Yesterday NBC published a story stating that authorities were looking into the hard drives that were the basis for the NY Post stories about Hunter Biden to see if there was any connection to foreign intelligence operations:
Federal investigators are examining whether the emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.
NBC never directly identified which intelligence operations they were looking at, though the story mentions Rudy Giuliani’s connections to a person identified as a Russian agent.
Giuliani, who acknowledged helping bring the material to light, has in the past sought to unearth information damaging to Biden with the help of a man identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.
Today CNN has a follow-up which recapitulates much of the NBC story but directly states that the FBI is looking for connections between the hard drives and Russian disinformation.
US authorities are investigating whether recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president’s campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said…
The FBI is leading the investigation, the official and congressional source said. NBC was first to report the inquiry.
The probe is part of a larger investigation into Russian disinformation that dates back to before the impeachment inquiry last fall. The alleged disinformation campaign is aimed at tying the former vice president to his son’s dealings with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to US officials familiar with the matter.
CNN points to a couple of threads on Twitter, one of which suggests the emails could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign. That doesn’t mean the information itself (the photos, videos and emails on the hard drive) are necessarily false or that the suspicion justifies how Facebook and Twitter have handled the story.
One thing that is leading to some suspicion, at least by the media, is that the computer shop owner has apparently told different stories about contacting the FBI about the hard drives:
That shop employee has been identified as John Paul Mac Isaac. He spoke to CNN on Thursday in Wilmington. Mac Isaac said that in April 2019 someone claiming to be Hunter Biden brought in a damaged laptop computer to retrieve the data on it. This required him to manually transfer the computer’s data to a separate hard drive, Mac Isaac said, which is how he came to see what some of the files contained.
“Something that has the potential of being damaging,” said Mac Isaac about the files he saw. “That’s what I feel somebody would come looking for. I needed a level of protection.”
Contradicting what he told reporters the day before, Mac Isaac told CNN he did not contact anyone at the FBI about what he saw but that he made “other plans” to get in touch because he “didn’t feel comfortable.” Eventually, he said, the FBI came and seized the laptop with a subpoena on Dec. 9, 2019. He said he has a receipt for the seized property but declined to share a copy of the FBI paperwork with CNN.
There was also a Daily Beast story yesterday which said the shop owner gave various accounts. Asked if he called the FBI from his store or his house he replied, “They approached me.” When reporters reacted in surprise he may have whispered “Ah, sh*t.” In any case he seemingly didn’t want to describe in detail how the FBI contact happened. You can listen to a recording of the interview with the shop owner here. However it happened, it seems clear the FBI knew about the laptops at some point before they picked them up:
The Post published a grand jury subpoena for the laptop and hard drive. The subpoena had been issued by a federal prosecutor who already had the serial numbers of the devices when they were ordered to be handed over in early December 2019, indicating federal law enforcement was aware of the specific devices they want to examine.
Did the FBI get that information from the shop owner? That seems logical but if so, why is the owner now telling CNN he didn’t contact the FBI? These are questions that should be answered but so far the fact that there is an investigation doesn’t prove the data on the drives was was manipulated or that it was hacked as part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Still, given the links to Russian disinformation in the sourcing of the discredited Steele Dossier and the fact that Putin would no doubt love to fool us again, it makes sense to look carefully at where this information came from.