Ex-CIA Agent on Report Tying Russia to Election Hacking: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’

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Top Tier Gear USA

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by Carey Wedler

On Thursday, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint analysis report addressing persistent allegations that the Russian government hacked the U.S. election.

Though, as the White House fact sheet asserts, the report largely consists of tips to improve cyber security and prevent future attacks, it also appears to cite evidence Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) actively attempted to hack into U.S. systems, a campaign the government has named “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”

But as the media runs with the story and many outlets accept the 13-page report as fact, veterans of the intelligence community have pointed out flaws with the FBI-DHS analysis.

According to Philip Giraldi, a former CIA agent, the report fails to prove Russia is behind the hack. In a recent Facebook post, he asserted that “apart from assertions of Russian activity connected to an unnamed political party, [the report] provides absolutely no evidence that the alleged intrusions into the DNC servers were anything beyond normal intelligence agency probing for vulnerabilities.”

In fact,” he adds,it doesn’t even provide the evidence for that.”

Further, he argues:

There is no evidence of particular mal-intent that can be traced back to the Russian government, much less to Vladimir Putin. Nine of the thirteen pages of the report deal with advice on how to keep your system from being hacked.

Robert M. Lee, a former U.S. Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Officer and founder and CEO of cyber security firm Dragos, explains the report is confusing because it states early on that its intention is to aid “defenders” of the U.S. However, the report makes a point of declaring RIS guilty, veering away from the stated public service goals.

Lee highlights this convolution, highlighting two alleged groups included in the report:

The public is looking for evidence of the attribution, the White House and the DHS/FBI clearly laid out that this report is meant for network defense, and then the entire discussion in the document is on how the DHS/FBI confirms that APT28 and APT29 are RIS groups that compromised a political party.

But that’s not the only problem. As Lee points out, the report notes the FBI has previously refrained from naming specific actors in joint analysis reports — but does so for the purposes of this investigation, claiming they can confirm indicators of an attack from private sector attribution. Yet “the GRIZZLY STEPPE report reads like a poorly done vendor intelligence report stringing together various aspects of attribution without evidence,” Lee writes.

Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity consultant and author of Inside Cyber Warfare, has bluntly rejected the allegations contained in the report:

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.”

In contrast, Lee shies away from fully disregarding the report, issuing a “thank you” to “the government operators who did fantastic work and tried their best to push out the best information.” But he also has words for those who conducted “the sanitation of that information and the report writing.”

Addressing the report’s list of alleged RIS groups, Lee points out that the list contains both the names of hacking campaigns and types of malware. He explains “the list of reported RIS names includes relevant and specific names such as campaign names, more general and often unrelated malware family names, and extremely broad and non-descriptive classification of capabilities.”

This, like the report’s jumbled intentions, confuses the data. Lee explains:

It was a mixing of data types that didn’t meet any objective in the report and only added confusion as to whether the DHS/FBI knows what they are doing or if they are instead just telling teams in the government ‘contribute anything you have that has been affiliated with Russian activity.’”

Lee also criticized the report for its failure to distinguish between data gleaned from the private sector versus the public sector, noting these different types of intelligence bear different confidence ratings. “[A]lways tell people where you got your data, separate it from your own data which you have a higher confidence level in having observed first hand, and if you are using other people’s campaign names, data, analysis, etc. explain why so that analysts can do something with it instead of treating it as random situational awareness,” he advises.

He also tackles the IP addresses listed in the report, noting “many (30%+) of these IP addresses are mostly useless as they are VPS, TOR exit nodes, proxies, and other non-descriptive internet traffic sites.” He explains that in order for the addresses to be valid indicators of an attack, they “must contain information around timing. I.e. when were these IP addresses associated with the malware or campaign and when were they in active usage.” The report does not include this information.

In the same vein, Lee notes that while the report does contain examples of 30 malicious files, “all but two have the same problems as the IP addresses in that there isn’t appropriate context as to what most of them are related to and when they were leveraged.”

Other experts had more general critiques of the report.

John McAfee, founder of the well-known McAfee anti-virus software and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate argued that hackers from countries besides Russia could have intentionally made the attack appear Russian. If I was the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into the organization,” McAfee said. He added that there simply is no way to assign a source for any attack.”

At least one journalist, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, pointed out a similar problem. Though he acknowledges “Grizzly Steppe” is a “sexy” name, he notes “we don’t learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.”

In spite of this pushback from seasoned members of the intelligence community and the award-winning journalist, media outlets that have parroted the “Russia did it” narrative continued to do so with the recent report. Taibbi pointed out that the New York Times headline for the story treated the report as fact. “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking,” it read, though Taibbi did note some outlets were careful to walk the line, “using ‘Obama says’ formulations” in their headlines.

Ultimately, he observes problems with media outlets simply repeating the statements of government institutions and agents:

The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.

He also doubts the existence of substantial evidence implicating Russia:

If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.”

Similarly, Carr noted:

If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.”

Of course, the opinions of experts do not wholly disprove the theory Russia hacked the election, and detailed evidence is expected to be presented in a report to Congress before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. As Taibbi bluntly asserts, “I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He’s gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything.”

Similarly, Graham Cluley, a cyber security expert based in the U.K., wrote in a blog post that he believes Russia was likely behind the attack. But as even he notes, “what’s to say that that Russian server isn’t itself under the control of hackers in an entirely different country who are covering their tracks? It’s hard to put a water-tight case together unless you have the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ willing assistance of local law enforcement to properly investigate if an overseas computer is itself acting as a proxy for someone else or not.”

As Edward Snowden tweeted:

Considering 87 percent of Hillary Clinton voters now believe with certainty that Russia hacked the election, the role of the media in reporting on the U.S. government’s accusations has turned from critical investigation to obedient acceptance. Yet Taibbi’s comments on the news media’s response to the report may very well apply to the very government agents who released it:

[W]e’ve been burned before in stories like this, to disastrous effect. Which makes it surprising we’re not trying harder to avoid getting fooled again.”

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  • 20 more days to go. I can’t wait for the deutschbag Obama and his mega-ego to vacate the Whitehouse. After 8 years of decline, and the resulting world turmoil, the United States is about to rise again. Hope is on the horizon.

    • Mariakgarcia

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      • Jimmy Yost

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    • jimmy joe

      Boy, you sure do have faith in a known corrupt govt?? Tell me, do you think civil asset forfeiture will be outlawed and the criminals perpetuating them will be thrown in PRISON?? Do you think the us military will be pulled from the mid-east and bases worldwide closed? Do you think the barbaric war on drugs will end?? Do you think roadside strip-searches and cavity searches performed by incompetent fools, that are not medically trained, will end?? You know, trump and ALL his kind NEVER get caught up in this shit, right?? What do you think, is any of this shit I mentioned gonna happen??

      • I hear you my brother. My faith rests not in our corrupt government. It is up to the people to unite and take back control. Viva Anonymous!

      • Tiger

        Never have we had a government to the extent of evil and corruption as we have had under O. We have never had a president who has gone against our Constitution, written and rewritten law and opened our borders, broken every immigration law we have along with bringing in hundreds of thousands of people who want our death, or has disabled our military downrange by changing Rules of Engagement, or giving billions to our enemies like Iran, or making deals with our enemies like Iran and I could go on all day.

        But YES Trump will bring change even if all he did was put our immigration laws back into play.

      • Tiger

        Kennedy was killed shortly after making this speech. I also advise you to read UN Plan 21/2030 to see just where Obama was taking us along with Hillary until the people stopped it.

  • Aaron

    As with the Iraqi WMDs there’s some truth in all this, but not enough to start a war. Obama is trying his hardest to start something with Russia, part of his scorched earth policy of leaving a smoking ruin of country for the Duck to manage.

    An ex-NSA spook flatly stated that this was an op by his former colleagues. They and other 3-letter agencies did not want Hillary as president since she’s such an off-the-rails security risk. And he stated, like McAfee, that it’s child’s play to make it appear that it all originated with the Russians.

    This whole thing seems not made up but trumped up (forgive the pun). This is all orchestrated to take our focus off the content of all the leaked emails: Hillary Clinton has no regard for rules, regulations, security, etc. She sabotaged Sanders chances clearly. She is blind with greed and ambition. AND any cop who’s investigated pedophiles would immediately know all the code words in the Podesta emails. “..pizza party at Hillary’s”? My brother talked with a uniform officer connected to the White House when the Clintons were there and said you could not believe what scum these people are. Hill and Bill need to go to jail for a very long time.

    What’s going on is a demonizing of the messenger. If the Russians did hack these emails, give them to Wikileaks, So What? To expose scum is no crime! You cannot sabotage an election with the truth! And if you think it’s gonna get better after Jan 20 you’re in for some eye opening realities coming your way. The Donald has some good and bad ideas and some good and bad people on his team. It’s same with most presidents. But the real powers in this world wanted Clinton and hate Trump. I fear they’re gonna pull a Herbert Hoover on him: crash the system in multiple ways and make it look like it’s his fault. Tragedy comes when you least expect it. People riding this wave of new hope better be vigilant. Now more than ever — Bibles, Bullets, Beans and Bandaids.

    Putin is appearing to be a very strong world leader in all this, compared to the childish wimp presently in the oval office. Make no mistake, Putin is tough guy old school strongman. But it’s a sad upside down world when a KGB thug is the calm mature voice of reason.

    • Jas

      Some truth? Saddam did not have nuclear weapons, the only chemical weapons were a handful of some dusty old artillery shells left over from the war with Iran in the 80’s, and they were German made which is why the MSM wouldn’t report on it, just like the gas that killed the Kurds, German made, zero story. As for Russians hacking, Assange has directly said he got the E-mails from and internal leak, not a hack, so the whole story is bunk.

      • Aaron

        I think the Iraqis were more clever than we know, except for telling the world to pound sand. But the US had been given the go ahead anyway so it didn’t really matter. WMD’s were just an excuse that fell apart but they had to go with it. They had nothing to do with the invasion.

        And most definitely Assange got the emails from an inside source. My hope is that Trump has the stones to expose what really went on. But my gut tells me that he has been briefed on what he can and can’t say. Plausible cover story probably has been written.

        Putin is just having fun with all this. The guy is a rock star in his country. Obama is is dork weed. What mess America has become.

  • Poke

    Watt a crock-of-crock……BHO is going down as the biggest crock-of-Soros-that-money-could-buy……..

  • disqus_F4LAnhGEIL

    Why would Hillary or the DNC care if they were hacked? Obviously, they had no concern that Hillary had top secret information on a private unsecured server in a bathroom. All including, Barack Hussein Obama were aware of her unsecured server.

  • Defiant

    There’s no proof of Russian involvement. This is just further evidence that we can’t that the integrity of the FBI for granted, anymore. Comey proved that the agency is off the rails and in the tank for the Democrats. Once Lynch and Comey are gone…I’ll believe that the FBI MIGHT be on the road to recovery. Until then, and in light of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary emials…I trust Russia more than I do the FBI.

    • Jas

      Yeah, and maybe they can stop producing fake shootings and bombings too.

    • Rivenburg

      I’m no fan of the FBI in general for VERY close reasons I wont go into here, except to say “collateral damage”, BUT remember that it WAS 100 agents who threatened Comey into his first press release about restarting the investigation. Perhaps there are real patriots in the organization after all this time of “expedient” moral degeneracy.

  • magic1114

    The Democraps are so desperate to find a boogey-man to blame for their loss that they’d even blame the man in the moon if they could get someone to listen to them! The problem with this is that there are numerous snowflakes out there that are sick enough to believe them!

  • BigMG

    Here is a false flag at it’s best.
    Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Security + can see that this report is full of nothing.
    Non sequitur: does not follow. “Hillary lost because Russia.”

    But, like the name of this website, the sheeple will follow any lie so long as it’s repeated enough and highlights vulgarity.

    This all reminds me of the ‘Final Battle’, by CS Lewis, where a conniving monkey dresses a donkey in a lion skin. He carefully script the appearance of the ‘Lion’ when it’s dark and at a distance, then follows up with all sorts of sophistry that the simple animals fall for.

  • Guy

    Same old same old , we are now being told that we must prove that we are innocent , this is a blame game where it is virtually impossible to prove your innocence .The onus is on the Washington to prove guilt ,plain and simple.Let the Clinton hangers on go hang.

  • Stikit

    So Odummo slaps sanctions on Russia and pulls out our Aircraft Carries…is that suppose to be a trap for war…so you can prolong your miserable stay in power. The world is laughing at you fool!!! Besides, first the FBI said there is not a shred of evidence of tampering with the elections, until Obuma calls his dogs at the CIA, then woe-la, corrupt Commie is right in lock-step…What a sick administration!! Good-bye and Good-riddance to the worst of the worst!!

  • Tiger

    The Russians did not force Hillary to lie about Benghazi.

    Russians did not tell Hillary to use a private server and put Classified and Top Secret on it.

    Russians did not tell Billy to meet on the Tarmac with Lynch, did not tell Lynch to go along with whatever the FBI said, which in and of itself is unheard of and did not tell Comey to make a speech, calling Hillary negligent, saying she was most likely hacked being as she took it with her around the world, that she had Classified and Top Secret on her server.

    Russians did not tell Comey to write a letter before voting began to tell Congress new stuff found and the case ongoing on Hillary.

    Russians did not embed themselves into the DNC and make video of preachers and DNC leaders saying yes they rig and yes they will continue to do so.
    Russians did not tell Hillary, Obama, Podesta, Soros and many in the Main Media to send emails discussing how they were cheating and exposing the many sins of Hillary etc.

    Plus this administration has been stuffing FAKE news down people’s gullets for eight years and lying.
    Benghazi
    Iran Deal
    Giving up 5 Gitmo terrorists for a deserter.
    O care like doc can keep doc.
    ISIS the JV Team

    On and On so nothing that comes out of this den of thieves and One World Order bunch is believable. I will wait for Trump’s people to give him the truth. There will be more truth daily when we have a Real DOJ and AG.