Russian Hack or CrowdStrike Ruse?

Robert Mueller may live to regret indicting Roger Stone.

Stone is the long-time Republican political operative who made headlines in January when he was hauled out of his home by a squad of FBI agents adorned in tactical gear and carrying M4 rifles. The ostentatious display of force seemed made for television. And as luck—or more likely, leak—would have it, CNN just happened to be on hand with cameras ready to film Mueller’s predawn military raid to arrest Stone, a 66-year-old charged with purely non-violent crimes who’d already indicated he was ready and willing to turn himself in.

The alleged crime that earned Stone this extreme treatment is lying under oath to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation into alleged Russian election interference. And Stone’s indictment and the publicity generating arrest followed the modus operandi Mueller established as special counsel. Just like his earlier indictments, a lot of headlines were generated suggesting that there was something to the Russian collusion narrative even though Mueller’s indictment contained absolutely nothing to corroborate such a belief.

The lies Mueller claims Stone told were about completely ancillary matters that, even if he’s guilty as charged, have no bearing on whether the Russians and WikiLeaks engaged in espionage on Trump’s behalf and, if they did, whether anyone in the Trump campaign helped or had foreknowledge.

Importantly, Stone was not charged with lying when he denied that he “knew in advance about and predicted the hacking of . . . [Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John] Podesta’s email,” or that he’d had any contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

So, Mueller’s chump-change charges against Stone do nothing to confirm that Russia conspired with WikiLeaks to put Trump in the White House. But that didn’t stop the corporate leftist media from using Stone’s arrest as an excuse to spend a few weeks running stories drumming the narrative into the public’s mind with subtle headlines like “The WikiLeaks-Russia Connection.”

Indeed, stories repeating but in no way substantiating the WikiLeaks-Russia conspiracy narrative started appearing three months in advance of the indictment, when Mueller’s investigation of Stone somehow got leaked to the Washington Post.

Roger Stone also happens to be one of the few public figures who’s repeatedly expressed skepticism that Russia and WikiLeaks conspired to make Donald Trump president. It’s fair to say that doubting the Russian provenance so widely attributed to WikiLeaks’ 2016 campaign-related releases had become a part of Stone’s brand until he found himself in Mueller’s crosshairs.

The initial leak to the press that he was under investigation and his subsequent indictment, quite naturally, had the effect of focusing Stone’s public pronouncements on the alleged ancillary lies he told Congress. Those might wind up landing him significant jail time. But his forced attention to these matters also kept him away from the central question of whether WikiLeaks spent the 2016 presidential election helping Russian intelligence put Trump in the White House.

In fact, since February 21, Stone has been forbidden from publicly discussing any aspect of his case. And the gag order doesn’t apply only to Stone; it extends to his spokespersons, family members, and even those volunteering their time on his behalf. So, apart from giving the press an opportunity to reinforce the Russia-WikiLeaks conspiracy narrative without substantiating it, Mueller has also, whether by design or not, managed to completely stifle one of the only voices challenging it from a platform high enough to make itself heard above the crowd.

But, unexpectedly, it turns out that Mueller has given Stone the means to launch a more effective attack on the WikiLeaks-Russian conspiracy narrative than would have been possible had he not legally embroiled Stone in the matter.

The search warrants issued in Stone’s and other related cases were predicated on Mueller having evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC servers and then gave the spoils to WikiLeaks. So, last month, Stone’s lawyers filed a motion challenging that premise and requesting to see the only direct evidence that exists: the report CrowdStrike wrote after examining the DNC server.

CrowdStrike’s Connection
If you don’t know what CrowdStrike is, you’re unaware perhaps of the most important player in the Russian-Wikileaks espionage narrative. CrowdStrike is the tech firm the Democratic National Committee hired, allegedly upon learning their servers had been breached. We’re supposed to believe CrowdStrike’s job was to deal with the breach. But the company’s account of the actions it took makes so little sense that company officials either have to be lying or they are too incompetent to be trusted.

According to a puff-piece profile of founder and chief technology officer Dmitri Alperovitch in Vanity Fair, the firm was contacted about a possible breach of the DNC servers on May 4, 2016, and, the very next day, installed software CrowdStrike had developed called Falcon that’s designed to detect intruders. Upon which:

[I]n the early mornings of May 6, Alperovitch got a call indicating that “Falcon ‘it up,’ the email said, within ten seconds of being installed at the DNC: Russia was in the network.”

Yet according to the Vanity Fair story, Alperovitch and CrowdStrike President Shawn Henry spent six weeks monitoring the hostile actors they claim to have found roaming freely in the DNC servers before expelling them on June 10-12.

This is the same story Alperovitch and Henry told on June 14, 2016, when they first released details of the alleged Russian hack of the DNC in the Washington Post. Funnily enough, their story about Russian hacking, which wound up being the basis for discrediting the voluminous amount of negative information about Hillary Clinton’s character and competence later published by WikiLeaks, emerged exactly two days after Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks would soon be publishing Clinton campaign emails.

And, as researcher Stephen McIntyre has noted, now that they have been published, we know something about the DNC emails WikiLeaks subsequently released that we didn’t know when CrowdStrike officials first told their story:

There were no fewer than 14,409 emails in the Wikileaks archive dating after Crowdstrike’s installation of its security software. In fact, more emails were hacked after Crowdstrike’s discovery on May 6 than before. Whatever actions were taken by Crowdstrike on May 6, they did nothing to stem the exfiltration of emails from the DNC.

It turns out we’re supposed to believe that CrowdStrike sat around and did nothing as they watched the Russians steal the majority of the emails they allegedly passed to WikiLeaks.

As McIntyre goes on to observe, this makes the firm look a lot like the guy dressed like a security guard from the old commercial who, when the bank is robbed, informs the frightened employees, “I’m not a security guard, I’m a security monitor. I only notify people if there’s a robbery . . . There’s a robbery.”

Moreover, CrowdStrike’s reasons for pinning the alleged DNC hack on the Russians undermines their credibility even further. As Scott Ritter has pointed out in an exhaustive exposé on CrowdStrike founder Dmitri Alperovitch’s “shady” rise to fame, fortune, and power in the world of cyber-intelligence, CrowdStrike blames the alleged DNC hack on the Russians because the Russians have used the same malware they claim to have found on the DNC servers. But this malware is also known to have been used by actors unaffiliated with Russian intelligence. So, even without seeing CrowdStrike’s report, the logic behind the claim that the Russians were behind the alleged theft of DNC files (as they watched and did nothing) is worthless.

We’ve known for a long time that the FBI never examined the DNC servers themselves but, instead, just accepted CrowdStrike’s conclusions. This would be bad enough even if the firm’s story actually made sense and their method of attribution weren’t completely spurious. But, thanks to Roger Stone’s motion to actually see CrowdStrike’s report, we now know that it’s much worse than we could have imagined.

In response, the government has admitted not only did it fail to do an independent examination on the DNC servers, officials also didn’t obtain a complete copy of CrowdStrike’s final report. CrowdStrike and the DNC only permitted the Department of Justice and FBI to see a redacted draft copy.

The Blind Faith of Investigators Exposed
But the government’s uncritical parroting of CrowdStrike’s conclusions is even worse. Alperovitch, though Russian by birth, is a member of the virulently anti-Russian Atlantic Council. So, anyone accepting his word that Russia is guilty of what’s repeatedly been referred to as an act of war without any independent examination of his evidence or even a look at his final unredacted conclusions is either a knave or a fool.

And the other CrowdStrike executive heavily involved in investigating the alleged DNC hack, president and CSO Shawn Henry, was the FBI’s head of cybersecurity before cashing in and joining the firm. And after everything we’ve seen in the past three years, perhaps you won’t be surprised to find out that he was promoted by none other than Robert Mueller.

Imagine a husband reports that his wife has been murdered but refuses to let the authorities examine her body and, instead, submits an autopsy report by a private investigator he’s commissioned who used to work for one of the officers leading the investigation and that the report just so happens to accuse someone with whom the private eye has an ax to grind.  That’s what has been going on with the government’s various investigations into the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC.

But now, thanks to Mueller’s indictment of Stone, we find out that the husband didn’t even give the authorities the final report he commissioned but, instead, only let them see a redacted draft version. If a local police department behaved in this way, there would be outrage accompanied by a great deal of skepticism about the conclusions of the report for which the husband paid accusing someone its author just so happens to detest of the most serious possible crime.

Yet, somehow, Republicans in Congress have shown almost no skepticism about the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC. Perhaps this latest revelation that CrowdStrike didn’t even turn over a complete and final draft of their report will finally cause the GOP establishment in Washington to ask questions they should have been asking all along.

But perhaps not. Just before Trump’s inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)  warned that challenging the intelligence community’s unsubstantiated claims about Russian election interference was “really dumb,” because:

Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community—they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.

There’s simply no way to understand Schumer’s remark except as an admission that our intelligence community routinely blackmails our legislators into doing their bidding. Schumer, of course, would know. And, if he was being honest, it would explain a lot about the Washington establishment’s passive acceptance of the notion that Russia and WikiLeaks, with or without his foreknowledge, conspired to put Trump in the White House despite our not having been given any good reason whatsoever to think it’s true and the many good reasons we do have to think it’s not.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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