The leak of 20,000 emails from key members of the Democratic National Committee has stirred up more anger from Bernie Sanders supporters, and forced the resignation of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Yes, those DNC staffers are responsible for what they wrote and must deal with the consequences.
But everyone should also be asking, “who is stealing private emails and what is their motivation in doing so?”
Because if it can happen to the DNC, it can happen to you.
The FBI is now actively investigating the leaks saying, “a compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
Here’s what we know thus far:
Last month, the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike announced that two separate Russian intelligence groups had gained access to the DNC network. One group, FANCY BEAR or APT 28, gained access in April. The other, COZY BEAR, (also called Cozy Duke and APT 29) first breached the network in the summer of 2015. The cybersecurity company FireEye said about APT 29 in 2014, “We suspect the Russian government sponsors the group because of the organizations it targets and the data it steals.” It’s the same group that hit the State Department, the White House and the civilian email of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
An individual calling himself Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be behind the DNC email breach, and metadata on documents provided in his blog post contained Russian signatures. “Given the evidence combined with everything else, I think it’s a strong attribution to one of the Russian intelligence agencies,” said Dan Goodin from Ars Tecnica.
Enter WikiLeaks, the publishing platform served to legitimize Guccifer’s information dump.
WikiLeaks came to international prominence in 2010 when it released online a quarter million classified State Department cables that had been stolen by Army Private Bradley Manning. It was a huge black eye for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and unleashed a global scandal.
Clinton called on President Obama to prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who remains confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in downtown London. Sweden is also seeking his extradition on multiple charges of sexual misconduct.
Through the years Assange has developed a cozy relationship with the Russian government. He once hosted a talk show on RT, an English-language news network created by Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote the Kremlin line abroad.
When Edward Snowden fled to Moscow to avoid the long arm of U.S. law enforcement, WikiLeaks offered praise to Russia.
We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle–now the war.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013
“WikiLeaks doesn’t seem to care that they are being used as a weapon by unknown parties, instead calling themselves a ‘library of mass education,’ but the rest of us should,” said Nicholas Weaver of Lawfare.
The growing evidence is that the recent WikiLeaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Assange, who is on the far political left, despises Clinton saying that she has made “poor policy decisions,” which have “directly contributed” to the rise of Islamic State. He also faults her support of the Iraq war while she was a U.S. senator. He says there are “a lot more” leaked emails to come that will “significantly damage” her campaign.
- Assange, like Donald Trump, believes former President George W. Bush should have been impeached for taking America into war in Iraq. Both oppose the neo-conservative view of American foreign policy.
- Trump has said of Putin “we would probably get along very well.” He has repeatedly praised Putin’s strength, saying, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know unlike what we have in this country.”
- Putin, who developed a strong dislike for Clinton following her condemnation of Russia’s parliamentary elections in 2011, has returned praise for Trump saying, “He’s a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt. He says that he wants to move to a different level of relations, to a closer, deeper one, with Russia. How can we not welcome that?”
- More consequential for Moscow is Trump’s repeated skepticism about the value and strength of NATO, which formed the pillar of Western Europe and North America’s opposition to the Soviet Union over the past half century.
- On a personal level, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” said Trump’s son, Donald Jr. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
- Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia.
- Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort spent years as the top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister.
- Last week, the Trump team changed the GOP platform on “assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations.” It was about the only thing Trump championed in the platform.
None of this means Trump is controlled by Putin or Russia, or that he’s working with Moscow to damage the Clinton campaign. What it does mean, however, is that Putin has a friend in Trump and would benefit by his presidency.
To recap: Russian intelligence hacked the DNC and is now using WikiLeaks to directly intervene in an American presidential election. This should frighten all Americans — Republican or Democrat — and we should demand that it stop and those responsible be prosecuted.