For two and a half years the House Intelligence Committee knew CrowdStrike didn’t have the goods on Russia. Now the public knows too.
Twin Pillars of Russiagate Crumble
By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News
House Intelligence Committee documents released Thursday reveal that the committee was told two and half years ago that the FBI had no concrete evidence that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee computers to filch the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks in July 2016.
The until-now-buried, closed-door testimony came on Dec. 5, 2017 from Shawn Henry, a protege of former FBI Director Robert Mueller (from 2001 to 2012), for whom Henry served as head of the Bureau’s cyber crime investigations unit.
Henry retired in 2012 and took a senior position at CrowdStrike, the cyber security firm hired by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to investigate the cyber intrusions that occurred before the 2016 presidential election.
The following excerpts from Henry’s testimony speak for themselves. The dialogue is not a paragon of clarity; but if read carefully, even cyber neophytes can understand:
Ranking Member Mr. [Adam] Schiff: Do you know the date on which the Russians exfiltrated the data from the DNC? … when would that have been?
Mr. Henry: Counsel just reminded me that, as it relates to the DNC, we have indicators that data was exfiltrated from the DNC, but we have no indicators that it was exfiltrated (sic). … There are times when we can see data exfiltrated, and we can say conclusively. But in this case, it appears it was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.
Mr. [Chris] Stewart of Utah: Okay. What about the emails that everyone is so, you know, knowledgeable of? Were there also indicators that they were prepared but not evidence that they actually were exfiltrated?
Mr. Henry: There’s not evidence that they were actually exfiltrated. There’s circumstantial evidence … but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated. …
Mr. Stewart: But you have a much lower degree of confidence that this data actually left than you do, for example, that the Russians were the ones who breached the security?
Mr. Henry: There is circumstantial evidence that that data was exfiltrated off the network.
Mr. Stewart: And circumstantial is less sure than the other evidence you’ve indicated. …
Mr. Henry: “We didn’t have a sensor in place that saw data leave. We said that the data left based on the circumstantial evidence. That was the conclusion that we made.
In answer to a follow-up query on this line of questioning, Henry delivered this classic: “Sir, I was just trying to be factually accurate, that we didn’t see the data leave, but we believe it left, based on what we saw.”
Inadvertently highlighting the tenuous underpinning for CrowdStrike’s “belief” that Russia hacked the DNC emails, Henry added: “There are other nation-states that collect this type of intelligence for sure, but the — what we would call the tactics and techniques were consistent with what we’d seen associated with the Russian state.”
Interesting admission in Crowdstrike CEO Shaun Henry's testimony. Henry is asked when "the Russians" exfiltrated the data from DNC.
Henry: "We did not have concrete evidence that the data was exfiltrated from the DNC, but we have indicators that it was exfiltrated." ? pic.twitter.com/TyePqd6b5P
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) May 8, 2020
Try as one may, some of the testimony remains opaque. Part of the problem is ambiguity in the word “exfiltration.”
The word can denote (1) transferring data from a computer via the Internet (hacking) or (2) copying data physically to an external storage device with intent to leak it.
As the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity has been reporting for more than three years, metadata and other hard forensic evidence indicate that the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else.
Rather, they were copied onto an external storage device (probably a thumb drive) by someone with access to DNC computers. Besides, any hack over the Internet would almost certainly have been discovered by the dragnet coverage of the National Security Agency and its cooperating foreign intelligence services.
Henry testifies that “it appears it [the theft of DNC emails] was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.”
This, in VIPS view, suggests that someone with access to DNC computers “set up” selected emails for transfer to an external storage device — a thumb drive, for example. The Internet is not needed for such a transfer. Use of the Internet would have been detected, enabling Henry to pinpoint any “exfiltration” over that network.
Bill Binney, a former NSA technical director and a VIPS member, filed a sworn affidavit in the Roger Stone case. Binney said: “WikiLeaks did not receive stolen data from the Russian government. Intrinsic metadata in the publicly available files on WikiLeaks demonstrates that the files acquired by WikiLeaks were delivered in a medium such as a thumb drive.”
The So-Called Intelligence Community Assessment
There is not much good to be said about the embarrassingly evidence-impoverished Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Jan. 6, 2017 accusing Russia of hacking the DNC.
But the ICA did include two passages that are highly relevant and demonstrably true:
(1) In introductory remarks on “cyber incident attribution”, the authors of the ICA made a highly germane point: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.”
(2) “When analysts use words such as ‘we assess’ or ‘we judge,’ [these] are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. … Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary … High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.” [And one might add that they commonly ARE wrong when analysts succumb to political pressure, as was the case with the ICA.]
The intelligence-friendly corporate media, nonetheless, immediately awarded the status of Holy Writ to the misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” (it was a rump effort prepared by “handpicked analysts” from only CIA, FBI, and NSA), and chose to overlook the banal, full-disclosure-type caveats embedded in the assessment itself.
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Then National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the directors of the CIA, FBI, and NSA briefed President Obama on the ICA on Jan. 5, 2017, the day before they gave it personally to President-elect Donald Trump.
On Jan. 18, 2017, at his final press conference, Obama saw fit to use lawyerly language on the key issue of how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks, in an apparent effort to cover his own derriere.
Obama: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”
So we ended up with “inconclusive conclusions” on that admittedly crucial point. What Obama was saying is that U.S. intelligence did not know—or professed not to know—exactly how the alleged Russian transfer to WikiLeaks was supposedly made, whether through a third party, or cutout, and he muddied the waters by first saying it was a hack, and then a leak.
From the very outset, in the absence of any hard evidence, from NSA or from its foreign partners, of an Internet hack of the DNC emails, the claim that “the Russians gave the DNC emails to WikiLeaks” rested on thin gruel.
In November 2018 at a public forum, I asked Clapper to explain why President Obama still had serious doubts in late Jan. 2017, less than two weeks after Clapper and the other intelligence chiefs had thoroughly briefed the outgoing president about their “high-confidence” findings.
Clapper replied: “I cannot explain what he [Obama] said or why. But I can tell you we’re, we’re pretty sure we know, or knew at the time, how WikiLeaks got those emails.” Pretty sure?
Preferring CrowdStrike; ’Splaining to Congress
CrowdStrike already had a tarnished reputation for credibility when the DNC and Clinton campaign chose it to do work the FBI should have been doing to investigate how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks. It had asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s struggle with separatists supported by Russia. A Voice of America report explained why CrowdStrike was forced to retract that claim.
Why did FBI Director James Comey not simply insist on access to the DNC computers? Surely he could have gotten the appropriate authorization. In early January 2017, reacting to media reports that the FBI never asked for access, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee there were “multiple requests at different levels” for access to the DNC servers.
“Ultimately what was agreed to is the private company would share with us what they saw,” he said. Comey described CrowdStrike as a “highly respected” cybersecurity company.
Asked by committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) whether direct access to the servers and devices would have helped the FBI in their investigation, Comey said it would have. “Our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server that’s involved, so it’s the best evidence,” he said.
Five months later, after Comey had been fired, Burr gave him a Mulligan in the form of a few kid-gloves, clearly well-rehearsed, questions:
BURR: And the FBI, in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate — did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked? Or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the data that they had collected?
COMEY: In the case of the DNC, … we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work. But we didn’t get direct access.
BURR: But no content?
BURR: Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint?
COMEY: It is, although what was briefed to me by my folks — the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.
In June last year it was revealed that CrowdStrike never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, according to the Justice Department.
By any normal standard, former FBI Director Comey would now be in serious legal trouble, as should Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, et al. Additional evidence of FBI misconduct under Comey seems to surface every week — whether the abuses of FISA, misconduct in the case against Gen. Michael Flynn, or misleading everyone about Russian hacking of the DNC. If I were attorney general, I would declare Comey a flight risk and take his passport. And I would do the same with Clapper and Brennan.
Schiff: Every Confidence
But No Evidence
Both pillars of Russiagate–collusion and a Russian hack–have now fairly crumbled.
Thursday’s disclosure of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee shows Chairman Adam Schiff lied not only about Trump-Putin “collusion,” [which the Mueller report failed to prove and whose allegations were based on DNC and Clinton-financed opposition research] but also about the even more basic issue of “Russian hacking” of the DNC.
[See: “The Democratic Money Behind Russia-gate” republished today.]
Five days after Trump took office, I had an opportunity to confront Schiff personally about evidence that Russia “hacked” the DNC emails. He had repeatedly given that canard the patina of flat fact during an address at the old Hillary Clinton/John Podesta “think tank,” The Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Fortunately, the cameras were still on when I approached Schiff during the Q&A: “You have every confidence but no evidence, is that right?” I asked him. His answer was a harbinger of things to come. This video clip may be worth the four minutes needed to watch it.
Schiff and his partners in crime will be in for much tougher treatment if Trump allows Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham to bring their investigation into the origins of Russia-gate to a timely conclusion. Barr’s dismissal on Thursday of charges against Flynn, after released FBI documents revealed that a perjury trap was set for him to keep Russiagate going, may be a sign of things to come.
Given the timid way Trump has typically bowed to intelligence and law enforcement officials, including those who supposedly report to him, however, one might rather expect that, after a lot of bluster, he will let the too-big-to-imprison ones off the hook. The issues are now drawn; the evidence is copious; will the Deep State, nevertheless, be able to prevail this time?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing ministry of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former CIA analyst, his retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
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For those who’d like to read the transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee themselves, they are available at hXXps://www.lawfareblog.com/house-intelligence-committee-releases-interviews-russia-investigation
Ray, you seem to push all the right buttons these days. The truth is on your side…and has been these last years and now that the facts come out, your readers are in victory mood. You might also want to have another look at the Spiegel/Magnitsky story … or rather Browser against free press in Germany.
There’s that word “folks” again.
Ray – you have missed the big clue in Brown’s testimony.
Who is Yared Tamene? He was the IT Director of the DNC from 2011 – 2018. Schiff knew. Brown knew.
But the implication is that he is some indie IT guy. Brown told the “truth” but not the whole truth.
MR. SCHIFF: Did the technology vendor — could you tell us who the
technology vendor was that you were working with?
MR. HENRY: That the DNC was working with?
MR. SCHIFF: Yes.
MR.HENRY:His-it’s a company called MlS .And the actual
contractor’s name was Yared Tamene (ph)’ Y-a-r-e-d’ I believe’
MR. SCHIFF: And did you get a sense from Mr. Tamene how specific the
FBI was with their notification of a potential breach to their system?
MR. HENRY: He said that he had — and this is off of that document
so — he said that he had received a phone call in September of 2015 and that he
received a phone call in October of 2015, and I think there was another call again
MR. SCHIFF: Did he tell you whether anyone actually came to visit, or
were these just phone calls from the FBI?
MR’ HENRY: My recollection is – my recollection is the first 3 months was
a phone call, and then subsequently he did meet with somebody. He had – |
believe there are a couple of meetings that were documented in the document.
MR. SCHlFF: And did he tell you whether the FBI had given him any
specifics about what they were alerting him to or recommending any steps that the
DNC should take?
MR. HENRY: Again, my recoll…
DCI Bush’s Iran/Contra whitewash artist Barr is going to prosecute fellow CIA nomenklatura Brennan? It is to laugh.
Ray, thanks for your continuing detailed investigative work. I have a question. Are you saying the bad guys lost and the good guys won when Trump became president? I am trying to determine who is wearing the white hat?
I’d venture to posit that it is not Bill Barr!
Ray’s argument appears to me to be that Truth won. With the truth established, we can finally have a conversation about what to do with it.
A discussion of concrete goals and how to realize them would be in order, in my opinion.
We need to get off the narrative of “if, then” when it comes to revealing the facts. That one side is corrupt and complicit in the cover-up does not mean the other side are the “good guys.” There are no white hats in DC. The whole town is seething with psychopathic ruling-class elitists that will do and say anything to retain their grip on power.
The “pillar” was always “like a reed that splinters beneath your weight [when you lean on it] and pierces your hand” . However, I recall that the report (from Crowdstrike) had something on traces of the hacking code with Cyrilic and other indications of being made by Russians. Given that an American hacker would never be so clever is to learn Cyrilic codes or name of the first head of the Soviet head of intelligence, dim bunch that they are, this pointed to Russians working for the Kremlin.
The assumption that non-Russian hackers are dim bulbs to the man is speculative, but leaving such traces would be a rather sophisticated attempt to hide his work for the insider transferring the data to his thumb drive. Thus I am really curious: did it happen, or it is just a Crowdstrike invention? The failure to examine the computers does not allow us to know.
You ever hear of Vault 7?
There is a set of “facts” that most Americans have no doubts about. The Russians “hacked our democracy” and the claim that Assad “gassed his own people” are two them. Trying to dissuade an American of these certainties is futile. There isn’t an effective way that the narrative that is promulgated by the mainstream media can be challenged. When an event occurs that has the potential to upend the prescribed narrative, it is scrupulously ignored. A good example of this is the revelation provided by Ian Henderson and anonymous colleagues on the team of OPCW experts who examined the site of the alleged chemical attack in Douma Syria. The evidence strongly points to the “attack” being a hoax perpetrated by America’s head-chopping moderate rebels. There is also strong
evidence that suggests that the OPCW was complicit in covering up the hoax. If this were an a real democracy, this story woud be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. There is no mention whatsoever of this matter in the mainstream media.
I have great admiration for Ray McGovern and the work of the VIPS. Unfortunately, it will make no difference. The only people who pay attention to it are the “conspiracy theory” people who frequent web sites like this one.
I am curious what other questions were asked of Shiff, and his responses. Is there more of that video available somewhere?
I will assume here that the DNC had some fashion of security for the computer systems. I mean all that money flying around you know.
What does make sense here is that if the DNC had detected that a thumb drive type device had been used to exfiltrate , and evidently a thumb drive can be used for that purpose, the email data and in doing so learned the identity of the owner or possessor of said thumb drive it is easy for me to draw a conclusion that Mr. Henry and CrowdStrike were brought in to give the FBI an out, an out they needed because of the nasty development on July 10, 2016 being the murder of Seth Rich. If anyone inside the DNC was involved in a forensic search if the DNC systems and IDed a potential thief and tried to “fix it” with a robbery retrieved the thumb drive but ended with a murder, the ensuing mess might closely resemble the current “Mess” and explain the obvious misbehavior of the FBI and the endless lying by Crapper et al.
This death was one too many coincidences in the Clinton political history for me to swallow. By the way where is that DNC server that
was supposed to have been hacked?
This all turns out to be quite an event, the dems get smeared and grasp defeat from the jaws of victory during the 2016 election. The CIA, NSC and FBI are all caught lying and we end up four years later dealing with “Covid-19 Donny” literally running the country into the ground. All the while the prophets of doom in both parties appear to be focused on the coming of the rapture.
I hope John Duram will reveal who Joseph Mifsud was really working for. Mifsud was supposedly spying on General Flynn at the RT dinner in Moscow in 2015 a year before he set up Papadopoulos. It all started with Flynn.
Should be obvious it was MI-6 British Intelligence
Please people, keep this issue alive by bringing it back into the headline news. Thanks Ray. Keep on writing articles such as this.
All of this RussiaGate skullduggery coming to light is just another reason for me to be glad I read Consortiumnews.
#SPYGATE is #OBAMAGATE:
DNC was NOT HACKED, was an internal LEAK!
#RUSSIAGATE a #TOTALFABRICATION by Western Intel
A Brennan DISINFO Operation, Guccifer2.0 HOAX
Blaming RUSSIA was ALIBI; Brennan’s #MOCKINGBIRD PSYOP
b/c NeoLibs didn’t want to lose POWER.
Right on, Ray McGovern — the beacons of truth and justice shine brightly upon you! By the way, I’m convinced Julian Assange is not free due to Trump silencing him in fear he’d become exposed much like Bush and Obama. The foolish and impotent Democrats shot themselves in the foot as Julian would have uncovered much more against Trump than did Mueller, lamestream media or any of the investigatory committees.
And yet, plenty of libruls and Demented Party insist Russia did it. Oh god save us!
For two and a half years the House Intelligence Committee knew CrowdStrike didn’t have the goods on Russia. Now the public knows too.
Twin Pillars of Russiagate Crumble
Maybe so. I sure that this is correct. But, so what. Everyone ‘knows’ those devious Russians hacked the DNC. I would love this silly assertion not to be the case but this is how propaganda and manipulation works. It’s all about inference, and associationist thinking which slowly seeps into the popular consciousness and is taken to be objective ‘truth’.
”The typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performace as soon as he enters the political field. He argues and analyses in a way in which he would recognise as infantile withing the sphere of his own interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective … Information is plentiful and readily available. But this does not seem to make any difference … he is impatient of long complicated arguments. All of which goes to show that without the initiative which comes from immediate responsibility, ignorance will persist in the face of masses of information however complete and correct.”
Joseph Alois Schumpeter 1941 – Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.
Sorry, I have to call it like I see it.
Thank you muchly for this further confirmation of skullduggery among the secret agencies, the DNC, Obama to blacken Russia (the Strumpet hardly needs help in this), to resurrect, fully, the Cold War US Russophobia, to allow HRC to excuse her and the DNC’s dismal efforts at winning over the working classes in those three key states. But then the DNC and its funders/donors (backhanders) haven’t for decades given a toss about the working classes.
As for the MSM – NPR at any rate – their recent (this last week) reportage on the Flynn affair has been constructed so as to reinforce the image of his being “guilty” of all charges. No mention, in any news reading that I heard, of the evidence which has “come to light” and formed the basis of Flynn’s present denial. Nope. Just reiterate, ad infinitum, that he had “confessed” twice to being “guilty” of speaking with “Russians.” That he had originally “lied” about this chit-chat, saying that it hadn’t taken place.
Want to bet that on federally and corporate-capitalist-imperialist foundation funded NPR (and PBS) will fully fess up this evidence? Hmm – I don’t gamble.
“Twin Pillars of Russiagate”
The third pillar already crumbled during the Concord Management (IRA) prosecution. First they said they were not going to prove any Russian government involvement, then they eventually dropped the charges for lack of evidence (despite the millions of documents they introduced in pre-trial discovery).
“Ranking Member Mr. [Adam] Schiff: Do you know the date on which the Russians exfiltrated the data from the DNC? … when would that have been?”
Schiff’s such a craven professional liar. Look how he goes with a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question.
Absenting a massive clean out of the intelligence/surveillance state with any number of too important to jail criminals being jailed, the United States is toast. You don’t lose your principles and keep your position.
A lie repeated often enough . . . Even IF the Russians did influence our election the fact remains that WE already have an extremely flawed political system that WE created and continue to support. Why even pretend any more ? Remember that the US has its ugly hand in the business of governments the world over but that is somehow OK because WE are exceptional. The shit continues to hit the fan.
I think it is foolish to have any faith in Mr. Barr. He will take his prosecutions only so far. Just look at how he rolled over regarding Epstein’s “suicide.” He knows there are certain toes that are not to be stepped on. Without relentless pursuit for truth, all that is left is theater.
Thanks for keeping us up to date on this issue. I wish I had faith that justice will prevail this side of Heaven’s gate.
I am almost convinced that nothing ever gets “cleared up” in the United States now.
Things just go round and round, like a load of clothes in a washing machine.
We have exactly the same phenomenon with Trump.
It is not limited to one party.
It is simply an indicator, like a foul smell that keeps returning, of all the rot and corruption.
This whole conspiracy theory was a total hoax from day one.
Great article Ray
The BOYS take care of the BOYS regardless of what Jersey they are wearing.
Who thinks a Dem Justice Department will pursue the case should Joe Biden, or a substitute hand-picked by the DNC, win the presidency? Anyone? Bueller? Anybody?
It’s a little late in the game for Trump to try to implement his own policies on this matter now. The way things move with the speed of a glacier in Washington the election will be over before a grand jury can be seated and hearings begun. This has been four years of old fashioned four-corners basketball played in Washington. Basically, shifty Schiff and Team Pelosi ran a stall offense, aka Impeachment Charges du jour, until Covid-19 entered as a game changer in the fourth quarter. (Hard to win if half the electorate believes you are choosing to kill their loved ones and the other half is convinced you are deliberately destroying their livelihood.)
Expect to see the tricorn hats and all the associated right wing animus dusted off to make Creepy Joe wish he had chosen the priesthood instead of politics should he win less than six months from now.
Good lord. Can this tale be doubted further?
Will the Deep State be able to prevail this time? Of course they will. If they can assassinate a President in broad daylight, they can get away with anything.
Thanks for staying on this story, Ray. Russiagate is a scam of epic proportions – a seeming intelligence op that brought together bad-faith actors, fascistic technology wizards and willing political whores, all in service of a salivated-over new cold war with Russia and the propaganda needed to carry it out (they failed,) not to mention kicking Trump in the nuts on his way into the White House for committed the sin of beating Hillary in the 2016 election. It also neatly diverted attention from the Dems’ dirty dealings during that year’s primaries (repeated with even more vigor in 2020,) and explained to the heartbroken how their dear Hillary could possibly have lost. (She didn’t! Russia stole the election! Putin controls our very own president!) All in all – and considering the now revealed FBI entrapment of Flynn – this was some vindictive shit, with the director of the FBI and president Obama, himself, playing parts in the big lie. No wonder they need Weekend at Biden’s to be president. He’ll keep all their secrets.
Russiagate smelled bad from the start, and now we have even more proof that it was all political theater. Amazing that they’ve gotten away with it all. But, of course they would, considering the corporate capture of…everything, and the citizenry’s general apathy and fatigue. America is running on the fumes of propaganda, fanned every day, all day by corporate media whores. And we’re dying from it.
Thank you! So well said.
I understood that the Mueller indictment against Russian officials and companies for hacking DNC was based on this Crowdstrike evidence. Henry’s testimony would indicate that Crowdstrike had no evidence of hacking by anyone, much less Russia. Doesn’t that make indictment a fraud.
You can indite a ham sandwich right?
But will justice ever be served.
Thanks for this update, Ray. The scandal needs broader hearing.
That’s a very amusing video of your confrontation of Schiff.