Democratic National Committee (DNC)
Whistleblower Edward Snowden criticizes WikiLeaks for its willingness to compromise people’s privacy.
He writes on Twitter, “Democratizing information has never been more vital, and WikiLeaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.” Snowden was an NSA contractor, but he has been hiding in Russia to avoid prosecution after exposing illegal surveillance practices by the US government.
On June 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. But they didn’t redact names, social security numbers, credit card information, or other personal data. (Raw Story, 7/28/2016)
Later on July 28, 2016, WikiLeaks replies on Twitter with the comment: “@Snowden Opportunism won’t earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows.”
When Snowden leaked government documents, he gave them to reporters who made some redactions. Whereas WikiLeaks has seemingly made no redactions at all, as Snowden has pointed out. (The Washington Post, 7/28/2016)
WikiLeaks head Julian Assange says WikiLeaks might release “a lot more material” relevant to the US presidential campaign.
Assange is vague on details about future releases. He is asked by CNN about reports that the Russian government might be behind the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network. WikiLeaks has a policy of never revealing its sources, and Assange maintains that policy by refusing to confirm or deny anything. He says, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment. Some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are.”
He additionally says that Clinton and other Democratic officials are using the specter of Russian involvement to distract from the content of the emails. “It raises questions about the natural instincts of Clinton that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, et cetera. Because if she does that while in government, it could lead to problems.” (CNN, 7/27/2016)
Russia denies any role in hacking the DNC’s emails and claims to be neutral in the US presidential election.
On July 26, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly dismisses suggestions that the Russian government could have been behind the hacks that led to the public release of 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. He says, “I don’t want to use four-letter words.” (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)
Two days later, Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says accusations of Russian involvement in the hacking of the emails border on “total stupidity” and are motivated by anti-Russian sentiment. “As regards these [email] batches, that is not our headache. We never poke our noses into others’ affairs and we really don’t like it when people try to poke their nose into ours. … The Americans need to get to the bottom of what these emails are themselves and find out what it’s all about.”
Peskov also says Russia won’t change what he claims has been a neutral stance on the US 2016 presidential election. “We know perfectly well that candidates in the heat of a preelection struggle say one thing, but that later, when under the weight of responsibility, their rhetoric becomes more balanced.”
Some US analysts claim that the Russian media, which is heavily influenced by the Russian government, has shown a clear tilt in favor of Trump. (Reuters, 7/28/2016)
Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley suggests the Russian government wants to affect the US presidential election with hacking.
Daley says, “I don’t think anybody would be surprised if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would try to affect the election. That’s like the old ‘Casablanca’ — there’s gambling in the casino. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Period. I think anybody who dismisses that is living in fairy land here.”
He also calls the possibility that the Russian government was behind the hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails “pretty frightening.”
He was White House chief of staff from 2011 to 2012. (The Washington Post, 7/25/2016)
Democratic Party officials believe recent hacks are “far more widespread than initially thought.”
Yahoo News reports about the series of hacking attacks targeting the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Clinton campaign, and other US political targets starting in the summer of 2015 and continuing until at least June 2016. “Two sources familiar with the [DNC] breach said that the hackers’ reach was far more widespread than initially thought and includes personal data about big party contributors and internal ‘vetting’ evaluations that include embarrassing comments about their business dealings (as well as gossipy internal emails about the private affairs of DNC staffers). … Party officials are bracing for more damaging document dumps after Labor Day [September 7, 2016]. ‘They’re having to do serious damage control with the donors right now,’ said a party official familiar with the matter.”
Additionally, Yahoo News mentions, “There are also signs that the hackers have penetrated the personal email of some Clinton campaign staffers — at least those who were in communication with senior DNC staff members.” (Yahoo News, 7/25/2016)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), resigns after a WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.
Just one day before the Democratic National Convention, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) announces she is resigning from her position as the chair of the DNC. This comes in response to WikiLeaks releasing 20,000 leaked emails from a recent hack of the DNC. The New York Times says that the emails “showed party officials conspiring to sabotage the [presidential] campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”
Earlier in the day, Sanders called the situation an “outrage” and called for Wasserman Schultz to step down. She announced her resignation after a private meeting with Clinton’s senior aides. The Times comments that even prior to the email leak, “Ms. Wasserman Schultz has faced a flurry of negative stories during her five-year tenure as the committee’s chairwoman… but she had resisted calls for her to quit.”
The Times also reports: “The breach of the Democratic committee’s emails… offered undeniable evidence of what Mr. Sanders’s supporters had complained about for much of the senator’s contentious primary contest with Mrs. Clinton: that the party was effectively an arm of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.”
Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), replaces Wasserman Schultz as interim chair through the end of the November 2016 election. (The New York Times, 7/24/2016)
It is suggested that the Russian government has attempted to influence elections in other countries, sometimes by using front groups.
Michael Vickers, who was undersecretary of defense for intelligence from 2011 to 2015, says that if the Russian government is behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks, it would be unprecedented for the US. “What is really new here is the attempt to influence the politics of the United States. That is the problem.”
However, he also points out that there is evidence the Russians have attempted to influence elections in European countries close to their border. For instance, in 2004, a Russian hacker group calling itself Cyber Berkut claimed it hacked and disabled the electronic vote-counting system of the Ukraine central election commission three days before the presidential election. However, analysts believe the hack was actually done by the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU), one of two Russian military intelligence agencies accused of recently hacking the DNC. These analysts claim the GRU created Cyber Berkut as a false front to deflect responsibility. (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook suggests the Russian government is behind the release of DNC emails by WikiLeaks.
On July 24, 2016, Mook says, “What’s disturbing about this entire situation is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC [Democratic National Committee], took all those emails, and are now leaking them out through these websites,” such as WikiLeaks. “It’s troubling that some experts are telling us this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping [Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump.”
Mook also apologizes for the content of some emails, which show the DNC had a bias in favor of Clinton and against Senator Bernie Sanders, despite DNC rules that it should be neutral in the Democratic primaries. (The Hill, 7/24/2016)
Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort calls Mook’s comments “pure obfuscation.” He adds, “What they don’t want to talk about is what’s in those emails.” (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)
Two days later, Mook makes similar accusations about Russia. He also says, “I think the timing around our convention was not a coincidence.” WikiLeaks released 20,000 DNC emails on June 22, 2016, just three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. (The Hill, 7/26/2016)
Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, appears to leak a debate question to the Clinton campaign in advance.
Brazile writes an email to Clinton’s campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri. It is CCed to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Podesta’s email account will later be hacked, resulting in the release of the email by WikiLeaks on October 11, 2016. Brazile is also a CNN and ABC contributor at the time. In July 2016, she will be promoted to the interim head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Brazile tells Palmieri, “From time to time I get the questions in advance. Here’s one that worries me about HRC.” Brazile then includes a question that will be asked at a town hall (a format similar to a debate) between Clinton and her main primary opponent Bernie Sanders, scheduled to occur the following day, on March 13, 2016. CNN anchor Jake Tapper and TV One host Roland Martin are to co-moderate the event.
Brazile’s question reads: “DEATH PENALTY 19 states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. 31 states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Should Ohio and the 30 other states join the current list and abolish the death penalty?”
Palmieri responds in the email, “Hi. Yes, it is one she gets asked about. Not everyone likes her answer but can share it.” (Wikileaks, 10/11/2016)
On October 12, 2016, the day after WikiLeaks releases the email, Politico will write about the similarities between the question Brazile wrote and the actual question Roland Martin asked at the town hall. According to the CNN transcript, Martin asked, “Secretary Clinton, since 1976, we have executed 1,414 people in this country. Since 1973, 156 who were convicted have been exonerated from the death row. This gentleman here is one of them. This is Ricky Jackson, wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975, he spent 39 years in prison. He is undecided. Ricky, what is your question?”
Politico will write that Martin initially said in an interview that he did not “share my questions with anybody. Literally. My executive producer wasn’t even aware of what I was going to ask.” In a follow up interview, Martin will say that he did send his questions to CNN via his producer and his TV One team. In a third follow up email, Martin will say he did not believe had had consulted with Brazile ahead of the town hall.
Brazile will deny that she notified the Clinton campaign of the proposed question, despite the clear evidence of the leaked email. “As a longtime political activist with deep ties to our party, I supported all of our candidates for president. I often shared my thoughts with each and every campaign, and any suggestions that indicate otherwise are simply untrue. As it pertains to the CNN Debates, I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.” (Politico, 10/11/2016)
Two days after the leak, CNN anchor Jake Tapper will blast Brazile and TV One host Roland Martin for their apparent involvement in leaking the Democratic town hall question to the Clinton campaign: “It’s very, very troubling… whatever took place here, and I know that I had nothing to do with it, and I know that CNN, we were so closely guarding our documents, you couldn’t even, they weren’t ever emailed around. … We wanted to put her in a tough situation. You [Clinton] support the death penalty and here’s somebody who was almost killed by the death penalty, what’s your reaction to him?… To find out that somebody was unethically helping the Clinton campaign and tipping them off, is just very, very upsetting.” (WMAL, 11/13/2016)
A hacking attack on a French TV network is blamed on a Russian group that will later be accused of hacking political entities in the US.
The French television network TV5 Monde is attacked by hackers on April 8, 2015. A group claiming to be linked to ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) and calling itself “Cyber Caliphate” shuts down the network’s TV channels for several hours. The group also posts pro-ISIS propaganda on the station’s website.
However, on June 9, 2015, it is reported by the BBC and elsewhere that French police have decided that attack was actually done by hackers based in Russia. The “Cyber Caliphate” claim was a false front to deflect blame. Police are said to be focusing their investigation on the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear or APT 28. French media reports that the group has also targeted the computer systems of Russian dissidents, Ukrainian activists, and others. (BBC, 6/9/2015) (France24, 6/10/2015)
In July 2016, the Washington Post will report that French authorities believe the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU) was behind the cyberattack. This is one of two Russian military intelligence agencies that will be accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2015 and 2016. The GRU has been linked to the Fancy Bear or APT 28 hacking group. The Post will also claim that some analysts believe the attack was Russian retaliation against France for backing out of an agreement to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because of Russian aggression in Ukraine. (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)