Were the DNC Emails Hacked or Leaked?
Former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley says we’ve heard from the FBI and the CIA, but it is the NSA that would be the critical agency because of how it monitors communications
SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. President-elect Donald Trump is rejecting CIA’s claims that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections to ensure his victory. This comes after ABC News reported on Sunday that the Russian hackers also gained access to RNC e-mails. Obama ordered a full intelligence assessment by January 20th, the day of the inauguration. Reports in Washington Post suggest that the FBI agrees with the CIA that Russia was behind the hacked DNC e-mails but does not agree with the CIA’s conclusion that they did this to help Trump win. Meanwhile, in our own report with Coleen Rowley, on Friday, she urged us not to come to any conclusions until we have more evidence from the intelligence agencies.
Trump’s potential Deputy Secretary of State, John Bolton, is also circulating rumors that the hacks could have been a false flag operation. Joining us to analyze all of this is Coleen Rowley. Coleen is a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel. In 2002, she was named one of Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year for having exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. Thanks, again for joining us, Coleen.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes. Thanks for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: So, Coleen, now let’s discuss what has happened since Friday when we last talked, what are the new developments?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, basically, the new developments are that Congress is getting into the act, calling for hearings. Today, a group of Senators, unfortunately, a lot of the war hawk Senators who have not been immune to group-think before, called for bipartisan hearings in the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committees. The House Democrats also want to participate and they’re calling for a bicameral investigation. Two Senators, I think it was Dianne Feinstein and Leahy, are actually calling for an Independent Commission, something similar to the 9/11 Commission. So, we have a lot of calls for hearings. Unfortunately, these allegations that the CIA put out last week — which the FBI apparently doesn’t fully agree with — they are, in the media, being taken as fact. And so, you see indication at all that someone would actually look into the possibility that these were not even hacks but were leaks. Even though some former NSA whistleblower people that were involved in being whistleblowers about the mass surveillance — Willam Binney, an official, and expert on encryption and decryption — he thinks that actually this is more of a leak by an insider instead of an actual hack. And the reason for that is because the NSA would be the critical agency. Now, we’re hearing everything about CIA and FBI, we’re hearing nothing from the NSA. But what happens is the NSA is the agency in charge of collecting the information and they monitor all these communications, and according to Binney, they would know if these e-mails were passing through networks and leaving and they would actually know the recipient.
SHARMINI PERIES: Coleen, that corroborates with what WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange had said, and also a former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who also indicated that this was a leak, not a hack, and that he has evidence because he was present when they met with the person who provided the leak.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes. And, you know, that actually is a really valid reason for even having further investigation. If they’re going to have an open mind when they do this investigation, they should look in a very broad way instead of already accepting the CIA’s conclusions. And, again, the Intelligence community, it looks like it’s quite a number of them that believe that Russia was behind these hacks. And their only difference is on what the motivation for the hacks was, whether it was to elect Trump, because Putin wanted Trump, which is the CIA goes that far.
One thing to remember in all of this is that these allegations are coming from high-level officials who apparently have been greenlighted or authorized to leak. When these briefings occurred, they were held in super-secret lead-enclosed SCIFs. The FBI, the CIA apparently briefed some high-level — I don’t know if it was the entire Intelligence Committee or just the gang of four or the gang of eight — but they did it in a SCIF. Which means that this supposed to be top secret, and yet, we have our newspapers learning of this through “anonymous CIA sources”.
You know, when people say, “Well, aren’t you for whistleblowing?” I say, “Yes. But there’s a big difference between somebody at a bottom level, someone like an Edward Snowden and someone like a Leon Panetta or a Michael Hayden, who actually thinks they’re allowed — or Petraeus for that matter — who thinks that they have a greenlight to leak or that no one will ever go after them because they’re high level.” And I think that we have to really remain very skeptical of this evidence until we are told what the evidence actually consists. How do they know that these hacks occurred?
What I’ve seen so far in the news about a footprint that was a very obvious clue and people think, “Well, if that was so obvious would that really be a nation state intelligence agency that would be planting such an obvious clue like that?” Or even the phishing itself because Podesta apparently lapsed. It was his own lack of cyber security, in many ways. He lost a cell phone and he didn’t even change its password. And then also someone pretended to be Google and he clicked onto it and gave them his password. And so, that’s something that’s very common. It would be common by the average hacker, not necessarily common by someone working for Russia or for another more sophisticated nation state effort.
So there’s a lot of information that really contradicts the CIA allegations. And going back to the secrecy, they claim that they want secrecy for their methods and for their sources, and in today’s announcement that there would be these hearings, Mitch McConnell said that he hopes to keep it secret. He actually said, “I hope we can protect the agency’s methods and sources.” So that makes it seem like this is going to be a hearing that’s going to be, maybe — the Intelligence Committee does this quite often — have secret meetings and it’s not open to the public.
Maybe a commission would be less secret would be more transparent. Maybe that’s why Dianne Feinstein and Leahy want a commission, an independent commission. But, in any event, it’s a real mess. It’s an absolute mess because I think our mainstream media, along with a lot of these politicians are really falling, again — this has happened more than once — into a group-think led by the so-called intelligence community, but oftentimes that intelligence community, as happened before, the war in Iraq, becomes very politicized. And you’d think they would have learned a lesson by now, but obviously, it seems like we’re falling right into that trap again.
SHARMINI PERIES: And given all of this that’s unfolding and the different in-camera and off-camera and committees and investigations that various people are calling for, I gather that none of this is going to be concluded by the 20th of January when they inauguration takes place — or, for that matter, any time before the electoral college votes on the final results of this election.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes, and that’s why you’re seeing from the partisan angle, from the Hillary Clinton camp, I think both Podesta and one of her former top aides or staffers are calling for a couple of things — one, perhaps postponing the electoral vote. There’s been some talk of that online. And the other one is to brief the electors.
And so, the electors are supposed to meet, I think, in just a few days and vote and so that there would be this briefing by the CIA. Now that, to me, seems like the worst of both worlds because we haven’t actually investigated. What they would be allowing, then, is for the CIA to repeat these allegations, which they conclude or they think that the Russian hacks were designed to elect Donald Trump.
And Bolton, his point about this being a false flag almost becomes more believable at that point because Bolton has been around the block. He isn’t just someone from the sidelines who’s never been in government, who’s saying this could be a false flag. He’s someone who’s served in the Reagan and in the both Bush Administrations. And for him, I think it’s telling that he would even suggest that this could be a false flag, because it suggests that it possible. It suggests that maybe he’s had an inkling that this hasn’t even happened before. And that should be of even more concern to Americans than the, what do they call this, a national nervous breakdown that we’re having over possible interference from Russia.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Coleen. I thank you so much for that update and I’m sure this is going to be an ongoing issue that we’ll be following here at The Real News and look forward to you joining us. Thank you, Coleen.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes, thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.