says:

    1. Craig Murray was initially denied a visa for his September trip to the US. Maybe now we know why.

    2. Of course Assange would deny Guccifer was the source; Guccifer is in prison for hacking. Guccifer 2.0, an unrelated hacker, claims to have hacked the DNC.

    3. A forensics team at CrowdStrike determined that the hacks originated from ISPs associated with Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. Some of the hacks used cyrillic keyboards and the real-time adjustments made during the hack occurred from users in the Moscow time zone. Guccifer 2.0 is the bear team. You can read about their previous exploits by googling them; their actions are tied to the Kremlin’s wishes.

    4. Malcolm Nance wrote a book about this two months before the election, called “The Plot to Hack America.” He was the first on the scene and every article I’ve seen since then is a re-write of his brief book. The only news the recent NY Times article had, was that a “senior intelligence community” member confirmed it. At any rate I recommend reading that book.

    (Edit):

    5. Now I think of it, it would be trivially easy for an intelligence agency to use an English-speaking cutout to deliver files to wikileaks (It wasn’t the Russians!). It would be equally easy for them to bump off a junior DNC member on the streets of DC; they say the job looked professional. FSA isn’t squeamish about murdering on foreign soil.

    • emptywheel says:

      Funny that you think Nance was first on this story as I’ve been writing about it since before his book. Also note that Nance endorsed a FAKE discrediting of WL, without realizing that the Podesta emails with the real content were about to come out.

      Also, you’re being pedantic about shorthand, not making an actual point about Guccifer [oh sorry I have to say Guccifer 2 with you because you’re a pedant]. As I’ve described, the Guccifer evidence is the weakest part of the public evidence here. It now appears likely a lot of the “sloppiness” of Guccifer was really more deception.

      • Jay says:

        You don’t realize, but I’m a fan of you and your work here, though I don’t come here perhaps as often as I should. Though I don’t agree with him all the time, I know Nance and have to say he’s a very bright guy. When it comes to assessing espionage phenomena, my experience has been that you can seldom identify anything with absolute certainty, just degrees of certainty; the most important question to ask is: Why? I agree–there appears to be a lot of deception tactics going on here. Why would State balk at giving Murray a visa, then have the FBI let him slip away long enough to receive materials for WikiLeaks? If there truly was a US source who met with Murray, would not the FBI already know about it?

  10. greengiant says:

    Jay:

    Oxymoronic that the Neoliberal fake news “the russians did it” is resourced through the Neoliberal “Propornot” conduit Wapo.   More background here http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a49791/russian-dnc-emails-hacked/  on the Guccifer 2.0 DC Leaks Neo Liberal Ukranian play.

    Not sure why the AP,slate, facebook,twitter, and all have jumped on the Propornot bandwagon.    Fake news is gold to the dataminers.   It identifies the weak minded who allow their hopes and fears to direct their thoughts and actions.   Is the end game just death to all but the so owned main stream media?

    The Democrats are in very very deep ruts.   A few years ago I talked to a congressman’s chief of staff.   He had no thoughts of how mortgage broker fraud or mortgage service fraud or investment bank fraud could have impacted his constituents.   “They were just too greedy,  overextended or had bad luck” to explain 5 million repossessions and no prosecutions under the Obama DOJ.

    Anything CrowdStrike could find would be singularly incompetent script boys.   The one set of click bait emails I looked at were either IP spoofed or sent simultaneously from hacked computers.   better yet is the rental of cloud computers from Bezos with their dynamic IP addresses that are only traceable by professionals.   Like really,  are you going to send click bait from the University of Kiev computer science department in March of 2014?

    So why the fake news?   You are not going to convince 63 million Trump voters or more than one of the 306 Trump Electors,  you are not going to convince the Sanders supporters.   You are not going to convince some fraction of Clinton voters.   Causus Belli?

    I think the most mileage would be from investigating how Eric Prince and Giuliani were front running Wikipedia,  or the crimes past, present and future of Trump and his cabinet.  You had better hurry,  Steve Bannon has a new reality for us.

  11. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Objection:  completely assumes facts not in evidence.  Converse likely – ‘collect it all’.

     

    As a threshold matter, no national security agency is going to monitor an American registered to work as an agent for the Saudis.

  12. seedeevee says:

    “As a threshold matter, no national security agency is going to monitor an American registered to work as an agent for the Saudis.”

     

    That reads unbelievably.

  13. Syd says:

    Aside from casting aspersions and nit-picking, the only way it could be an outside hack and not an inside leak is if both Assange and Murray are lying. The CIA and the rest of the US intelligence apparatus of course never lie, especially when huge increases in their budget and trillions to be spent on weapons depend on whipping up a new cold war.

    No it’s far more plausible that Assange is lying because Emptywheel psychoanalysts have determined that he is an ego-maniac who can never be trusted and Craig Murray too is somehow unable to deal with truth. Infact, they are two of the only people who have first-hand knowledge of the leak, and are naturally being elliptical in their statements because they are sworn not to betray the identity of their sources. Both are honest people doing work of the most laudable kind,  one publishing things we need to know that are wrongly kept hidden and the other helping whistleblowers get what they know to the public at minimal risk. They are the ones who should get the benefit of the doubt, not the security state and its MSM enablers.

    • emptywheel says:

      Nothing I’ve said here says they’re lying. It says that the cut-out Murray met credibly passed as someone with NatSec ties.

  14. Joanne Leon says:

    Rare for me to disagree with your analysis. But I think you’re trying way too hard to discredit this, and not that convincingly.  I find it puzzling too and unlike most emptywheel analysis. Maybe there is some good reason for it that you can’t or won’t talk about?  For example, I would have appreciated a more detailed argument on why nobody would monitor a Podesta, rather than a “threshold matter” assertion with no explanation.

    Also, why not quote Assange and let people decide for themselves rather than characterize his response as “sniping”? Assange said he wasn’t touching it. Which could mean more than one thing, especially given his extreme discomfort in giving any specifics about his sources.

    The stories about FBI threats to leak, and other stories about a group of people from multiple agencies leaking, have been prolific, for months.  I don’t understand why a whistleblower or rebellion of sorts isn’t just as likely, in fact more likely, than a Russian hack.  Ray McGovern vouched for Craig Murray’s story today on Crosstalk. Murray clarified that he didn’t transfer the data itself but instead played “a small part” in the exchange. For instance, maybe he got and relayed an encryption password, or some other part of a multi-phased exchange, just as one possibility. Thought that would be  more than a “small part.”

    • emptywheel says:

      I’ve added the Assange quote. Thanks for suggesting.

      My point still stands. Murray an actual human he believes to be Nat Sec related. That’s fine. That in no way rules out that someone being a Russian mole.

  15. Glorious Bach says:

    I agree, Joanne Leon, the post lacked the inclusive and robust analysis of which Emptywheel is usually a master. I also second your point: quote Assange, don’t characterize what he said.

    Emptywheel’s work is so solid and important, that I hesitate a little for criticizing it. Still, it’s dispiriting to encounter elsewhere the lemming-run that this controversy is generating. Endless faith-based reports, evidence-free pronouncements which open with a verbal genuflection to the intel forces–a perjurer, a torture-defender, and the FBI. Emptywheel is a tonic and, I’m certain, will update as we go along.

  16. Brenda Koehler says:

    I have lurked here for a long time, and before that, when the site was on firedoglake, and I value the writing of emptywheel immensely as expressive of one of the very best thinkers on the net, but I do agree with Joanne Leon and Glorious Bach here.

  17. Sam says:

    Oh, come on. Wikileaks has a spotless record when it comes to the authenticity of their publications, but everyone knows that they indulge in a bit of disinformation as to sources. Why the hell wouldn’t and shouldn’t they? That doesn’t mean I think the Russians fed them documents; that’s a propaganda claim from intelligence and the Democrats. It does mean I don’t deeply interpret everything they say or imply about sources.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes yes, the standards of Wikileaks, run by an accused rapist in an Ecuadoran broom closet, are beyond reproach.

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