By Frank Parlato;
As we reported in part 1 of this series, there has been no evidence publicly presented that Trump friend and adviser, Roger Stone collaborated with Russian cyber spies, or with Guccifer 2.0, an online entity suspected of being operated by Russian Intelligence.
Stone is reportedly under investigation by the FBI.
An analysis of published facts reveals that, despite intense media coverage of Russian interference into the US election as if it were established fact, it is not established based on the actual record.
There is no conclusive, reliably logical evidence that establishes Russian Intelligence is behind the hacks of Democrats’ computers during last year’s presidential election.
There is however an established motive alleged in that Russia desired to avoid a Clinton presidency, which is well established in the public record of both nations.
What has not been well reported is that the victims of the alleged Russian hacking, the Democratic Party, also could have a motive in establishing the narrative of Russian hacking as a ‘verified’ fact.
This curious confluence of the motives of adversaries potentially allows one adversarial party to promote the motives of the other adversarial party while disguising their motives for doing it.
If Russia hacked Democrats’ computers, the argument is elevated to victimization whereby Americans were cheated by the Russians out of Democrat Clinton and now have the suspicious, foreign influenced, Republican Trump.
Absent official Russian hacking, the motive of the Russians are irrelevant.
Last July, following breaches of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network, stolen copies of the emails of seven, top Democratic Party leaders were published on WikiLeaks. Four of these leaders, based on the content of the emails, and their exposure, resigned from their positions.
In October, stolen emails of Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, were leaked, which resulted in another resignation of another top party leader.
The content of the tens of thousands of emails, unintended by the writers to be seen by the public whom they were courting for money and votes, revealed the private business and political side of the national Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign that seemed in conflict with publicly stated goals and oft-stated beliefs.
To what extent this helped Donald Trump is unknown.
That five top officials of the party of candidate Clinton were sidelined in the crucial election period, and that many of their correspondents were abashed, and in some cases forced to alter strategies, based on stolen email revelations, may have had as much impact on the result of the election as did the voting public’s revulsion to unflattering revelations to an extent that it actually changed votes.
The US Intelligence Community concluded with a “high level of confidence” –- the cyberattacks were committed by Russian intelligence groups.
The US Intelligence Community uses the term “high level of confidence” to indicate that, while facts solidly support the judgment, “high confidence” judgments still carry a risk of being wrong.
Since it means in effect, “almost certain,” this “high level of confidence” should not be reported as certitude as it has at times in media reports.
The entity that claimed to have committed the attack is Guccifer 2.0, an entity that appears entirely online.
The US Intelligence Community concluded they had “high confidence” that Russia’s military intelligence service, the G.R.U., was operating Guccifer 2.0.
While no one has produced absolute evidence of official Russian-state hacking of the DNC, several actors, who would presumably know, have disavowed Russian involvement. All of these might have motives to lie.
The Russian government denied involvement in the hacking.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the “source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party”.
His associate, Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who claimed he received leaked DNC emails in the USA from an American, said “Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians. The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”
The most recent focus for collaboration with the “enemy” is Stone, who admitted he used Twitter to communicate with Guccifer 2.0.
Stone recently published the Guccifer 2.0 exchange on his website, stonecoldtruth.com.
In this exchange, Guccifer 2.0, appearing through Twitter in the persona of a Romanian hacktivist interested in exposing globalists and fighting the fabled “Illuminati”, communicates in English with Stone.
The exchange, which can be judged by the reader, are not evidence of collusion, based on the plain language of the exchange, which commenced in mid-August, after the first DNC leak, and concluded before the second leak in October.
In making their assessments of Guccifer 2.0 and Russian hacking of the DNC, the US Intelligence Community relied on private computer security firms, particularly CrowdStrike, who was retained by the DNC to determine the nature of the intrusion, eject the intruder and ascertain the identity of the intruder.
The DNC, reportedly, was breached by phishing, where emailed links to ‘counterfeit’ domains, with misspelled names, which, when clicked by the victim, infect with malware that is programmed to communicate from the victim’s computer to the hacker’s IP address.
Crowdstrike, working for the DNC, discovered that the hacker left forensic clues which could be called ‘Russian fingerprints’.
The malware found on DNC computers is said to be used by two groups believed “with a high level of confidence” to be Russian intelligence units codenamed Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. An IP address and a link used in the phishing is believed to be associated with Fancy Bear.
Additionally, in a file leaked by Guccifer 2.0 to the media, cyber researchers found code in Cyrillic, the alphabet used for the Russian language, and the hacker, perhaps clumsily, left behind a curious moniker, ‘Felix Edmundovich.’
Edmundovich was the murderous founder of the Soviet secret police.
Another document had code edited in Russian.
Phishing emails were sent using Yandex, the Russian equivalent of Google.
CrowdStrike describes Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear as capable of employing sophisticated techniques to bypass security undetected, consistent with nation-state level capabilities.
This prompted many, including noted writer Sam Biddle, for The Intercept, to question the finding of “Russian fingerprints” that were found on breached documents.
Quoting CrowdStrike’s description of the capabilities of Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, to cast doubt on the conclusion that the hackers are Russian Intelligence cyber spies, Biddle rhetorically asked, “Would a group whose ‘tradecraft is superb’ with ‘operational security second to none’ really leave behind the name of a Soviet spy chief imprinted on a document it sent to American journalists? Would these groups really be dumb enough to leave Cyrillic comments on these documents? Would these groups that ‘constantly [go] back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels’ get caught because they precisely didn’t make sure not to use IP addresses they’d been associated with before? It’s very hard to buy the argument that the Democrats were hacked by one of the most sophisticated, diabolical foreign intelligence services in history, and that we know this because they screwed up over and over again.”
WikiLeaks recent publication of CIA-related documents suggest the CIA has the capability of creating a false path of evidence by planting “fingerprints” of someone else – from a rank amateur to a talented rogue cyber criminal unaffiliated to any nation officially, to national intelligence cyber spies, leaving the same kind of forensic clues that seems to have led the Intelligence Community to conclude a “high level” of confidence of Russian hacking.
The CIA – according to WikiLeaks documents – maintain a library of foreign malware and foreign hacking tools to replicate China, Russia, Iran and other hackers.
“If the “CIA could plant false leads in the data, other actors, both government and private, could do so also,” investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran Contra stories for the AP and Newsweek, wrote for Consortium News.
If there is something conclusive, The Intelligence Community has not produced it. Neither have they addressed whether Russian or non-Russian hackers, including the CIA, have the ability to mimic the forensic clues left behind on the DNC computers, and documents, to misdirect the identity of the hackers.
Nor have they addressed whether sophisticated Russian hackers such as Fancy Bear could have escaped detection by masking their ‘fingerprint’ clues.
The presence of so many fingerprints, while avoiding the central question of misdirection, casts doubt on the Intelligence Community’s “high level” of confidence that the hackers are Russian Intelligence.
The Intelligence Community appears to have relied, curiously, for their conclusion of “high confidence” largely on fingerprints found in part by the private security company hired by the victim, the DNC, who might have a motive in promoting the Russian hackers narrative as fact.
The Intelligence Community has bundled Russian fingerprints with the Russian motive: The Russians did not want Clinton elected president; they wanted Trump.
This appears on the surface to be an example of one of the common mistakes of careless investigators: confirmation bias, or utilizing only those clues that support a preconceived theory of a certain target committing a certain crime.
This brings, to the analytical examiner, a renewed examination of the question of Stone, his contact with Guccifer 2.0, and the parading of Guccifer 2.o as definitely Russian and Stone as a suspected collaborator as additional “evidence” of Russian hacking and hence Russian interference with the US election.
Stone denied involvement in the hacking, and even awareness of Guccifer 2.0 being Russian.
Stone is expected to prompt the Intelligence Community to release conclusive evidence of Russian hacking beyond forensic fingerprints clumsily laid as clues before creating international tensions between Russia and the USA.
Stone has led the discussion of motives, which is that no one benefits more from media reporting “Russians hacked the computers of Democrats” than Democrats.
Stone has argued it has energized their base, offers an excuse for their “better candidate losing the election,” provides a red herring to distract from what is revealed in the emails, which militates against the better candidate argument, and provides, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to weaken the incipient presidency of Donald Trump by suggesting collusion with Russian hackers committed by his allies and friends, perhaps Trump himself.
With better evidence, this could be fortuitous for Democrats’ political hopes, but, not necessarily in the nation’s best interest.
A parallel between the leaked Democrats’ emails, which showed a private agenda far different than the public agenda, emerges in what Stone is bringing to light: The Democrats may have a devious motive for promoting the narrative of Russian hacking, whether true, false, or uncertain, a reckless disregard for truth, ironically similar to the behavior exposed by the hacked emails, whether hacked by Russians, or insiders in the Democratic Party or someone else.
Russian Intelligence may have hacked the DNC computers. It is not proven. The Intelligence Community may have conclusive evidence of Russian hacking. They have not shown it.
Meantime, Roger Stone is the target. Among a handful of President Donald Trump’s associates, he is under intense scrutiny for possible links to Russia during the presidential race.
Most targets remain silent under the influence of such perilous scrutiny.
Federal agents have been known to pretend investigative secrecy, while leaking information to the media; they have unlimited resources; are known to manipulate grand juries, use misdirection, have the ability to lie with impunity – in the name of national interests, or not, yet may cause a citizen to be charged with a felony if agents decide that citizen lied to them. A remarkable double standard not dissimilar, as Stone says, to those revealed in DNC emails leaked by hackers unknown.
Stone has been remarkably outspoken. In the spirit of the defiant patriot, Stone says he’s retained two attorneys to explore whether he can compel the government to ‘‘either charge me or admit they have no case whatsoever.”
As “There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance,” as Whitman said, and, while it may be true the DNC was hacked by Russians, or maybe not, what may be more important is to witness Stone’s spirit of defiance, a spirit of faith in his innocence.
How many Americans under similar scrutiny would act the role of the defiant, or, as it was once called, the Spirit of ’76.
Stay tuned for Part 3