Never? Not once? The FBI has consistently asserted that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was an operation linked to the Russian government, even if they were less convinced that the Russians wanted to elect Donald Trump as a result. Last night, however, BuzzFeed’s Ali Watkins reported that the DNC has told her that the FBI never requested access to their servers, nor has any other government agency. Instead, they relied on a report from a private vendor:
The FBI did not examine the servers of the Democratic National Committee before issuing a report attributing the sweeping cyberintrusion to Russia-backed hackers, BuzzFeed News has learned.
Six months after the FBI first said it was investigating the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, the bureau has still not requested access to the hacked servers, a DNC spokesman said. No US government entity has run an independent forensic analysis on the system, one US intelligence official told BuzzFeed News.
“The DNC had several meetings with representatives of the FBI’s Cyber Division and its Washington (DC) Field Office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and it responded to a variety of requests for cooperation, but the FBI never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers,” Eric Walker, the DNC’s deputy communications director, told BuzzFeed News in an email.
So who did check out the hacked servers? The DNC brought in a well-respected outfit called Crowdstrike to check out their systems, and it was Crowdstrike that concluded that the DNC was the victim of a Russian-government hack. “Crowdstrike is pretty good,” Watkins’ intel-community source told her, adding that they had no reason to believe that Crowdstrike got it wrong.
As pretty good as Crowdstrike might be, cyberattacks are federal crimes. Add to that the espionage implications involved with a hostile government intrusion, and this story doesn’t add up at all. This kind of crime should have had the FBI seizing the evidence and creating a chain of evidence in order to build a case should the opportunity for prosecution arise. The CIA and/or the NSA should have conducted their own probe of the servers to check for potential means to track back the attacks. Those are fairly obvious first steps to take under any circumstances, let alone the highly public circumstances of these hacks both then and over the last several weeks.
One could assert that political organizations might not be too comfortable having law-enforcement and intelligence agencies delving into their communications, and for good reason. However, the communications got released to the public anyway, so that’s a bit like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. Certainly the DNC should have gotten over that last shred of modesty by then, and the FBI and intelligence community should have been eager to get their hands on the hardware. And yet, they still haven’t done so to this day, according to BuzzFeed. Hmmmmm.
It’s curious, and this report from Reuters is even more curious:
U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The timing of the additional intelligence is important because U.S. President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack. U.S. Senate and House leaders, including prominent Republicans, have also called for an inquiry.
Well, isn’t that convenient timing. Put these two stories together, and it appears that the intelligence and law-enforcement communities didn’t take a very strong interest in chasing down evidence until after the election, too. That doesn’t mean the Russians weren’t behind it all — that still seems more likely than not — but it sure makes it look like the Obama administration, FBI, and the intelligence community didn’t care about it enough to act until the results of the election embarrassed the White House.