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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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Bercow blocks Brexit vote, May turns to EU for lifeline (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s latest Brexit dilemma, as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, shocked the world by citing a 1604 precedent that now effectively blocks May’s third go around at trying to pass her treacherous Brexit deal through the parliament.

All power now rests with the Brussels, as to how, if and when the UK will be allowed to leave the European Union.

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Via Bloomberg


Theresa May claims Brexit is about taking back control. Ten days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, it looks like anything but.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, citing precedent dating back to 1604, to rule out a repeat vote on May’s already defeated departure deal leaves the prime minister exposed ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Bercow, whose cries of “Orrdurrr! Orrdurrr!’’ to calm rowdy lawmakers have gained him a devoted international following, is now the pivotal figure in the Brexit battle. May’s team privately accuse him of trying to frustrate the U.K.’s exit from the EU, while the speaker’s admirers say he’s standing up for the rights of parliament against the executive.

If just one of the 27 other states declines May’s summit appeal to extend the divorce timetable, then the no-deal cliff edge looms for Britain’s departure on March 29. If they consent, it’s unclear how May can meet Bercow’s test that only a substantially different Brexit agreement merits another vote in parliament, since the EU insists it won’t reopen negotiations.

Caught between Bercow and Brussels, May’s room for maneuver is shrinking. Amid rumblings that their patience with the U.K. is near exhaustion, EU leaders are girding for the worst.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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