WaPo in Pay-for-Play Scandal — Phony Experts Given Free PR, Leading to Questions about Money Changing Hands

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima is in the journalistic scandal of her career, with inquisitive journalists asking why she gave millions of dollars of free publicity to a discredited business that directly profited from the “Russian hacker” hysteria.

Nakashima failed to disclose material information to her readers in several stories, with one blatant conflict-of-interest standing out.

Let’s begin at the end. Crowdstrike helped drive the narrative that Russian hackers were involved in the DNC leaks. No evidence was given other than their “expert judgment.” Their judgment has since been called into question, as they were forced to retract a report after being accused of fraud:

Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report
U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign. The shift followed a VOA report that the company misrepresented data published by an influential British think tank.

As you can see, Crowdstrike lied. This should be a huge story at WaPo, which relies upon Crowdstrike to offer them quotes about Russia in dozens of articles. At the very least, these accusations should be disclosed to readers in future coverage.

Indeed it was Crowdstrike that blamed Russia for the DNC leaks, a claim WaPo gladly spread far and wide.

Cyber researchers confirm Russian government hack of Democratic National Committee,” Nakashima wrote in a June 20, 2016 article.

The DNC had hired the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to investigate the breach, and the firm found that two Russian hacker groups penetrated the network at different times.

Six weeks later WaPo published an article noting “These businesses are booming thanks to Russian hackers.”

Among those business are — surprise! — Crowdstrike:

When the Democratic National Committee discovered in April that its computer networks had been hacked, leaders there did not just alert government intelligence. They called CrowdStrike, a 5-year-old cybersecurity firm that makes millions of dollars from mercenary work sold with a promise: “We Stop Breaches.”

An honest journalist would think, “Hey! Wait a minute! This source telling me about Russian hackers makes more money if people believe them. Let’s be careful when quoting them, and let’s disclose this financial incentive to readers.”

The Washington Post does not have honest reporters.

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima never disclosed that Crowdstrike had a motive to lie.

Why would Nakashima omit this clear conflict-of-interest? Wouldn’t a business that makes a profit by creating hysteria about Russian hackers have a motive to lie? Did Nakashima ever ask Crowdstrike about this conflict? Of course not!

Nakashima has written dozens of puff articles about Crowdstrike. Are they paying her?

While it’s not unusual for a reporter to rely on a source for expertise, Nakashima has cited Crowdstrike — again, without disclosing clear conflicts-of-interest — at least 40 times.

Run a Google search for Crowdstrike AND “Ellen Nakashima”.

Crowdstrike is a WaPo favorite, with 69 search results turning up for crowdstrike site:washingtonpost.com

None of the articles in the Washington Post reveal the conflict-of-interest Crowdstrike presents readers.

Crowdstrike profits off of anti-Russia hysteria, according to the same Washington Post that cites them as experts on hacking. How can a journalist rely on a source with a clear profit motive to lie?

Do they have any real journalists at the Washington Post?

Business is booming at Crowdstrike, thanks to WaPo and Nakashima. Pay-for-Play?

A search in Google news reveals that Crowdstrike has converted it’s Russia hysteria into over big money in new business:

For such companies as CrowdStrike, the new age of information warfare — and the ensuing climate of fear — has led to a flood of cash. Analysts at research firm Gartner said the security-software market climbed to $22 billion last year, with sales growing by $1 billion for three years straight.

How much of that money is being given to WaPo or Nakashima as a kickback?

Some may call this accusations unfounded and my challenge is for you to read another WaPo’s “journalist’s” fawning coverage of a company that has a motive to lie. This is by Drew Harwell:

Their weapon of choice: the cybersecurity equivalent of “a neighborhood-watch program on steroids,” said CrowdStrike co-founder George Kurtz. That same offering has helped the experts turn their young business into a juggernaut, with sales of $100 million this year.
CrowdStrike is one soldier in a very new kind of army: private cyberdefense contractors. Their skills in fending off and eradicating hacks has become increasingly prized at the top echelons of American business following the crippling attacks on Target, insurance giant Anthem and Sony Pictures.
The firm’s involvement in the Democratic National Committee hack began as detective work, but teams there have claimed victory in repelling other attacks. CrowdStrike said last year that its “expert hunters” had successfully blocked a Chinese hacker group, called Hurricane Panda, attempting to blitz an unnamed U.S. technology firm.

“Soldiers,” “neighborhood watch,” and “expert hunters”….Is that marketing ad copy or an article from a so-called journalist?

Let’s look at another paragraph from the article. You tell me…Is this ad copy from the company’s promotional website, or is this journalism?

CrowdStrike now employs 440 engineers, threat analysts and other employees across the globe, including in offices in Silicon Valley, London and in the Washington-defense-contractor hub of Crystal City, Va. Many, Kurtz said, joined the firm following careers in American or foreign military and intelligence.

There’s more fluff.

Military terminology is rampant in CrowdStrike’s business model: Falcon Overwatch, the firm’s “24/7 global team of expert adversary hunters,” is named after the battlefield tactic of supporting allies by scouting and sniping enemies.

Grrr!

As if that’s not enough, the “journalist” gives you a great quote from Crowdstrike’s marketing team:

“As a company, we do have a strong mission focus, which is really protecting our customers from the adversary,” Kurtz said. “When you have a purpose, which is to fight the bad guy, people take that very seriously.”

You can’t buy media coverage like Crowdstrike gets.

Or can you?

In my judgment, either WaPo itself or individual “reporters” are being paid for this fawning coverage.

The alternative is that “journalists” at the Washington Post are so lazy that they don’t ask whether sources have a motive to lie, and instead copy-and-paste wholesale from press releases.

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Mike Cernovich is a lawyer, author, and journalist. His best-selling books are available on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.