Russian Hackers Altered Emails Before Release to Wikileaks

Trump and Putin / Russia Russian
Source: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

New evidence is emerging that content from the DNC emails accessed by Russian hackers may have been altered before being released to Wikileaks. This added layer of information joined with the timing of the release and Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin paint a picture of deep collusion and planning aimed at fracturing any potential Democratic unity at the most crucial point in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Thomas Rid at Motherboard Vice reported on the discovery this morning:

The metadata in the leaked documents are perhaps most revealing: one dumped document was modified using Russian language settings, by a user named “Феликс Эдмундович,” a code name referring to the founder of the Soviet Secret Police, the Cheka, memorialised in a 15-ton iron statue in front of the old KGB headquarters during Soviet times. The original intruders made other errors: one leaked document included hyperlink error messages in Cyrillic, the result of editing the file on a computer with Russian language settings. After this mistake became public, the intruders removed the Cyrillic information from the metadata in the next dump and carefully used made-up user names from different world regions, thereby confirming they had made a mistake in the first round.

Then there is the language issue. “I hate being attributed to Russia,” the Guccifer 2.0 account told Motherboard, probably accurately. The person at the keyboard then claimed in a chat with Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai that Guccifer 2.0 was from Romania, like the original Guccifer, a well-known hacker. But when asked to explain his hack in Romanian, he was unable to respond colloquially and without errors. Guccifer 2.0’s English initially was also weak, but in subsequent posts the quality improved sharply, albeit only on political subjects, not in technical matters—an indication of a team of operators at work behind the scenes.

Rid went on to add:

The metadata show that the Russian operators apparently edited some documents, and in some cases created new documents after the intruders were already expunged from the DNC network on June 11. A file called donors.xls, for instance, was created more than a day after the story came out, on June 15, most likely by copy-pasting an existing list into a clean document.

Although so far the actual content of the leaked documents appears not to have been tampered with, manipulation would fit an established pattern of operational behaviour in other contexts, such as troll farms or planting fake media stories. Subtle (or not so subtle) manipulation of content may be in the interest of the adversary in the future. Documents that were leaked by or through an intelligence operation should be handled with great care, and journalists should not simply treat them as reliable sources.

Adding context to why Putin and the Russian government would go to so much trouble to influence the U.S. presidential elections, NPR reported:

The security firm the party brought in last month to deal with the data breach immediately pointed fingers towardwhat it called “Russian espionage groups.”

“If [it’s a coincidence] it’s a really great coincidence,” said Russia expert Fiona Hill, who directs the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “The Russians have a word — ne sluchaino. It means, not accidental. Not by chance.”

Hill said the Russian hackers may not be taking orders directly from Putin, but that they are clearly working with Russian foreign policy interests in mind.

“They don’t have to be run directly by the Kremlin. They can just be encouraged,” Hill said. “They [Russian security services] are very good at knowing how to play our media. We are making this email leak into a huge story, as they knew we would.”

On a personal level, Trump said last fall that he and Putin “would probably get along … very well.” He has repeatedly praised Putin’s strength, particularly when it comes to military intervention in Syria.

Add to that Trump’s fondness for Putin (both as a man and as a hardline leader):

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know unlike what we have in this country,” Trump told MSNBC in December.

During his annual end-of-year marathon news conference in December, Putin returned the compliment, calling Trump “a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt.”

“He says that he wants to move to a different level of relations, to a closer, deeper one, with Russia,” Putin said. “How can we not welcome that?”

Slate added:

In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

Additionally, several of Trump’s close advisers have Russian ties:

And several advisers in Trump’s orbit have close ties to Russia and Russian interests. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who advises Trump on foreign policy, raised eyebrows in Washington by sitting at a table with Putinduring a gala for the state-run English language news channel Russia Today last year. And Trump’s top adviser, Manafort, has done political consulting work for Ukrainian politicians viewed as allies to Russia.

Even Trump’s vaguely stated policy ideals align with the idea of his collusion with Russia right down to his abhorrence of NATO:

More consequential for Moscow: Trump’s repeated skepticism about the value and strength of the NATO alliance, which formed the pillar of Western Europe and North America’s opposition to the Soviet Union over the past half century.

A central tenet of the North Atlantic treaty is that member states view an attack against one of them as an attack against the entire alliance.

Speaking on the NATO alliance with the New York Times last week, Trump attacked NATO saying:

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”

In essence, Trump wouldn’t live up to the obligations contained in NATO’s charter. While he didn’t explicitly link this reluctance to his relationship with Putin, the writing is on the wall.

That wasn’t the only occasion in which Trump attacked NATO either. “We pay so much disproportionately more for NATO,” Trump said in March. “We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we’re paying the majority of the costs.”

Trump’s anti-NATO remarks and general isolationist stance would benefit Putin’s agenda at large:

The NATO skepticism plays into a much broader isolationist view that Trump has taken during his campaign, a view that would undoubtedly benefit internationally proactive countries like Russia, if it were carried out by a President Trump.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents is that our plan will put America first,” Trump said Thursday night during his convention speech. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”

Which is to say, Americans should regard any “leaks” published by Wikileaks in the coming weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential elections with a grain of salt. After all, Putin has a puppet in his pocket named Trump and a globe full of hackers, spies and allies all aimed at installing that puppet into the White House.

UPDATE [October 10, 2016 @ 9am ET]

Demonstrating they’ve collected sufficient evidence to levy the charge, the United States government has formally accused Russia of attempting to influence the nation’s November elections through participation in a series of hacks and information releases – Wikileaks being one of their primary allies in disseminating that information.

The New York Times reported on the announcement:

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

The emails were posted on the well-known WikiLeaks site and two newer sites, and Guccifer 2.0, identified as being associated with Russian intelligence.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

The accusation comes on the heels of the latest WikiLeaks release obtained directly by Russian hackers.

Additionally, just as the last dump we originally reported on contained fingerprints of Russian hackers, the newest dump shows clear signs of manipulation.

“Official Warning: #PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries and #blackpropaganda not even professionally done,” said former U.S. intelligence official Malcolm Nance.

A scan of a handful of the leaked speeches and documents confirms this as some appear to be recreated (as several documents in the original dump were) using grammar and syntax that Hillary wouldn’t have said in an actual speech.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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  • So, if the content of the emails was altered, then why was DWS forced to step down and why is the DNC Chair taking full responsibility for the content therein….Hmmmmm?

    • To my knowledge neither we nor Vice made any claims that the hackers changed a substantial portion of any content. Please take care to read the article again paying close attention to the final paragraph as the revelation is that the leaked material is unreliable as source material, not verifiably different in terms of content.

  • outshine99

    Trump is a Russian agent. He is a totally controlled agent of V Putin. He supports Putin’s assassinations of his political opponents with plutonium. He is actively attacking NATO in his speeches.

    A vote for Trump is a vote for Russian aggression against all the Baltic states. A Vote for Trump is a vote for world war III.

  • Here is the next reality we need to become aware of:

    1.) In the hours following 9/11, Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to comfort Bush, with the assurance that Russia had been through this same experience with Islamic terrorists from Chechnya. (Read as 1999 Russian apartment building bombings were pretext for US-Russian solidarity in wake of 9/11.)
    2.) In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was killed. Litvinenko was primarily responsible for popularizing the theory that the FSB had blown up apartment buildings in Russia in order to consolidate authoritarian power under Putin. (Read as: Apartment bombings were orchestrated by Putin’s FSB as a context to solidify power. Further evidence is that the Chechen separatist leader (Aslan) fighting Russia was a former KGB operative described as “more communist than Islamist”.)
    3.) Before he died, also in 2006, Litvinenko also claimed Ayman Al-Zawahiri (then Al-Qaeda #2, now #1) had been trained by the FSB for a period of 6 months in Chechnya before being embedded in Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda only started attacking western targets (Kenya embassy) in the months following Zawahiri’s embedding. (Read: The head operational planner of Al Qaeda is/was an alleged FSB agent).

    This is only a small subset of relatively uncontested information. It seems to lead to an inescapable conclusion.
    When it is compounded with the work of Ion Pacepa and other Soviet defectors (highlighting Andropov’s strategy to use Islamic terrorists and jet liners specifically to attack the west, as well as classic disinformation “patterns” used by the Soviets), the argument only gets stronger.

    Why does every conspiracy about 9/11 blame Mossad and CIA for the event? Why does it blame the Saudis? “Who benefits” as they say? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the USA deeply in blood and treasure and corrupted our reputation abroad. Looking back, there is a clear pattern which benefits the Russian-Iranian axis and damages the US-Saudi-NATO axis.

    Don’t forget this: In 2004, it was widely reported that despite opposing the US invasion of Iraq, it was Russian intelligence provided to Bush suggesting Iraq planned terror attacks against US that prompted US action. (Read as Russia fed US intelligence that Saddam Hussein was plotting attacks; other sources suggest false WMD intel came from Russian-aligned sources.)2004 Article – Citing that Putin told US about terror attacks intended by Iraq on US (… “Putin: Russia warned U.S. of Iraq terror”)

    When considering this past against the current ISIS threat and Russian actions to bolster that organization ostensibly (in conflict with their official mission of fighting ISIS) in order to achieve political goals, the model only gets clearer and the argument gets stronger yet still.

    One Donald Trump, with connections to numerous Russian oligarchs, having met with Putin’s chief surrogate on the record at Miss Universe, and employing no less than three oddly Russian-conflicted advisers: Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page… and not only that, running against NATO, running on anti-immigrant (eg “criminal rapist”), and anti-Islamic, and pro white sentiments just like proven pro Kremlin puppets like Marine Le Pen… With the full weight of the daylight propaganda apparatus (RT and Sputnik) and shadow propaganda apparatus (eg Online Trolls and “The Agency”) behind him… You would have to be stupid at this point to think it is a coincidence.

    All people like Trump and Le Pen are doing are weakening the cohesion of NATO and the western alliance so as to provide a platform for a new multi-polar world with one pole headed by Russia.

    Make America Great Again Indeed. #NeverForget

  • apostasyusa

    Thanks for the gathering. I temped to wonder why Weakyleaks would want to release these emails at this time knowing full well the weight it could hold in the elections. It seems Weakyleaks is clawing for relevancy and Assange just can’t get over himself, or the organization is just a front for sellouts. Thanks again!

    • jshin47

      That’s how you’re spinning this? Really?

      Aren’t you really just trying to convince yourself?

      What has flown over all of your heads in the most spectacularly ironic way possible, is that this entire diversion away from the substance and onto the sudden interest in Russian hackers, has been executed in lockstep manner!

      You’re going to lose the middle-of-the-road people if you don’t own up to what is so obvious you have to be too smart to believe it. That is, if the emails themselves – you know, all 30k of them – aren’t damning enough, the sudden message discipline between “competitors” MSNBC and CNN is striking.

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