The Romanian computer hacker who obtained some of Hillary Clinton’s emails after breaking into Sydney Blumenthal’s email account is expected to change his plea guilty this week, after originally pleading not guilty. Marcel Lazar, known as “Guccifer,” was extradited from Romania in March to face multiple U.S. charges related to his unauthorized access into protected computers. It’s not clear which charges he will be pleading guilty to, but there is speculation that the move is part of a deal to cooperate with federal officials on other cases.
Lazar claimed in interviews earlier this month that he easily and repeatedly hacked into then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server in 2013. Some law enforcement sources, however, have subsequently told reporters that investigators found “no sign” that the notorious hacker breached Clinton’s server.
Lazar is scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Wednesday morning for a change of plea hearing, according to court records. A prosecution spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking confirmation that the guilty plea is part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. A defense attorney declined to comment. Such plea deals usually oblige a defendant to assist authorities in all ongoing investigations.
Lazar was indicted in 2014 on nine felony charges stemming from his alleged hack into the emails of several prominent Americans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a relative of former President George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal. A set of Blumenthal’s emails were published online in 2013, disclosing a private email address Clinton used. She later changed the address.
Clinton’s email arrangement is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation, believed to be focused on how email messages deemed classified wound up on her server. Some reports have speculated that Lazar could demonstrate how vulnerable Clinton’s unusual email set-up was to foreign hackers, but it’s unclear how significant that fact would be to a decision about whether to seek criminal charges against Clinton or others involved in creating or using the unofficial email system.
As the email investigation drags on, a group of former officers of the United States intelligence community called on President Obama to put pressure on the FBI and Justice Department to put up or shut up. In an open memorandum, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urged the president “to order Attorney General Loretta Lynch to instruct FBI Director James Comey to wind up a preliminary investigation and tell the country now what they have learned.”
Surely, enough time has passed, and enough material has been reviewed, to permit a preliminary damage assessment. The NSA has the necessary information and should, by now, have shared that information with the FBI. Secretary Clinton’s server in her house in Chappaqua, New York, was not a secured device. Her email address incorporated her initials, “hdr” (apparently for her maiden name, Hillary Diane Rodham). It also included the “clinton” server identity, so it was easy for a hacker to spot.
Anyone with the proper equipment, knowledge and motivation might have been able to obtain access. That is what hackers are able to do, with considerable success, against government servers that are far better protected than the private email server located in her New York State home.
The group wrote in its conclusion: “We believe the American people are entitled to prompt and full disclosure, and respectfully suggest that you ensure that enforcement of laws protecting our national security does not play stepchild to political considerations on this key issue.”