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CrowdStrike and the DNC continue to hide their “Russian hacker evidence” from investigators

The “hacked DNC server” is unavailable to Russia investigators, and CrowdStrike is at the center of the scandal.

Alex Christoforou

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By now it is common knowledge that, CrowdStrike, the cyber-security company hired by the DNC to investigate whether its servers were hacked by “the Russians” acted in a biased manner…hired by the DNC to look for “Russian hackers” and behold, finding “Russian hackers.”

It is also now common knowledge that CrowdStrike passed on its findings to the FBI for which a case was then presented to the American public that Russia hacked the DNC servers…problem was that the FBI relied solely on CrowdStrikes analysis of the server.

The FBI was never given permission by the DNC, to take a look at the hacked server.

The entire “Russian hacking” narrative was built on evidence from the private company CrowdStrike, which has investors like…

Warburg Pincus, whose president, Timothy Geithner, worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations. The Clinton campaign’s largest corporate contributor, Google, whose employees donated more than $1.3 million to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign last year, also has funded CrowdStrike.

And has a co-founder named Mr. Alperovitch, who…

–is also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank focused on international issues that is partially funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who reportedly has donated at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Late last year, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected British think tank, disputed CrowdStrike’s analysis of a Russian hack during Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists. CrowdStrike later revised and retracted portions of its analysis.

The Washington Times reports

It is perhaps the key piece of forensic evidence in Russia’s suspected efforts to sway the November presidential election, but federal investigators have yet to get their hands on the hacked computer server that handled email from the Democratic National Committee.

Indeed, the only cybersecurity specialists who have taken a look at the server are from CrowdStrike, the Irvine, California-based private cybersecurity company that the DNC hired to investigate the hack — but which has come under fire itself for its work.

Some critics say CrowdStrike’s evidence for blaming Russia for the hack is thin. Members of Congress say they still believe Russia was responsible but wonder why the DNC has never allowed federal investigators to get a look at the key piece of evidence: the server. Either way, a key “witness” in the political scandal consuming the Trump administration remains beyond the reach of investigators.

“I want to find out from the company [that] did the forensics what their full findings were,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is leading the Judiciary Committee’s inquiry, told The Washington Times.

Scrutinizing the DNC server hack and CrowdStrike’s analysis has not factored heavily in multiple probes exploring the Russia issue. But behind the scenes, discussions are growing louder, congressional sources say.

President Trump will hold an official bilateral meeting on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Germany, although it’s unclear how big the Russian election hacking scandal will loom in their private talk.

In recent days, questions about the server have taken on more importance as attention has focused on an email suggesting that the DNC and the Obama administration’s Justice Department were trying to limit the scope of the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s secret email account.

Mentioned in recent reporting and testimony from fired FBI Director James B. Comey, the correspondence reportedly shows Obama-era Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch privately assuring “someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter.”

Some observers have wondered whether the information is real or is Russian disinformation.

The hacked server was last photographed in the basement of the DNC’s Washington headquarters near a file cabinet dating from the 1972 break-in of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

Both Republicans and Democrats say the DNC’s reaction to the hacking is troubling.

Jeh Johnson, who served as homeland security secretary under President Obama, told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last month that his department offered to assist the DNC during the campaign to determine what was happening, but Mr. Johnson said he was rebuffed.

“The DNC,” Mr. Johnson said at the time, “did not feel it needed DHS’ assistance at that time. I was anxious to know whether or not our folks were in there, and the response I got was the FBI had spoken to them, they don’t want our help, they have CrowdStrike.”

In January, Mr. Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the FBI issued “multiple requests at different levels” to assist the DNC with a cyberforensic analysis. Those requests were also denied.

DNC officials said the Russian hack had already been discovered and dealt with when the Homeland Security Department approached them last summer.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat and a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said more needs to be known about the interaction.

“As a general point, there is no question that we need to look into everything in terms of who did what, what was invasive about hacking, and what they gained from it and why,” Ms. Harris told The Times. “Not only so we can establish what happened, but so it can teach us what is frankly inevitable about the next election cycle if we don’t figure out what happened.”

The White House has highlighted what it says is the DNC’s reluctance to accept help dealing with the server hack. President Trump, in a May 7 tweet, wondered: “When will the Fake Media ask about the Dems dealings with Russia & why the DNC wouldn’t allow the FBI to check their server or investigate?”

The Washington Times notes that many clouds cover CrowdStrike’s reputation, as the firms investigation into the DNC hack has produced questionable and biased results…

The DNC hack produced embarrassing internal emails that were posted to WikiLeaks and sparked a nasty internal battle just as the party was preparing for its convention and refereeing a spirited primary contest between front-runner Hillary Clinton and the insurgent campaign of Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Some emails suggested that the DNC leadership — including Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — had plotted to undermine Mr. Sanders’ ascent in the presidential race. The WikiLeaks revelations on July 22 eventually resulted in the departures of Ms. Wasserman Schultz and several other top DNC executives.

To explore the hack, the DNC called in CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity tech company launched in 2011 hoping to challenge better-known industry leaders such as Symantec and McAfee.

Co-founded by George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch, both former McAfee employees, CrowdStrike quickly acquired a string of high-profile clients.

In 2014, it investigated the Sony Pictures leak, the disclosure of a trove of sensitive and embarrassing internal emails and executive salary data apparently orchestrated by hackers sympathetic to North Korea, and who objected to Sony’s comic depiction of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“We don’t have a mission statement — we are on a mission to protect our customers from breaches,” CrowdStrike’s website declares.

The firm also has found success in generating venture capital support. Fortune magazine reported that it has raised $256 million and boasts a “valuation exceeding $1 billion.”

Investors include Warburg Pincus, whose president, Timothy Geithner, worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations. The Clinton campaign’s largest corporate contributor, Google, whose employees donated more than $1.3 million to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign last year, also has funded CrowdStrike.

During the election cycle last year, the DNC paid CrowdStrike more than $410,000. This year, it has collected more than $121,000 from the party.

The DNC declined to answer questions about CrowdStrike. During a telephone call with The Times, DNC communications staff also refused to discuss the location of its infamous server.

In an ironic twist, CrowdStrike has added the National Republican Congressional Committee to its client list. The NRCC also declined to answer questions for this report.

In an email to The Times, CrowdStrike defended its record and said criticisms about its DNC work and interaction with U.S. law enforcement agencies are unfounded.

“In May 2016 CrowdStrike was brought to investigate the DNC network for signs of compromise, and under their direction we fully cooperated with every U.S. government request,” a spokesman wrote. The cooperation included the “providing of the forensic images of the DNC systems to the FBI, along with our investigation report and findings. Those agencies reviewed and subsequently independently validated our analysis.”

CrowdStrike faces increasing scrutiny, including over the impartiality of co-founder Mr. Alperovitch…

Mr. Alperovitch is also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank focused on international issues that is partially funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who reportedly has donated at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Late last year, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected British think tank, disputed CrowdStrike’s analysis of a Russian hack during Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists. CrowdStrike later revised and retracted portions of its analysis.

CrowdStrike’s most famous finding — that Russian-supported hackers penetrated the DNC server — has triggered the most questions.

Last year, that finding was wrapped into the assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which first raised alarms about Russian meddling.

The DNI, which briefed Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump on the Russian meddling operation and issued classified and public assessments, concluded that “the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” meaning the DNC hack.

CrowdStrike said it found malware known as X-Agent on the DNC computers. Russia’s Federal Security Service and its main military intelligence branch, the GRU, have used this malware to penetrate unclassified networks at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

CrowdStrike also said it had identified two teams of Russian hackers, with the code names “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear,” operating inside the DNC network.

“We’ve had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting to target our customers in the past and know them well,” Mr. Alperovitch wrote on CrowdStrike’s blog in June 2016.

But cybersecurity consultant Jeffrey Carr questioned whether CrowdStrike’s evidence clinches the case.

“X-Agent has been around for ages and has always been attributed to the Russian government, but others use it,” said Mr. Carr, who has supplied the U.S. intelligence community with analysis.

Mr. Carr said in an interview that the malware can be recovered, reverse-engineered and reused. Copies of X-Agent exist outside Russian hands, including one with an American cybersecurity company. He said it’s possible CrowdStrike was duped — or simply sees Russia’s handiwork everywhere.

WikiLeaks has consistently denied that it received the material from the Kremlin amid reports that a leaker within the DNC might have abetted the hack. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News in January: “We can say, we have said, repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.”

Atlanta-based hacker Robert David Graham, who runs a consultancy called Errata Security, said CrowdStrike’s certainty about the Russian role can’t be accepted uncritically.

“CrowdStrike is better than anything that the government has,” he said. “But once you decide it is Russia, you will go looking for Russia.”

Overall, he said, political factors distorted what needs to be a more scientific approach to who had access to the DNC servers.

“For good or bad, we make judgments based on our expertise and knowledge,” he said. “Sometimes they are insightful and awesomely correct. Sometimes they fall flat on their face.”

Mr. Graham, a libertarian like many others in the hacker community, said that from a privacy standpoint, he understands why the DNC would not want to hand over its server to the federal government. “What private company would?”

Congressional inquiry?

Whether CrowdStrike appears before a congressional inquiry anytime soon could depend on the momentum of the overall Russia investigations throughout Capitol Hill.

Late last month, after hearing Mr. Johnson say the DNC denied Homeland Security overtures to help secure its computers, Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, “There may be something else on that server [that the DNC] didn’t want law enforcement to see.”

Mr. Graham has insisted he needs to know more about CrowdStrike.

“What did they find?” he asked.

Some on Capitol Hill have an even harsher take. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a conservative Texas Republican and a former prosecutor, said DNC and CrowdStrike are acting like defendants with something to hide in declining to allow government investigators access to the server.

“Why would they not invite them in?” Mr. Gohmert asked in a Fox News interview last month. “And I’m really interested in their excuse. But just from my own experience in all those years, usually the reason somebody didn’t want to invite law enforcement in to investigate is because they knew they would find that they had committed crimes if they came in and started investigating.”

The cybersecurity community also wants more answers.

“The only things that pay in the cybersecurity world are claims of attribution,” Mr. Carr said. “Which foreign government attacked you? If you are critical of the attack, you make zero money. CrowdStrike is the poster child for companies that operate like this.”

Last year, alongside one of the DNI assessments, the Obama administration released a spreadsheet containing part of CrowdStrike’s cyberforensic work. The data included digital signatures and IP addresses, which trace computer-to-computer communications and help identify hackers. Mr. Graham, the hacker, said the only way to dispel all doubt would be to analyze independently everything CrowdStrike has seen. To do so would mean getting access to the DNC server.

As for CrowdStrike, when asked whether officials would be willing to testify before a congressional inquiry, a spokesman reiterated in an email that the company already “provided the forensic images and our analysis to the FBI.” He said the company is “standing by the work it did for the DNC.”

In May, less than a week after Mr. Comey was fired as FBI director, CrowdStrike announced it had raised $100 million in venture capital.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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