As part of what many are calling a “New Cold War,” the mainstream media and establishment politicians have for months insisted the 2016 presidential election was skewed by Russian interference, some broadening the allegation to claim the president colluded with a foreign intelligence service. Two recent developments, however, may have finally laid the case to rest.
Late last month the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) organization issued a blockbuster memo directly challenging the findings of a key January Intelligence Community assessment that concluded the Russians interfered in the 2016 election. The memo cited an independent investigation which found evidence inconsistent with Russian culpability, instead suggesting an insider leak.
“Forensic studies of ‘Russian hacking’ into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia,” the memo said in its executive summary [emphasis in original].
Most important among the investigation’s findings is the fact that DNC files were first copied to a system with Eastern timezone settings in effect, raising the likelihood that the transfer took place within the United States, somewhere near the East Coast, not remotely from overseas. Moreover, the high speed of the file transfer from the DNC system suggests the transfer had to be done by somebody with either physical access to the system, or access to a LAN network tied to it.
“The DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an internet capability for a remote hack,” the VIPS memo said, which is the only plausible avenue by which a Russian hacker could obtain the data [emphasis in original]. The conclusions of the independent investigation are supported by several former intelligence agents and cyber experts, including Skip Folden, a retired IBM Program Manager for Information Technology US and NSA Technical Director-turned-whistleblower Bill Binney.
Finally, the independent investigation cited by the VIPS memo concludes there were two separate file transfers from the DNC systems: the first likely an insider making illicit access, but the second—which would eventually find its way into the hands of “Gufficer 2.0,” the actor with alleged ties to Russia who claimed to have hacked the DNC—was copied to an external storage device and fabricated “telltale signs” of Russian involvement were artificially inserted into the data.
Earlier this month, however, a new piece of the puzzle emerged which corroborates what was previously maligned as a conspiracy theory: according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the murdered 27-year-old DNC data programmer Seth Rich was indeed the man behind the DNC leak.
In leaked audio of a phone conversation between Hersh and Ed Butowsky, a high-profile political donor and GOP functionary who took interest in the Seth Rich story, Hersh, citing a FBI report, states categorically that Rich leaked the DNC material to Wikileaks.
“[Rich] had submitted a series of documents—of emails—some juicy emails from the DNC […] All I know is that he offered a sample, an extensive sample, you know, I’m sure dozens of emails and said ‘I want money,’” Hersh said. “Then later Wikileaks did get the password—[Rich] had a Dropbox, a protected Dropbox, which isn’t hard to do, I mean you don’t have to be a wizard IT, you know, he was certainly not a dumb kid.”
Hersh said he didn’t actually see the FBI report in question with his own eyes, but had a trusted source relay its contents.
“I have somebody on the inside, you know I’ve been around a long time, and I write a lot of stuff,” Hersh told Butowsky. “I have somebody on the inside who will go and read a file for me. This person is unbelievably accurate and careful, he’s a very high-level guy and he’ll do a favor. You’re just going to have to trust me.”
The veteran reporter, however, does not believe Rich was murdered for his involvement in the leak, stating the staffer lived in a “rough neighborhood” and on a street where several similar violent crimes had been carried out in the past.
Murdered for what he knew or not, perhaps the strangest aspect of the story is what happened soon after the Hersh-Butowsky audio was leaked. Despite the existence of an audio transcript of the conversation which very clearly captures what was said, Hersh bizarrely denies having made any of the above claims about Rich.
When the GOP donor emailed Hersh to plead with him to publicly come forward with what he knew, the journalist denied up and down, accusing Butowsky of having a bad memory:
EB: I am curious why you haven’t approached the house committee telling them what you were read by your FBI friend related to Seth Rich that you in turn read to me. Based on all your work, it appears that you care about the truth. Even though, as you said you couldn’t get a second, shouldn’t you tell them so they could use their powers to determine the truth?
SH: Ed–you have a lousy memory…I was not read anything by my FBI friend..I have no firsthand information and I really wish you would stop telling others information that you think I have…please stop relaying information that you do not have right…and that I have no reason to believe is accurate…
EB: I know it isn’t first hand knowledge but you clearly said, my memory is perfect, that you had a friend at the FBI who read / told you what was in the file on Seth Rich and I wonder why you aren’t helping your country and sharing that information on who it was?
One possible explanation behind Hersh’s denial is that he may be working on a story pertaining to the Rich case and doesn’t want to publicize anything before it’s finished, which could potentially spook sensitive sources and compromise the story.
Regardless, what Hersh said cannot be taken back or simply waved away. Not only does it confirm long-held suspicions that the staffer had something to do with the leak (WikiLeaks even offered a $20,000 reward for information that would lead to the conviction of Rich’s killer), it is very consistent with the conclusions of the VIPS memo published last month.
Further corroboration comes from retired British diplomat and whistleblower Craig Murray, who claims to have personally made contact with the leaker, or a go-between, on behalf of WikiLeaks in a wooded area near American University in Washington D.C. While he not have met the leaker himself, Murray insists the source of the leaks was a disgruntled DNC employee, not a hacker.
The retired diplomat’s claim initially emerged in a Daily Mail story published in December 2016, but Murray told radio host Scott Horton the newspaper misquoted him, making it look like Murray played a bigger part in the leak than he really did.
“The material, I think, was already safely with WikiLeaks before I got there in September,” Murray said. “I had a small role to play.”
While the Russian hacking narrative has run into several roadblocks and inconvenient facts in recent months, the pieces of an alternative explanation appear to be falling neatly into place.
A working theory: A DNC staffer angry over the underhanded treatment afforded Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took it upon himself to access DNC servers and attempt to obtain any information that could hurt the Clinton campaign.
When the DNC discovered what had happened, unknown actors quickly worked to preempt the insider leak with one of their own, except this leak would be laced with fake Russian “fingerprints,” implicating our nuclear-armed rival in election interference and stoking a months-long witch hunt. The doctored data would be relayed through a foreign intermediary, the infamous Guccifer 2.0, creating a gap of plausible deniability between the DNC and the alleged Russian hacker.
Further, the DNC would hire a cyber security firm, CrowdStrike, to “investigate” and rubber-stamp the Russia accusation—mind you, a cyber security firm with a track record of shoddy work (particularly in blaming Russia for cyber attacks) and a Russian ex-pat co-founder who also happens to be a senior fellow at a Russophobic establishment think tank that’s given long-standing support to not only Democrats, but Hillary Clinton specifically.
The DNC then prevented the FBI from accessing the DNC servers directly, forcing all subsequent intelligence assessments to rely on CrowdStrike’s untrustworthy analysis fingering Russia.
What began as a disparate set of data points is slowly adding up into a coherent alternative account; one that has nothing to do with foreign hacking, but instead an irate American fed up with the Big Corruption ubiquitous within his country’s major political parties. The staffer’s act of conscience would be parlayed by less benevolent forces into a scare story used to bludgeon a president who, during his campaign, consistently spoke of improving relations with Russia.
Indeed, what has been termed the New Cold War is equally sensational and dishonest as the first, and is accompanied by what Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo calls a “New McCarthyism.”
“[T]he new McCarthyism underscores the cynicism, opportunism, and downright viciousness of our political class, and especially the media, which has done nothing to question and everything to bolster the Russophobic propaganda put out there by self-serving lobbyists and politicians,” Raimondo observed. “It truly is a sickening sight, made all the more so by the self-professed ‘liberalism’ of those who are in the vanguard of this revolting trend.”
The same trend is behind the attempt to paint Russia as an aggressor and smear the president as an agent of the Kremlin. Powerful interests both within and outside government—from sore losers looking for an excuse for their electoral loss, to regional rivals who wish to harm Russian interests, to defense contractors looking to gin up business—have lined up to make detente impossible.
[This article was originally published at The Daily Sheeple.]