We Still Don’t Know the Russians Did It

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The phrase, “we know,” appears 19 times in Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in which he leveraged his credibility to convince a coalition of allies to launch a restart of the Gulf War.

“We know that Iraqi government officials . . . have hidden prohibited items in their homes.”

“We know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents.”

“We know,” that a weapons facility called Taji was recently discovered to have an “additional four chemical weapons shells.”

I fell for the Powell’s “we know” statements and I won’t so easily get fooled again. To this day, I wince when I hear the phrase, “we know.”

“We know that Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC and we know that they arranged for a lot of those emails to be released and we know that Donald Trump has shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin,” Hillary Clinton said as long ago as August 2016.

But do we know? Do we know that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s server and released a trove of emails to Wikileaks?

Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller reluctantly has confirmed the Russian collusion hoax was a plot to frame Donald Trump, the question arises: were the Russians also framed?

Seventeen years ago, challenging the assumption that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would draw scorn and mockery until the invading forces failed to corroborate something “we” were supposed to “know.” No doubt I am about to provoke similar scorn. I’ll take the hit. Scorn away. But don’t turn away from these observations.

Clinton Money Is Behind All of These “We Knows”
We did not find out until October 2017 that Hillary Clinton commissioned the Fusion GPS project exploring Trump’s supposed illicit ties to Russia. Fusion GPS paid Christopher Steele to prepare the infamous dossier that alleged that Trump’s lawyer traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, to pay the allegedly Russian hackers to hack the DNC server. Clinton used her law firm, Perkins Coie, to hide the source of the dossier’s funding and to avoid compromising the public image that Christopher Steele was a trusted FBI informant.

Additionally, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, Perkins Coie also hired the contractor who concluded that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC server. Had Clinton been forthcoming about her role in procuring these accusations, I might have more confidence in her assessment.

Clinton made one last desperate grab to use the dossier to steal the election. Just before the Electoral College electors formally cast their votes in December 2016, her campaign manager, John Podesta, told Americans, “We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our election was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump.”

Podesta further supported an effort to give the electors (who do the real voting in the Electoral College) a private “intelligence” briefing to convince them to change their votes and nullify the will of the voters. Podesta clearly hoped the Intelligence Community would “brief” the electors with the Steele dossier that the Clinton campaign secretly commissioned as though it was authentic intelligence from the CIA. Had the plan been carried out, one could imagine a reaction that could have shattered the peace.

The Hacking “Evidence” Hasn’t Been Reviewed Independently
The firm the DNC hired to mitigate the hacking of the DNC server, Crowdstrike, is generally considered a reputable IT security firm. However, it did not follow its own recommendation for attributing the source of a hack. Crowdstrike recommends that clients employ third-party verification. It wrote, “public, independent and objective validation ensures you as a decision-maker are not ‘drinking a vendor’s Kool Aid.’ CrowdStrike is committed to public testing, and regularly and openly submits the CrowdStrike Falcon® platform to third-party tests that are independent, unpaid and performed on a regular basis.”

But,” as noted by a Medium article attributed to “HomeFront Intel,” when the FBI wanted full access to the DNC server so that it could conduct a full forensic investigation, the DNC balked. Instead “… the DNC and CrowdStrike devised a strategy to take the case to the public themselves.” The FBI has since corroborated that the DNC refused to allow the FBI to examine the hacked servers. We shouldn’t blindly trust the assessment blaming the Russians when that assessment is funded by Hillary Clinton and shielded from third-party verification.

National Intelligence Assessments Were Not Well-Supported
The American Intelligence Community prepared three intelligence assessments that publicly accused Russia of “interference” in the election. The first was the “Joint Statement” released October 7, 2016. The report failed to contain a satisfactory evidentiary explanation for the hacking charges against the Russians and was described as “nothing more than a generalized description of ongoing hacking techniques.”

The second was the “Grizzly Steppe,” report which was intended to directly tie Russian hacking to the election. As noted by the Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway, the second report was criticized by cybersecurity experts as “poorly done.” The Forbes article Hemingway cites noted that experts in cyber warfare criticized the supporting evidence: “Jeffrey Carr, author of Inside Cyber Warfare, wrote on Friday that the report ‘adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible’ for the campaign hacks.”

The final report, dated January 6, 2017, contained an eye-popping dissent from the NSA: “We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.” What the hell is “moderate confidence?”

We also just learned that CIA Director John Brennan, who the Washington Post once demanded be fired for spying on Congress and then lying about it, pushed to include the Steele dossier as part of the third assessment. Remember, the dossier critically and incorrectly claimed that Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to pay the hackers. So it’s alarming that the CIA chief would consider using this source in a national intelligence assessment. And it speaks volumes that the CIA director thought he needed to rely on Clinton opposition research instead of using his agency’s own resources.

The DNC Hack Might Have Been an Inside Job
For some time, astute cyber-security professionals have questioned whether the original DNC hack took place as a remote transfer of data or was instead a simple inside-job downloading the information on a thumb drive. The outcry by the liberal media forced the Nation (which published the inside-job hypothesis) to amend its original story with an “editor’s note” that simply restated what the original article said—that the original hack could have been an inside job, or not. The evidence is inconclusive. One reason it’s inconclusive is that the DNC refused to allow third-party assessment of its servers.

Fusion GPS-Connected Actors Were Caught Spoofing Russian Online Trickery
In the 2018 Alabama U.S. Senate election, Democratic Party operatives created social media “bots” designed to simulate the kind of “Russian election interference” that the Left has alleged Donald Trump benefited from in 2016.

As noted by the New York Times, “One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cybersecurity firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

So one of the “Russia interfered in the election!” accusers turned out to have been caught faking Russian interference in a 2018 election. Is it such a stretch to wonder whether 2018 was the first time Democratic operatives attempted to frame the Russians for election interference? It seems like a very dangerous thing to do to frame a foreign power with election interference after having hyped the seriousness of foreign election interference. This is how war can start.

Both Wikileaks and the Russians Deny Working Together
Remember when people scoffed at Saddam Hussein’s denials that he had no weapons of mass destruction? Of course, he would deny it! But here we are again standing on the edge of another intelligence failure (falsely accusing President Trump of colluding with the Russians) and we’re being asked to disbelieve another dictator’s denials simply because he’s a nasty guy.

I’m still not ready to sign up as one of the knowing, “We Know’ers” when it comes to Russia hacking the DNC server. I’m not saying that the Russians didn’t do it. I’m simply saying we should resist accusing another country of an act of war based upon politicized intelligence.

To sum up my concerns: 1) Clinton hired a smear firm to say Trump colluded with the Russians. Attributing the hack of the DNC servers to Russia was an essential part of that project. Since we now know that Trump was framed, it raises questions about the entire allegation; 2) The FBI and all other third parties were kept from inspecting the original servers that were allegedly hacked; 3) The Intelligence Community’s assessments blaming Russia are long on confidence but short on evidence; 4) We still haven’t ruled out that the “Russian hacking” was an inside job by a disgruntled employee; 5) Fusion GPS-connected operatives have been caught red-handed imitating Russians in trying to interfere in at least one contest in the 2018 elections; and 6) though nobody might believe the denials, both Assange and Putin deny that Russia was the source of the hacking.

Let’s be honest, the phrase “we know,” really means, “we want to believe.”

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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About Adam Mill

Adam Mill is a pen name. He is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. He graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri. Mill has contributed to The Federalist, American Greatness, and The Daily Caller.