I have very little expertise in computers. I have done enough programing to know “Hello World!”, and I know how DNS, HTTP, and TCP/IP work, but hey, I’m not going to pretend like I can trace digital footprints. That being said, I can read. I’ve read quite a bit about the hacks. Everything I’ve read has based their argument on, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The following link is a Newsweek article saying as much.
The most damning article I have read is the following Esquire article. While there are articles that are more condemning, their arguments are based far more on speculation.
Even in the Esquire article, they discuss trails that lead to certain groups that they are arguing are associated with Russian intelligence, but still have no concrete evidence of being sponsored by Russian intelligence. The article’s attempt to undermine Guccifer 2.0 is based on Guccifer 2.0 having connections to the groups they have associated to Russian intelligence, and that some of the leaked files were modified using the Russian language by a Russian who died in 1926 (Feliks Dzerzhinsky)… It even states in the article:
“Fears of a Russia-sponsored October surprise grew as it became clearer that the subversion effort was improving. When files appeared, they were now scrubbed of the sort of distinguishing metadata that had allowed analysts to trace the leak back to Russian intelligence.”
The article talks about how CrowdStrike, who was investigating the DNC hacks, used what they knew about previous hacks by the FSB and GRU to create the association FancyBear and CozyBear despite an observed lack of cohesion between the two as noted here:
“Surprisingly, given that security researchers had long suspected that both groups were directed by the Russian government, each of the attackers seemed unaware of what the other was doing.”
Ultimately, the point being that it is far from certain that any of this is state sponsored. While there may be trails that associate certain individuals, or groups, with Russia, it is far from certain. In fact, those practices were strongly denounced with it was applied to the argument that there was an issue of “Pay-to-play” at the Clinton Foundation during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State (who also happened to sell American rights to Uranium to Russia herself). Correlations do not make for causations, just speculations. We must apply the precedents set for skepticism of such accusations.
Moving past the argument regarding the evidence of the hacks’ origins, would it have been any more acceptable if the DNC and the RNC had been trying to hack each other, and the RNC had been successful, but the DNC had not? Would it have changed our views of the wrongs being perpetrated by the DNC? Watergate isn’t really an equivalent. That was a sitting president using government resources to physically break in and spy on the DNC. Further complicating the issue was Nixon’s attempts at covering it up. That would be like Obama using the NSA to hack the RNC. That is an abuse of power that is impeachable. One cannot say Trump, or the RNC, has done the equivalent of that. Further, one cannot attack Trump, or the RNC, for the hacks even if it were perpetrated by Russia. So, Russia having done the attack would have no impact on the legal, or political, implications of what was found at the DNC.
I find it rather odd how you attack Director Comey’s actions. Many on the Right have argued that he was obviously influenced by his associations to the president not to seek an indictment of Clinton. After all, it seems like a fairly thin distinction between the admittedly “Extreme carelessness” shown by the Secretary of State versus the threshold of “Gross negligence”. Further, he was very explicit when he brought up the second round of emails that they were probably nothing. He discussed at length that he was being open regarding these emails, in both rounds, at an unprecedented level, to ensure his position as being apolitical. This would lend justification to his argument that he would not make an accusation of Russian involvement to avoid political entanglement.
Finally, I have to admit I take a bit of offense to the insinuation that I’m somehow unaware of the existence of state-sponsored cyber warfare, or how it works. My skepticism regarding Russia’s involvement isn’t to suggest that Russia does not participate in cyber warfare. It would be a safe assumption that any country with access to the global web has some level of engagement in the cyber arena. My skepticism of Russia’s involvement in this case is a self-imposed requirement of my intent to be as impartial as possible. After all, China has suggested we have been involved in a great deal of cyber-surveillance in their country through deeply embedded protocols in the platforms we provide them. They have more concrete proof of such practices than we have of Russia’s involvement in the DNC hacks. Unless you want to admit to the US’s involvement in such actions and thus the concession that it is fair play for foreign governments to do the same to us, I can’t assume smoke means fire. Further, I don’t believe the “what” of the hacks should be undermined by the “who” that perpetrated them, but will concede that it can dictate the “why”.