What seemed to merely be a confirmation that the DNC — run by Debbie Wasserman Schultz before she resigned on Sunday — had it out for Bernie Sanders, has turned into a full-blown investigation into whether Russia was behind the email hack and subsequent leak, all to help Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election. Now the FBI has gotten involved in this latest election mess and strongly suspects that Russia is responsible.
According to the Daily Beast, officials with knowledge of the investigation say that the FBI suspects this because of the timing of the leak, because of Trump’s own connections to Russia and President Vladimir Putin and because the emails were then given to Wikileaks, which has an anti-U.S. government bent. The FBI has so far refused to comment on the investigation particulars:
An FBI spokesperson said in a statement Monday that the bureau was investigating the breach but declined to comment on whether political motivation was part of the inquiry. “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,” the spokesperson said.
In Motherboard’s extensive report on the hack, security firm CrowdStrike linked two “advance persistent threats” in the DNC networks to the Russian government. On June 15, a Twitter account called @GUCCIFER_2 leaked stolen DNC documents detailing its Trump opposition research. It leaked other documents over the next month, culminating (so far) in the July 22 leak of those DNC emails complaining about Sanders.
The article details how there is strong evidence that the advanced persistent threats or APTs found in the DNC servers are connected to GRU, Russia’s intelligence service. There is also evidence that GRU has been posing as the Guccifer 2.0 account in leaking DNC documents like so:
The evidence linking the Guccifer 2.0 account to the same Russian operators is not as solid, yet a deception operation — a GRU false flag, in technical jargon — is still highly likely. Intelligence operatives and cybersecurity professionals long knew that such false flags were becoming more common. One noteworthy example was the sabotage of France’s TV5 Monde station on 9/10 April 2015, initially claimed by the mysterious “CyberCaliphate,” a group allegedly linked to ISIS. Then, in June, the French authorities suspected the same infamous APT 28 group behind the TV5 Monde breach, in preparation since January of that year. But the DNC deception is the most detailed and most significant case study so far. The technical details are as remarkable as its strategic context.
A foreign government doing this, all to influence important elections is a troubling prospect. But even without the hard evidence, it doesn’t seem hard to guess why Russia would do this, given how stacked the Trump campaign is with people who are connected in some way to the Russian government. As the Daily Beast details:
Officials also noted Trump’s own connections to the Russian government. Putin has publicly praised the nominee, who said he was “honored” by the compliment. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a consultant for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was ousted for his pro-Moscow orientation (and now lives in Russia). One of Trump’s top national security advisers, retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, sat with Putin at a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kremlin-backed media network RT and was paid to give a speech at the event; Flynn later retweeted an anti-Semitic message that called into question any Kremlin-Trump link. Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, recently denounced America’s “often-hypocritical focus on democratization” while in Moscow. And last week, Trump said that he might not come to the aid of U.S. NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression unless they paid what he thinks they owe for Europe’s common defense.
That last sentence is what everybody’s fixating on in terms of why Russia would do something like this. Russia has already invaded Ukraine and could do even more with NATO out of the way. Even anonymous American cybersecurity experts think this is the motive!
If anything, this shows the foreign policy power that Trump already has. He can make a passing remark about taking support away from our allies, and a foreign government who seeks to benefit from that will facilitate a major internet hack to help him out. Whether this would make you even more scared of a Trump presidency, or make you admire him, it shows that the candidate already has a ton of influence, even as a nominee.