Strikes On Syria, White Helmets, Skripal Poisoning, Assange Isolation, Transatlantic Trolls & The Mainstream Media In Meltdown: Part Two
Isolation of Assange And The WikiLeaks/Guccifer 2.0 Fantasies Perpetuated By Mainstream Media In His Absence
On March 28, 2018, Ecuadorian officials announced that they were going to censor Julian Assange (editor of WikiLeaks) in response to Assange's activity on social media.
However, the reality that unfolded seems worse - Assange has been isolated by the Moreno regime and is only allowed visits from his lawyer. All calls and internet communications have been locked down.
As for the mainstream media, we've seen the usual - a mostly silent coterie of cowards, the few covering the subject doing so in efforts to malign Assange or to prop up the false narrative of Russian hacker involvement in the leaking of DNC emails in efforts to undermine WikiLeaks and it's edtior.
While Assange has no capacity to offer rebuttals to these, some of us can...
BuzzFeed's Collier Recycles WikiLeaks-Guccifer 2.0 Connection Myths
Approximately a week after Assange was censored, on April 5, 2018, BuzzFeed published an article written by Kevin Collier titled: "These Messages Show Julian Assange Talked About Seeking Hacked Files From Guccifer 2.0". The article was quite similar to the one the Raffi Khatchdorian wrote for the New Yorker last year (titled "Julian Assange - A Man Without A Country") and that I dismantled a couple of months later.
Collier's article, however, doesn't add anything substantive to the narrative, it doesn't show what the title purports and you don't even need to go any further than the first paragraph before bullshit is being spewed at you.
Twitter DMs obtained by BuzzFeed News show that in the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks was working to obtain files from Guccifer 2.0, an online hacktivist persona linked to by Russian military intelligence, the clearest evidence to date of WikiLeaks admitting its pursuit of Guccifer 2.0.The "linked to" text here links to a Daily Beast article that we'll look at after Collier's article. It's worth remembering that Collier already is trying to push the argument that there is clear evidence of WikiLeaks admitting pursuit of Guccifer 2.0, which is also bullshit as the next paragraph doesn't actually support that, it simply shows someone at WikiLeaks asked Emma Best to leave their conversation with Guccifer 2.0 with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 - as in, she need not get involved. - It does NOT show WikiLeaks proactively seeking Guccifer 2.0's content.
Further into the article, we see that Guccifer 2.0's statements are accepted at face value. This, of course, ignores the fact that he told various lies and that none of his hacking claims were independently verifiable and some were highly implausible:
But Guccifer 2.0 had another idea. “[I] gonna send a large trove to wikileaks,” it said. Best, who had DMed with WikiLeaks before, relayed that message to WikiLeaks in a direct message on Twitter. Neither party conveyed to her whether they had interacted together before.While we see some statements from Emma Best, they don't appear to be backed by evidence in written communications:
“I told them that Guccifer 2.0 was considering giving me at least part of the cache, which is when they asked me to be their ‘agent,’ which they said I would get ‘credit’ for,” Best said. She didn’t agree to act as Assange’s agent, she said, but stopped messaging with Guccifer 2.0.We then see Collier go from a statement about Guccifer 2.0 and try to link that to a communication from WikiLeaks that was just as likely to be about their upcoming leaks in general (without specifically being connected to anything Guccifer 2.0 may have had to offer):
“[T]hese other media groups are very likely to take a stupid initial angle,” WikiLeaks said in one message sent Aug. 12 at 9:14 p.m., adding that other news outlets would focus less on the content of the leaks than how they came to be. “‘We don’t know if its true. Possibly russians who knows blah blah blah.’”
It's worth noting that Best was also a source heavily relied on by Khatchadorian and it seems in both cases it's resulted in the public being presented with communications that lack context and don't necessarily relate to Guccifer 2.0's content - but is presented to us as though it is, regardless.
Pushing on, we see more use of Guccifer 2.0's statements where he attributes himself to WikiLeaks. This only serves to reinforce the premise that Guccifer 2.0 wanted everyone to believe in but it's no more than allegations from a source of little, if any, repute.
Of course, at no point does Collier question the premise of Guccifer 2.0 being anything besides a GRU-linked operative nor does he question why Guccifer 2.0 would need an outlet like WikiLeaks (which is primarily for allowing people to leak anonymously) when he's happy to lure press in under a pseudonym and publish files of his own accord.
It's a shame because it shows abject ignorance to much of the evidence that has emerged during the past year giving great reason to doubt the premise of Guccifer 2.0 being affiliated with GRU or any Russian intelligence agency for that matter.
There is more evidence opposing the premise of Guccifer 2.0 being GRU-affiliated than there is supporting it, not that the mainstream media are likely to concede the reality. With the exception of one journalist in an article published online, there hasn't even been any mention of the fabrication of evidence that Guccifer 2.0 engaged in on June 15, 2016 and it's been over 440 days since the discovery of fabrication was first made.
Collier then introduces Seth Rich into the article:
But Assange chose, in television interviews both immediately before and after his conversation with Best, to not publicly bring up Guccifer 2.0, and instead to tease the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose murder spawned conspiracy theories, could be the source for his leaks.Maybe, Guccifer 2.0 (who was trying to discredit WikiLeaks) wasn't the source of the DNC leaks and that's why he didn't get mentioned? As for Assange choosing to "tease the conspiracy theory", it's true that Assange did mention Seth Rich in an interview and WikiLeaks subsequently announced that they were offering a reward for information leading to a conviction. The "teasing" here though, is entirely Collier's inference.
Collier then proceeds to try to discredit the notion that Rich could have been a source through the following paragraph:
The theory didn't account for how a regular staffer would have had access to Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s email account, which WikiLeaks released in October, or files stored on the DCCC’s server, which Guccifer 2.0 released slowly over the summer on its WordPress account and in emails to reporters. Nor did it account for why the NSA, FBI, and CIA, as well as a number of US and foreign private threat intelligence companies, would each conclude there was sufficient evidence that the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence arm, had indeed hacked those targets.Most people that have theorized about Rich potentially being a source for WikiLeaks did so in relation to the DNCLeaks not the Podesta leaks.
The notion of Rich being a source for DNC emails is in no way discredited by Guccifer 2.0 releasing documents from the DCCC. The DCCC documents weren't released by WikiLeaks but somehow Collier seems to lump these together to try to unduly discredit the premise of Rich being a source.
Finally, Collier seems to think that the ICA (Intelligence Community Assessment) was credible (it's GRU affiliation premise was discredited within two months of publication by evidence that the mainstream media has kept buried). - And even here, this is irrelevant to any potential relationship between WikiLeaks and Seth Rich as it's solely about Guccifer 2.0 - implying that this discredits the premise of Rich being a source is nonsense.
Collier proceeds with:
Rich's murder, two weeks after Assange first began leaking the hacked DNC documents, was likely the result of a robbery attempt gone bad, police concluded. But the conspiracy theory was spread quickly by alt-right social media figures and conservative news sites, and lasted far beyond the election, with people like Fox News commentator Sean Hannity talking about it for months after Trump took office.
Collier has screwed up the chronology here but at this stage, he's already presented things upside down and inside out so who gives a shit? - The reality, for those who care about accuracy, is that the relevant sequence of events (in correct order) was as follows:
July 6, 2016 - Guccifer 2.0 switches from Podesta emails to releasing DNC email attachments.
July 10, 2016 - Seth Rich is murdered.
July 22, 2016 - WikiLeaks began publishing the DNCLeaks.
Chronology aside, Collier cites the speculative police statement about it possibly being a "botched robbery", makes no mention of the suspicious circumstances and good reasons to disbelieve the robbery assertion (nothing was taken and the "could have been a struggle" narrative doesn't seem supported by the fact Rich was shot in the back twice) and we see Collier citing the "alt-right" and "Hannity" (a bit of dog-whistling for the left to reject the story on the basis of partisanship for those of you who don't recognize the purpose such propagandist rhetorical devices serve - though in this article, it's fairly tame and not relied upon much, to Collier's credit).
The article then covers Assange's interview in which he refuted the premise of Rich being murdered in a botched robbery, stating that there were no findings. It points out that WikiLeaks also tweeted later that day announcing a "$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich".
Collier follows this with:
In those interviews, despite privately angling for Guccifer 2.0’s files, Assange continued to push the Seth Rich story. Two weeks after the conversation with Best, Assange appeared on Fox News, and while he didn’t claim Rich was murdered over the leaks, he refused to deny it either, and made no mention of any other source.However, even with the content covered earlier in the article, there's nothing showing WikiLeaks actually sought after Guccifer 2.0's garbage. There's nothing implying any desire to get materials from Guccifer 2.0. Someone at WikiLeaks just told Best not to get involved in conversations and discouraged engagement.
This "privately angling" assertion is clearly an interpretation (a probable misinterpretation, in fact) seemingly based on the assumption that the mere mention of leaks by WikiLeaks within certain time frames is inherently a reference to materials Guccifer 2.0 had or assumed to have provided.
The next paragraph is laughable:
Beyond the June 2016 tweet, Assange made no mention of Guccifer 2.0. As with previous misdirections, hinting that Rich was responsible gave WikiLeaks a means of not implicating the Russian government.Why would he mention Guccifer 2.0? - The files Guccifer 2.0 released when he appeared were deliberately altered and had artificially placed Russian meta data in them, they were tainted, yet the files released by WikiLeaks weren't and Guccifer 2.0 didn't release any of the emails or demonstrate any foreknowledge of the scandals that would become public knowledge when the leaks came out.
The assertion that this was a means of not implicating the Russian government is based on assuming there was a link between the Russian government and WikiLeaks in relation to the leaks, when, in reality, this has never been demonstrated.
The article then proceeds to admonish WikiLeaks for not releasing content on Russia that was offered to it during the run-up to the 2016 election and for excluding fa $2.4 billion transaction from the Central Bank of Syria to VTB Bank in Russia from it's "Syria Files" collection.
Collier doesn't mention that half of the material on Russia had already been published in 2014 or that WikiLeaks were unable to validate the additional materials provided. There's also no mention of the apparent uncertainty over whether the large cache WikiLeaks received included the Syria-Russia transaction's details or whether this was just seen by a WikiLeaks staffer who was presented the file separately from the cache in a chat that was subsequently leaked.
WikiLeaks has maintained that any claims that they had withheld details of this Syria/Russia transfer are false. What seems most likely is that the email failed to pass muster during Wikileaks' verification processes (ie. they spotted it was fake).
Going further, the source of the claim actually turns out to be an FBI proxy, something Collier totally neglects to mention!
The email in question was something that was presented by Sabu (aka Hector Monsegur - best known for his involvement with hacktivist group Lulzsec). However, Sabu was arrested by the FBI on June 7, 2011 and had agreed to work for them.
The Syria-Russia transaction claim above was from a log of chat that occurred in November 2011 (Months after Sabu was arrested and while his persona was an active FBI asset.)
The article then returns to Guccifer 2.0:
Details about the true identity of Guccifer 2.0 are still coming to light. But in many ways, it was obvious from the start.Yes, this is true, however, it's baffling why Collier will only entertain the evidence that supports the narrative of Guccifer 2.0 being a Russian and is completely disregarding the bulk of evidence on origin that suggests otherwise. It's as if everything that has emerged throughout 2017 has been invisible to him - he's certainly not alone in doing this but it doesn't make the broad and selective omissions justifiable.
Collier goes on to cite a discredited claim from a ThreatConnect report:
It used a shady Russian VPN service that gave it access to IP addresses that weren’t commercially available. Despite having files from congressional races all over the country, it prioritized leaks of swing states.
This was something I covered over a year ago. I was apparently the first person to bring the whole Guccifer 2.0 drama to the attention of the VPN service provider. It turned out that to get the same IP address as Guccifer 2.0 used, you just had to leave the option for server to use set to "default". It wasn't an exclusive IP at all, as was being assumed.
As for those leaks of swing states - they actually made no discernible difference in those states and were mostly concerning demographics and past voting trends. In fact, here is the polling from the time Guccifer 2.0 started releasing the data up to election day:
...not that this has made any difference to reporters who have recycled this story 3 or more times throughout 2017 and seem to rely on it time and time again, even now.
Daily Beast's "Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up" Story
On March 22, 2018, the Daily Beast published an article by Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman titled: "‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer".
It opens with:
Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.A "fleeting" slip-up, huh? Not so, when it comes to Guccifer 2.0, who, even according to the official narrative which shows us Guccifer 2.0 sloppily left Russian language metadata on files, used a Russian VPN service to cover his Russian origin, accidentally left a Russian smiley on his first ever blog post (something he only did one other time versus a litany of instances where he opted to use the standard one we're all familiar with) and much more.
If Guccifer 2.0 was a GRU agent, he's one of the sloppiest government hackers out there.
While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime.
It's interesting that the Internet Research Agency, a marketing firm, that hasn't really trolled anyone, is consistently referred to as a "Troll Farm". What their behavior actually suggests is that they are a marketing firm, primarily posting memes to build up audiences to market to. This would explain why studies found that their efforts had a very limited (if any) effect on the election outcome, why half their posts came after the election was over, why they pandered to both of the major parties and to 3rd parties, why they also posted apolitical tweets and various other factors that are anomalous, or at least, anomalous for the narratives we are typically provided on this topic.
Blaming the Internet Research Agency for Russia influencing an election isn't new or unique to the 2016 US election. The online advertising agency was also blamed 3-4 years ago regarding the Ukraine, where almost exactly the same story and blame game was used to say Russia was manipulating their election.
Mueller's indictment is toothless, nobody will stand trial, there's nothing showing any activities were due to Kremlin influence (as the paragraph above does at least concede) and while it produces good fodder for the mainstream press to spoon-feed to unthinking audiences it is ultimately something that didn't have any substantive impact on the election.
We are then informed that Mueller's office declined to comment for the story, Roger Stone gets dragged up as though that drama is worthy of attention (it really isn't). As is standard practice for articles like this, the partially-discredited ICA (Intelligence Community Assessment) and "high confidence" is cited, however, to the credit of the authors there is a concession in the form of the following:
But the assessment did not directly call Guccifer a Russian intelligence officer. Nor did it provide any evidence for its assertions.True, and you'd think if they had intelligence linking the persona to the GRU they might have mentioned it but for some reason this was either unknown at the time or they just forgot to include it.
It turns out there is a powerful reason to connect Guccifer to the GRU....go on...
Guccifer 2.0 sprang into existence on June 15, 2016, hours after a report by a computer security firm forensically tied Russia to an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee. In a series of blog posts and tweets over the following seven months—conspicuously ending right as Trump took office and not resuming—the Guccifer persona published a smattering of the DNC documents while gamely projecting an image as an independent Romanian hacktivist who’d breached the DNC on a lark. As Stone’s Breitbart piece demonstrated, Guccifer provided Moscow with a counter-narrative for the election interference.
The report (from CrowdStrike) was actually preceded by an article written by Ellen Nakashima, published in the Washington Post on June 14, 2016, a day earlier. The article featured statements from CrowdStrike in reference to the past weekend (when Assange had made his announcement about the existence of leaks) and claimed, conveniently, that they had only just cleared out hackers from the DNC's network at the time Assange made that announcement.
Their story also pushed a narrative that implied Trump opposition research and a nondescript document had been targeted by hackers approximately 45 days prior to the article being published. However, their story also served to be an unusual voluntary admission that their own anti-hacking solution had failed to do it's job, something that I've covered within several articles in the past as it just seems bizarre.
Guccifer 2.0's appearance ultimately served to affirm both parts of this narrative by presenting the Trump opposition research to reporters with deliberately placed Russian 'fingerprints' on them, it's still incredible to see the mainstream media fail to have skepticism and question the convenient coincidences Guccifer 2.0's appearance presented especially when his fabricated evidence very specifically affirmed CrowdStrike's narrative (presented to the public just one day prior to that).
As for "Guccifer provided Moscow with a counter-narrative for the election interference": He fabricated Russian fingerprints on his first batch of leaks which he lured press in with, Poulsen and Ackerman do themselves no favors trying to run with what is, to those aware of all the facts, clearly a ridiculous assertion.
The article then includes statements from ThreatConnect's Kyle Ehmke affirming that the flimsy veil of the Romanian masquerade was indeed phony (obvious to anyone that looked beyond Guccifer 2.0's stated identity), though there's no mention of the reasons ThreatConnect had to doubt Guccifer 2.0 was even a real hacker and that his behavior was atypical for a state-level actor.
We're then told that Guccifer 2.0 typically used Elite VPN (A Russian based VPN service provider) to cover up his Russian origin with an exit-node in France, which is true. However:
...on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation.It's "anonymous source familiar with" time again! - This is fine if that source is providing some evidence that can then be independently verified but if that's not the case it can, and often is, little more than rumor-mongering from intelligence community figureheads.
Twitter and WordPress were Guccifer 2.0’s favored outlets. Neither company would comment for this story, and Guccifer did not respond to a direct message on Twitter.So the social media platform providers that Guccifer 2.0 used along with Mueller's office have both declined to comment on the claims.
Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow. (The Daily Beast’s sources did not disclose which particular officer worked as Guccifer.)How do you identify an individual agent from the IP address of an intelligence agency's headquarters when that information is only really likely to give away the agency's identity at most?
The claim here seems implausible and I'm surprised Poulsen and Ackerman didn't question this further.
The article then cites Fancy Bear being attributed by the USIC (US Intelligence Community), NGOs, etc. to Russia's GRU (not mentioning that the Fancy Bear malware at the DNC looks like it may have been planted and that it used an IP address that had been unusuable by Fancy Bear for over a year - meaning it was more useful for the purpose of attribution than anything else).
This is followed by:
Timestamps in Guccifer 2.0’s first leaks show they were packaged for release over the course of a single day in June 2016, beginning just hours after the DNC intrusion and its attribution to Russia were made public.As was covered earlier, this was actually the day following a Washington Post article publicizing CrowdStrike's narrative that cited both Trump opposition research and pinned the blame on Russia, two things that Guccifer 2.0's fabricated evidence conveniently providing affirmation of.
Guccifer 2.0 declared that he’d already sent the bulk of the stolen material to WikiLeaks—which has spent the time since obfuscating whether Guccifer was its source.The link provided here doesn't show WikiLeaks obfuscating on Guccifer 2.0 being a source, at most it's Emma Best being told not to get involved and is an article I've dismantled in the past.
On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing its cache of approximately 19,000 emails and 8,000 attachments stolen in the hack.We don't know that the "DNC Leaks" documents released by WikiLeaks came from a hack. As I've repeatedly reported in the past: CrowdStrike had Falcon installed across the network following a visit around May 5, 2016 and the DNC started paying for the service on May 11, 2016. The emails were acquired approximately two weeks later and despite the installation of Falcon and claims they were monitoring hackers there has been no evidence relating to the acquisition of the emails produced by CrowdStrike.
It's an inexplicable absence of evidence.
The article then proceeds to cover Roger Stone again, then Aaron Nevins, focuses on the swing states where the leaks made no discernible difference (as covered earlier in this article in relation to the BuzzFeed article). It then outright refers to Guccifer 2.0 as "The GRU officer".
And now for something completely speculative...
Sometime after its hasty launch, the Guccifer persona was handed off to a more experienced GRU officer, according to a source familiar with the matter. The timing of that handoff is unclear, but Guccifer 2.0’s last blog post, from Jan. 12, 2017, evinced a far greater command of English than the persona’s earlier efforts.This is pure speculation from an anonymous source claiming familiarity with the subject, the fact there's no specificity here and the supposed "handoff" time is undefined and unsubstantiated makes that pretty obvious.
Also, it's bullshit to suggest Guccifer 2.0 had a weak command of English prior to his January 12, 2017 post, there's ample evidence to suggest otherwise. Checking a corpus of Guccifer 2.0's communications shows that he could demonstrate strong capabilities with English language too and illustrates that it's possible to cherry-pick examples that show good command of English language. For example, from as early as June 2016:
- "It appears there are a lot of financial reports, donors lists and their detailed personal information including e-mail addresses and private cell phone numbers."
- "Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton's and other Democrats' mail servers. But he certainly wasn't the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC's servers."
- "I see many people wanna know a little more about me and ask a lot of questions. And I’m ready to tell you what you’re interested in if it doesn’t threaten my safety. Unfortunately I can’t give personal answers to everybody. That’s why I’d like journalists to send me their questions via Twitter Direct Messages."
Finally, we come to:
Today the most popular counter-narrative surrounding Guccifer 2.0 concedes that the account was a fake persona but posits that it was created by the DNC to support a false-flag operation implicating Russia. In this theory, advanced in two widely cited anonymous blogs, Guccifer 2.0 was the DNC posing as Russia posing as a Romanian hacker.
I don't think Forensicator's studies have posited that, he may consider the theory in comparison to others but has generally avoided going further than observations and looking at probabilities. We also don't know that it was the DNC specifically, however, it's clear from the evidence that Guccifer 2.0 fabricated evidence to support the CrowdStrike narrative that was first publicized on June 14, 2016 in the Washington Post and that this makes it appear as though Guccifer 2.0 was working in cahoots with CrowdStrike (if not controlled by individuals there) and that a litany of other factors gives considerable cause for doubt on the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 to the GRU as it appears it was trying to create a narrative to tie WikiLeaks to Russia and even tried attributing itself to Seth Rich in August, 2016, contradicting it's past claims of hacking. (An important fact overlooked in Collier's article too!)
[The authors of the 'anonymous blogs' in question (of which, I am one) are pseudonymous not anonymous. This matters because, unlike the Daily Beast's anonymous sources, Forensicator and I both have a track record, our observations, conclusions, etc. and the evidence we use to support them are known and if we make claims, people have, depending on the individual concerned, between 9 months and 14 months worth of history they can use to evaluate accuracy, reliability, honesty, etc. We've answered directly to people challenging us, something the Daily Beast's sources are unlikely to even have to attempt to do as they peddle rumors from behind a shield of genuine anonymity without consequence. - As for my own 'anonymity', there are journalists and intelligence veterans that know my real identity. In addition, at least one department of the US government has been advised of who I am and has been made aware of my involvement in efforts to help collate evidence for the purpose of aiding federal investigation(s). We're not playing games and trying to deceive, we're trying to do the exact opposite - untangling and understanding what happened in 2016. -AC]