FBI Never Actually Examined Hacked DNC Servers – Trump Says US Needs to Aggressively Combat Cyberattacks

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Jan 6, 2017
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The FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have spent months trying to convince everyone that Russia ran a campaign to influence the results OF the 2016 US presidential election. The top US intelligence agencies also claim to have “high confidence” that the campaign was ordered by the Russian head of state Vladimir Putin himself. However, in a series of new reports, it has turned out that FBI has never even examined the servers of the Democratic National Committee to investigate the alleged cyber attacks.

FBI-DNC public spat, and Trump taking the high road?

Earlier in the week, an unnamed US intelligence official told BuzzFeed that no US government entity had run an independent forensic analysis on the system. While the FBI hadn’t commented on the issue, DNC said that the bureau never asked the committee for access to hacked servers. Eric Walker, the DNC’s deputy communications director had said:

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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.

Beginning at the time the intrusion was discovered by the DNC, the DNC cooperated fully with the FBI and its investigation, providing access to all of the information uncovered by CrowdStrike – without any limits.

The report of the FBI never conducting an independent analysis is damaging to the whole Russia-hacked-US story, because then we only have findings from the private sector. In the last week of December, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had released a report publicly accusing Russia of being behind the cyber attacks. Following it, Washington had expelled 35 Russian diplomats and issued sanctions against Russian intelligence officials and diplomatic facilities in the US.

It was an astonishing revelation, to say the least, that the agencies never actually conducted an independent analysis. In a stunning standoff then the FBI came forward and said that not only had the bureau requested access to the hacked servers but was denied by the DNC.

The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated. This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.

DNC, however, says public spat over their hacked servers was a misunderstanding, but fails to respond to if – and why – the bureau was denied access.

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There’s no fight between the Bureau and the DNC. I don’t know how this has happened, I don’t know where this is coming from.

The officials claim that they have “cooperated with the FBI 150%.”

They’ve had access to anything they want. Anything that they desire. Anything they’ve asked, we’ve cooperated. If anybody contradicts that it’s between Crowdstrike and the FBI.

Amid this ongoing public row, it is unclear if it’s common practice for the intelligence agencies to rely on the forensic analysis provided by private companies. In this case, CrowdStrike was hired by DNC to investigate the hacks in the spring of 2016. DNC had paid CrowdStrike $267,807 for maintenance, consulting and other services from May through August 2016. Without direct access to the network, federal investigators had to rely on the findings of CrowdStrike.

While DNC hack analysis could only be attributed to CrowdStrike, latest reports from the intelligence agencies cover a broader range of concerns, including leaks, propaganda arms, and others. The US intelligence agencies believe that the DNC hacks and the subsequent release of stolen emails was only a part of a broader effort by Russia to influence the US election. (For more highlights, please visit our earlier piece.)

The highlight of this public saga is Donald Trump (somewhat) agreeing with the intelligence community. Earlier today, Trump received a briefing from the heads of the US intelligence community on the assessment that carries classified information linking Moscow to the election influence campaign. A public, declassified version of that report was released Friday.

The President-elect called the meeting “constructive,” didn’t explicitly say if Russia was to blame, but added that he has “tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this [intelligence] community to our great nation”. Trump also said that he will appoint a team to give him a plan within 90 days of taking office, agreed with the intelligence agencies for not publicizing the evidence, and said that the country’s security will be his top priority.

The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.

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