Who's Hillary's Hacker and Why?

The Twitter crowd has devoted a lot of bandwith to the theory that the WikiLeaks dump on the DNC is a Russian operation. They may well be right, although I wouldn’t take Joshua Micah Marshall as a source for the time of day—he slandered me and my daughter without so much as checking anything. Here is a critique on his Trump/Putin claims. Nor do I think Franklin Foer --who I like--is a major scholar of intelligence. Still, it may be correct. Putin may be meddling in our politics, as he has meddled in European politics lo these many years.

And then?

And then you have to check. And get the context right. And ask many questions.

The penetration of the DNC is almost certainly part of the larger story of Hillary’s use of an insecure private server. That server was apparently first discovered when “Guccifer” penetrated Sidney Blumenthal’s email account. He had many exchanges with Hillary, and Guccifer found them. That led him to Hillary. And once you’re in Hillary’s server, you can be sure that there are links to the DNC.

Guccifer operated via an “anonymous” server in Russia. I don’t know if he was working for a Russian intelligence service, or a Russian mafia, or for himself, or for some foreign government or intel service or just to make money. The Feds may know more, since he’s now in jail in Virginia, but then again they may not. They seem not to have known about Guccifer’s hacking activities in the first place, and I know people who have brought data about his activities to the FBI, who told me that the Bureau was surprised.

I seem to recall that the FBI took many years to put together its own computer network.

In any event, I suspect the Russians weren’t surprised at Guccifer’s activities—which they could have found regardless of any working relationship with him—and they would certainly have exploited the data.

Now there’s Guccifer 2.0, who says he’s the source of the WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails. He too uses a Russia-based server. He too claims to be Romanian, as is Guccifer One (although his Romanian isn’t all that good). Who is he? We don’t know.

We do know that the two Guccifers have produced a lot of accurate information, first about Hillary’s “very careless” handling of secrets, second about her private network, including the infamous Blumenthals (Sidney was judged so toxic that the Obama White House nixed her plans to make him a State Department official), and also about the activities of the Clinton Foundation.  We also know that at least some of the DNC material is accurate. If not, the leadership would not have been purged.

I think we’re still quite some distance from knowing if the DNC files have been manipulated, which is important. If this is a Russian “disinformation” op, I’d expect them to have inserted some lies into the material. But so far, the documents seem real and untouched.

Then there’s the question of  “evidence.” Some of those certain that this is a Russian operation point to fragments of “metadata” in the files that lead back to Russia. But as Legal Insurrection argues, surely the Russian intelligence hackers know how to conceal such evidence. So why is it there? Did the Russians screw it up, or did the real hacker want to point us at Moscow?

In other words, could it be a false flag operation?

I don’t know, nor do those so very confident this is all Putin’s doing. It’s a very complicated counterintelligence problem, and such problems are very hard to solve. I doubt that technical analysis of the Guccifer leaks will produce the answer, nor do I trust those who base their conclusions on the logic of the situation. Yes, Trump says friendly things about Putin sometimes, but he says many things that he gainsays later on. And remember that Secretary of State Clinton approved Russian control over a chunk of the American uranium industry and that there is plenty of  Russian money in the Clinton Foundation accounts.

So for me, it’s an open question. We may need a reliable Russian defector to answer it.

I expect foreign governments, criminals and just plain hackers to try to penetrate our cybernetworks. When they succeed, they can use the data in many ways that threaten our national security. Russia is certainly engaged in this activity, but it’s one of many, not the only one.

More to come, I’m sure.