2015-2016 US politics hacking

Putin scoffs at allegations of Russian involvement in the hacking of US presidential politics.

Vladimir Putin meets with members of the Valdai Discussion Club on October 27, 2016. (Credit: The Valdai Discussion Club)

Vladimir Putin meets with members of the Valdai Discussion Club on October 27, 2016. (Credit: The Valdai Discussion Club)

In a public speech at the Valdai Discussion Club, a Russian think tank outside of Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses allegations that the Russian government is behind the hacking of US political entities.

“Another mythical and imaginary problem is what I can only call the hysteria the USA has whipped up over supposed Russian meddling in the American presidential election. The United States has plenty of genuinely urgent problems, it would seem, from the colossal public debt to the increase in firearms violence and cases of arbitrary action by the police. You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.”

He adds, “I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people’s choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic’, after all, but is a great power.” (Valdaidclub.com, 10/27/2016)

The Russian government denies the US government allegation that it is behind the hacking of US political figures.

Sergei Lavrov (Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Sergey Lavrov (Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comments in a CNN interview about the US government formally accusing the Russian government of being behind recent hacks and public releases of emails from prominent US political figures. Lavrov says, “Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the presidential debate. …. We have not seen a single fact, a single proof.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)

The Clinton campaign suggests that some emails released by WikiLeaks could be forgeries, but experts have found no evidence of this.

Tim Kaine appears on CNN's "State of the Union" on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Tim Kaine appears on CNN’s “State of the Union” on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Since October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks has been publishing an average of about 2,000 emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta every day. Podesta and the Clinton campaign has admitted his account got hacked, but they have suggested that some of the emails could be forgeries. For instance, on October 9, 2016, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine said in a CNN interview, “I don’t think we can dignify documents dumped by WikiLeaks and just assume they are all accurate and true. Anybody who hacks in to get documents is completely capable of manipulating them.”

However, Politico reports, “Clinton’s team hasn’t challenged the accuracy of even the most salacious emails… And numerous digital forensic firms told Politico that they haven’t seen any proof of tampering in the emails they’ve examined — adding that only the hacked Democrats themselves could offer that kind of conclusive evidence.”

Laura Galante (Credit: Bloomberg News)

Laura Galante (Credit: Bloomberg News)

Laura Galante, a director of the cybersecurity company FireEye, says, “It’s very hard to go verify what is true and what’s not. Even the victims of the accounts that are getting exposed are having a hard time.”

Politico also comments, “Experts have warned for months about the possibility that the document leaks may eventually include a sprinkling of falsehoods to stoke their impact, noting that Russian and Soviet intelligence services had long used such techniques against their enemies.” The US government alleges that the Russian government has been behind some recent hacking of US political entities.

A WikiLeaks spokesperson dismisses claims some of the emails are fake. “Standard nonsense pushed by those who have something to hide. WikiLeaks has won a great many awards for its journalistic work and has the best vetting record of any media organization. … In fact, it’s completely legitimate to everyone in the journalism industry that [the emails] are exactly as we say they are, which is why everyone is running with them.”

Thomas Rid (Credit: Kings College, London)

Thomas Rid (Credit: Kings College, London)

However, some experts point out that hackers could have tampered with emails before giving them to WikiLeaks, or they may choose to only selectively hand over emails that promote a certain political agenda.

Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity researcher and professor, says, “Of course it would be more effective for [the Russians] not to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks in any way by altering documents. But if we look at their past behavior, that is certainly something that has been considered and actually done in the past.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)

Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta blames Russia and Trump for the leak of his personal emails.

John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, publicly comments about the fact that WikiLeaks started releasing his personal emails on October 7, 2016.

Clinton campaign chair John Podesta speaks to the press on October 7, 2016 as Clinton’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri looks on. (Credit: Reuters)

He blames the Russian government for hacking his Gmail account, though he offers no specific evidence. “I’ve been involved in politics for nearly five decades, and this definitely is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with in which I’ve had to tangle with Russian intelligence agencies, who seem to be doing everything they

can on behalf of our opponent.”

He also says that the FBI communicated with him on October 9, 2016, and told him the breach of his email account has become part of a larger investigation into recent hacks of US political entities, for which the US government generally blames the Russian government.

Roger Stone (Credit: The Hill)

Roger Stone (Credit: The Hill)

Podesta claims that it is likely the Russians are trying to help the presidential campaign of Donald Trump (R), due to Trump having policies that are more politically favorable to Russia. He points to a Tweet made by Trump confidant Roger Stone on August 21, 2016, in which Stone wrote that it would soon be “Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Due to this Tweet, Podesta says, “I think it’s a reasonable assumption, or at least a reasonable conclusion, that Mr. Stone had advanced warning and the Trump campaign had advanced warning about what Assange was going to do.” (The Washington Post, 10/11/2016)

The next day, the official WikiLeaks Twitter account posts the Tweet, “As we have already stated clearly: WikiLeaks has had no contact with Roger Stone.” (WikiLeaks, 10/12/2016)

One day after that, Stone claims that his Tweet was in reference to a separate story he was working on that would accuse Podesta of possible criminal wrongdoing. But he also says that he has had “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange through a mutual friend. (CBS Miami, 10/12/2016)

A claim that recently released WikiLeaks emails contain “obvious forgeries” is quickly debunked.

Malcolm Nance (Credit: MSNBC)

Malcolm Nance (Credit: MSNBC)

Politico calls Malcolm Nance a “former US intelligence analyst who has spoken frequently in defense of the Democratic nominee” Hillary Clinton. Within hours of WikiLeaks posting the first 2,000 hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, Nance writes in a tweet: “Warning: #PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally.” (Twitter,10/7/2016)

However, no such evidence of any forgeries emerges. Five days later, on October 12, 2016, Nance reverses his claim of “obvious forgeries,” saying, “We have no way of knowing whether [the WikiLeaks emails are] real or not unless Hillary Clinton goes through everything they’ve said and comes out and says it cross-correlates and this is true.”

Politico also notes that cybersecurity experts have examined the Podesta emails released so far, and have found no evidence any of them were faked. (Politico, 10/12/2016)

The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

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Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks publishes the first batch of emails belonging to Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

John Podesta (Credit: The Associated Press)

John Podesta (Credit: The Associated Press)

WikiLeaks publishes 2,060 emails it claims belong to John Podesta. Podesta is chair of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, as well as being chair of the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), and was once chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, as well as a top advisor to President Obama. WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange says the emails focus on Podesta’s “communications relating to nuclear energy, and media handling over donations to the Clinton Foundation from mining and nuclear interests.” (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016) (The Hill, 10/7/2016)

Tony Carrk (Credit: CSpan)

Tony Carrk (Credit: CSpan)

However, one email, sent by Clinton’s campaign research director Tony Carrk to Podesta and other Clinton aides on January 25, 2016, contains excerpts from dozens of Clinton’s private speeches, and draws most of the media attention. (Politico, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks labels the release as “Part I of the Podesta emails.” The emails date from 2007 to late March 2016. The next day, a WikiLeaks Tweet claims, “We have published 1% of the #PodestaEmails so far. Additional publications will proceed throughout the election period.” (WikiLeaks, 10/8/2016) (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016) Another Tweet claims therre are “well over 50,000” Podesta emails to be released. (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks refuses to say where it got its material from, which is its usual policy. However, earlier in the day, the US intelligence community formally accused the Russian government of being behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, which were publicly posted by WikiLeaks as well.

Clinton’s campaign doesn’t confirm the authenticity of the emails, but doesn’t explicitly deny it either. However, Podesta comments that he is “not happy about being hacked by the Russians,” which indicates the emails are his. (Politico, 10/7/2016) (Politico, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks soon begins posting more of Podesta’s emails on a daily basis.

WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange promises to release “significant material” over the next ten weeks, with the US presidential election four weeks away.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary

Julian Assange speaks via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of Wikileaks, on October 4, 2016. (Credit: Wikileaks)

Speaking via a video link to mark a decade since the founding of WikiLeaks, Assange says, “We hope to be publishing every week for the next ten weeks. We have on schedule, and it’s a very hard schedule, all the US election-related documents to come out before [the US presidential election on] November 8. … Our upcoming series includes significant material on war, arms, oil, Google, the US elections, and myself.”

He also dismisses speculation that releases related to US election would contain information intended to damage the presidential candidacy of Clinton. The idea that “we intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I intend to harm Hillary Clinton, or I don’t like Hillary Clinton, all those are false.”

Assange’s comments are seen as a disappointment by many of WikiLeaks supporters who are hoping for the immediate release of more politically important material. (The New York Times, 10/4/2016) However, just three days later, WikiLeaks begins releasing emails belonging to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager.

Colin Powell’s recently hacked emails are published.

On September 13, 2016, hacked emails belonging to former Secretary of State Colin Powell appear on a website known as DCLeaks.com.  It is unclear who owns the DCLeaks website, which only appeared on the Internet a few months earlier. They are known for previously publishing hacked emails belonging to prominent Democrats and Republicans, including General Philip M. Breedlove, the former commander of NATO forces in Europe, and George Soros, a wealthy backer of liberal causes. It is also reported to have ties to Guccifer 2.0, who in turn has been accused of having links to the Russian government.

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Powell’s aide Peggy Cifrino states, “We are confirming that General Powell has been hacked and that they are his emails. We have no further comment at this time.” The dates of Powell’s hacked emails range from June 24, 2014 to as recently as August 29, 2016.

Some of the emails are first reported by BuzzFeed and the Intercept, followed by many other prominent mainstream news sources.

The New York Times reports, “A hack of Mr. Powell’s email this week has ripped away the diplomatic jargon and political niceties to reveal his unvarnished disdain of Donald J. Trump as a ‘national disgrace,’ his personal peeves with Hillary Clinton and his lingering, but still very raw, anger with the Republican colleagues with whom he so often clashed a decade ago.” (New York Times, 09/14/16)

Clinton is “concerned” about Russian election-rigging in Trump’s favor.

Clinton holds an in-flight press conference on September 5, 2016. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press))

Clinton holds an in-flight press conference on September 5, 2016. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press))

Clinton comments about allegations of Russian hacking of US political entities: “I’m really concerned about the credible reports about Russian government interference in our elections … The fact that our intelligence professionals are now studying this, and taking it seriously… raises some grave questions about potential Russian interference with our electoral process.”

Clinton voices suspicions that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s could be colluding with Russia: “We’ve never had the nominee of one of our major parties urging the Russians to hack more… I think it’s quite intriguing that this activity has happened around the time Trump became the nominee… I often quote a great saying that I learned from living in Arkansas for many years: If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn’t get there by itself.” (Politico, 9/5/2016)