According to CNN, the FBI had approached the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July after their servers were allegedly hacked leading to the leak of numerous damaging emails and ultimately to the resignation of several key figures, including chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. While the DNC had originally claimed the FBI had never asked to access the allegedly hacked servers, the FBI states that the DNC had “rebuffed” them and instead had the servers analyzed by a private firm, CrowdStrike, whose report the FBI utilized in their investigation. The DNC has since recanted that the FBI did ask to access the servers, but felt it was of no consequence. According to a senior FBI official, the agency stressed the importance of the investigation.
“The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated. This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.”
Buzzfeed reported the stance of one unnamed DNC source allegedly familiar with the investigation as stating, “I just don’t think that that’s really material or an important thing. They had what they needed.”
This source made the statement prior to the FBI announcement and declined comment afterward.
As detailed in previous articles, Sam Biddle of The Intercept had thoroughly debunked the idea that what Crowdstrike released to the public was in any way sufficient evidence of Russian involvement in the DNC hacks. Previously, I did not have cause to elaborate upon his debunking as simply pointing to the arguments made were more than sufficient. However, this new revelation makes some of the information he has processed of paramount importance.
Biddle points out that Crowdstrike has called APT 28 and 29 — who are not proven to be agents of the Russian government — superb hackers second to none but then manage to finger them “because they screwed up over and over again.” Included in this is that they chose to, completely randomly, edit documents from the user name Felix Edmundovich, a reference to the famous head of a Soviet-era secret police force, in cyrillic. Presumably, this is something the Russians would only do if they intentionally wanted to be caught or which someone else would do if they wanted to frame Russia.
According to the FBI official quoted above, the FBI had no choice but to rely upon CrowdStrike’s report of the alleged DNC hacking; they did not have the choice to go in afterward to do analysis. While Buzzfeed reported that the FBI trusted CrowdStrike’s work to be “generally good” and did not see reason to believe it was inaccurate — despite it obviously being very insufficient — there was nothing to stop CrowdStrike from altering the DNC servers to frame APT 28 and 29 for hacking the servers.
While certain timestamps exist on the metadata used to accuse the Russians, it is not impossible to alter this information. They are just bytes saved locally on the servers without a means of external verification. In fact, How-to-Geek has a guide on precisely how to alter timestamps to do such a hack.
Given that the fingerprints supposedly left by the superb team on DNC servers were so sloppy and comically on the nose, it is a bit more plausible that we have a sloppy framejob rather than a sloppy hack by an elite team of hackers. The DNC did not want the FBI to see the servers, but rather wanted a paid contractor to have sole access.
The concept of the DNC not wanting the federal government have access to their information does not seem like a foreign concept to me given that the person they rigged the primary for was Hillary Clinton. The State Department’s Office of Inspector General did a full report on Clinton’s recordkeeping habits, a scathing report, that was soon buried by FBI Director Comey’s announcement that there would be no criminal prosecution. In the many pages, one learns that Hillary Clinton was paranoid about the government agency she was heading having access to any of the emails she deemed private — she did not want a government record of what she was receiving and sending.
However, that leaves the question of why the DNC would want to frame Russia.
First and foremost, there has been speculation for a while that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered on July 10, 2016, may have been the source for the leaks. WikiLeaks did not release the emails until July 22, however the DNC may have found evidence of information being copied or leaked on the system prior to this date, perhaps from inappropriate access. If such information was on the servers linking Seth Rich to the DNC emails being leaked, the DNC would want that scrubbed regardless or not of whether they had a hand in his untimely demise.
However, we have seen that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have had it out for Russia due to differences in Syria and Ukraine. Russia challenges U.S. hegemony. We have seen a string of events play out pointing at an intensifying confrontation with this old nuclear nemesis. In order to carry out the neoconservative agenda of Clinton and Obama, Russia hacking the DNC, and then Podesta, would be an ideal pretense to furthering conflict, perhaps even open war.
This revelation does not establish as fact that CrowdStrike framed Russia or that the DNC and Democratic Party generally are hiding something. Yet, it raises questions. Why would they choose to pay for an investigation, rather than having a free one performed by a much more competent group than the one they were paying? Why are there holes in their official narrative? It does strengthen the case for a formal investigation into the alleged hacks, as well as a strong reason to not limit the scope of the investigation to whether Russia was involved. We need DNC officials questioned, as well as CrowdStrike employees and management. This story is still unfolding.
We do not have enough information yet to determine what happened to the DNC servers, but we must do a full and unbiased investigation into all possible leads.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]