Here at Ethics Alarms, the starting point for ethical analysis is the question, “What’s going on here?” It’s impossible to reach a fair and useful conclusion about where any conduct falls on the right/wrong scale unless one has a clear picture of what the conduct is--what happened and why. The still percolating saga of the hacked Democratic National Committee e-mails so far defies ethical analysis, because so many of the key facts are in doubt, so much of their impact is a matter of speculation, and virtually all of the participants, sources and advocates for one interpretation or another are untrustworthy.
I have never seen anything like it.
“What’s going on here?” I really have no definitive answer, but lets slog though the muck:
I. Some of what’s going on here is that Democrats, progressives and Clinton bitter-enders are making a concerted effort to use the fact that troubling DNC e-mails were released to the news media and the internet late in the Presidential campaign to prove the theory that Russian interference with the election was responsible for the victory of Donald Trump. This, they argue in turn, justifies regarding Trump as an “illegitimate President,’ thus justifying ignoring the election results, defying the election results, impeaching Trump immediately, blocking his swearing in, treating him in discourse and conduct as if he had just been convicted of beastiality rather than elected President, “doing something” to “stop him,” and obstructing anything he tries to do to govern.
Another way of putting it is that Democrats want to throw the nation into something perilously close to a Constitution crisis, a revolution, a civil war, and the unraveling of the nation itself because they couldn’t manage to win an election that should have been a breeze, and they refuse to accept accountability.
2. This, I can say without restraint, is unethical beyond question, and despicable as well.
3.The Russian hacks theory is the fourth wobbly leg of the Democratic Party’s “We refuse to accept the results of the election because Trump is unfit to be President as shown by the fact that he said he might not accept the results of the election” position. The other legs: 1) the Electoral College isn’t a legitimate way to choose a President, even though it would have been if it elected Hillary Clinton, and should be retroactively repealed, discarded or defied 2) Trump was elected by morons, racists, xenophobes, woman-haters and morons, while the virtuous, intelligent Americans voted for Hillary, and they know best, and 3) The head of the FBI, who saved Clinton’s candidacy by a very generous interpretation of her highly suspicious conduct after a strangely informal interrogation, thus causing Republicans to question his independence and integrity, intentionally sabotaged Clinton’s coronation by keeping his public promise to Congress that he would alert it if there were any new developments.
Since these are 1) ignorant 2) anti-democratic and 3) ridiculous, all adding up to pathetic and desperate, the weight of the whole effort now rests on Leg #4.
4. Much of the mainstream news media is bolstering that leg by short-handing the story in headlines and print as Russian “hacking of the election.” This characterization is a lie. The ongoing Ethics Alarms Fake News Project, which is dedicated to settling on what “fake news” is (another “What’s going on here?” inquiry) questions how this is any less fake news than “Pope Tells Followers To Support Trump.” Both are intentional lies, designed to confuse and mislead, with the mainstream media lie far more insidious, since only microcephalics are even a long-shot to buy the Pope story, whereas the Democratic Deranged, unhinged by confirmation bias and an inexplicable trust in journalism, are eager to accept the Russian lie. Fact: nobody, anywhere, has alleged that the Russians “hacked the election.” The only way an election gets hacked is when there is interference with the vote totals. “The claim that the ‘election was hacked’ is a bit of a misnomer,” writes former CBS reporter Sheryl Atkinson. “There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.”
No, the term “bit of a misnomer” is a misnomer for “lie.” I would describe Atkinson as a hack by engaging in such equivocation to shield her colleagues, but that might confuse people.
5. No one, except Democratic officials like Donna Brazile when the slimy underside of the their party was revealed by the e-mails, has denied that they were genuine or that their contents were not accurate. This means that the anti-Trump case is that he is illegitimate because the voters knew more about his opponent’s dishonesty and corruption than they should have. This is roughly the equivalent of Richard Nixon arguing that his secret Oval Office tapes should not have been used to impeach him….but that’s really what the case amounts to.
6. The theory is that the Russians hacked the e-mails, and passed them to Wikileaks, which then wikileaked them. Inconveniently, Wikileaks founder and head trouble-maker Julian Assange uncategorically denies that the e-mails came from the Russians. He denied this previously, and did again in an interview with Trump shill Sean Hannity, which will air tonight. Excerpts:
HANNITY: Can you say to the American people, unequivocally, that you did not get this information about the DNC, John Podesta’s emails, can you tell the American people 1,000 percent that you did not get it from Russia or anybody associated with Russia?
ASSANGE: Yes. We can say, we have said, repeatedly that over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party…
ASSANGE: Our publications had wide uptake by the American people, they’re all true. But that’s not the allegation that’s being presented by the Obama White House. So, why such a dramatic response? Well, the reason is obvious. They’re trying to delegitimize the Trump administration as it goes into the White House. They are trying to say that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate President…Our source is not a state party, so the answer for our interactions is no. But if we look at our most recent statement from the US government, which is on the 29th of December, OK, we had five different branches of government, Treasury, DHS, FBI, White House presenting their accusations to underpin Obama’s throwing out 29 Russian diplomats. What was missing from all of those statements? The word WikiLeaks. It’s very strange.
7. Is Assange trustworthy? Of course not. He wants to undermine the United States as much as the Russians do. He could be lying, but why would he lie? Meanwhile, progressives who have previously hailed him as a hero for exposing the corruption in corporations and government suddenly don’t want to accord him credibility, because doing that would interfere with the dubious narrative they desperately want to believe. (It goes without saying that Sean Hannity is untrustworthy, but he just asked the questions.)
8. The FBI and DHS released a brief joint report last week about the matter, calling it “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity.” It doesn’t include forensic proof of Russian government involvement in hacking efforts, though that is theoretically on the way. Why has the Administration stated that the Russians were responsible for the hacks before any evidence could be made public? Well, I hate to be a suspicious sort, but it sure seems like Obama is happy and eager to reinforce that shaky fourth leg as much as possible before the swearing in….all the better to make sure that Trump’s entertainment on January 20 consists of a ventriloquist act, Marie and Her Dancing Weasels, and Milli Vanilli.
9. The evidence-free joint report states that the U.S. believes…
- Two hacking groups tied to the Russian government are involved.
- The GRU, Russia’s military service, is behind one of the groups, and the FSB, Russia’s counterintelligence agency headquartered in the building of the former KGB, is behind the other.
- The two groups accessed “a political party” by sending emails that tricked users into clicking links that planted malware or directed them to Russian servers….phishing, in other words.
- The groups provided the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks denies.
10. Is the FBI trustworthy? Well, I guess it depends on who wants to believe the agency, and when. The same Democrats who don’t trust the FBI’s motives for “sabotaging Clinton” choose to find the agency beyond reproach now….even without seeing the evidence.
11. Mark Maunder, the founder and CEO of WordFence (a plug-in designed to protect WordPress blogs like mine from hacking),wrote in a blog post last week arguing that there was reason to doubt the conclusion that the Russians hacked the DNC. Code identified by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation as being used by Russian intelligence services, Maunder pointed out, is an outdated malware developed by Ukrainians that can be downloaded online. The report by the DHS and FBI included a PHP malware sample which WordFence employees analyzed. They were able to find the name of the malware and the version. Maunder said the malware is called “P.A.S. 3.1.0.,” which was previously available for download on a site that is currently down.
“Our security analysts spend a lot of time analyzing PHP malware, because WordPress is powered by PHP. We used the PHP malware indicator of compromise (IOC) that DHS provided to analyze the attack data that we aggregate to try to find the full malware sample…The PHP malware sample they have provided appears to be P.A.S. version 3.1.0 which is commonly available and the website that claims to have authored it says they are Ukrainian. It is also several versions behind the most current version of P.A.S which is 4.1.1b. One might reasonably expect Russian intelligence operatives to develop their own tools or at least use current malicious tools from outside sources.”
Yesterday, Maunder continued to question the DHS/FBI report. He said TechFence reviewed IP addresses that the DHS said was behind hacking efforts and found that they “belong to over 380 organizations and many of those organizations are well known website hosting providers from where many attacks originate. There is nothing in the IP data that points to Russia specifically.”
Is Maunder trustworthy? Why would he lie? Is he just wrong? I have no idea. Who do we choose to believe, and why?
12. So far, only two news sources that I can find have mentioned Maunder’s attack on the FBI’s conclusions; conservative website The Daily Caller, and Bloomberg. Why do you think this is? To be precise, why hasn’t a single mainstream media source found these doubts worth raising? It couldn’t be because they want as many shadows cast on Donald Trump’s Presidency for as long as possible, could it? The Ethics Alarms Fake News Project wants to determine, among other things, why withholding the timely publication of newsworthy information isn’t the equivalent of “fake news.” Not reporting something important that did happen vs. reporting something that didn’t: what’s the difference, in practical terms?
13. The Russian hack theory began with the CIA. The CIA, I presume everyone knows, lies as a matter of course. It is, also presumably, trying to undermine the Russian government. It is, based on what we know, quite probably involves in various operation against Russia at least as intrusive as what it is accusing Russia of doing during the election.
Is there any way to know when the CIA is telling us the truth, half-truths, or outright lies? Why are the same people and journalists who excoriated the CIA’s findings regarding Iraq’s WMD’s so convinced of its infallibility now? That question, at least, can be answered with some certainty: They want Russia to be the culprit, so they can, as Assange says, claim that Trump was elected by foreign interference, even though that would mean that tens of thousands of Trump voters were planning to vote for Clinton but changed their minds based solely on the WikiLeaks emails, or that tens of thousands of potential Clinton voters decided not to vote because of the revelations, and the combined effect was only decisive in a few key states. There is zero evidence of this, but never mind: to the Angry Left, the fact that Trump was elected is proof enough.
14. Obama’s “retaliation” against Russia for the hacks is, to put it mildly, strange. It is insubstantial, and could be read as an attempt to bolster the Russia hacking theory to undermine Trump. It is odd that he would take any action without revealing conclusive evidence. And why is this the “attack” that finally roused Obama from his torpor?
There have been many more serious cyber-attacks against the U.S. government, but no announced U.S. retaliatory measures. In 2015, Russian hackers attacked the State Department email system in what was called the “worst ever” cyber-attack against a federal agency. The same year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported 5.6 million Americans’ fingerprints were stolen. GAO reported that between 2006 and 2015, the number of cyber-attacks climbed 1,300 percent, from 5,500 to over 77,000 a year at 24 federal agencies. Last March, China government hackers continued pattern of cyber attacks on U.S. government and private networks.
Ah, but revealing that the DNC chair helped Hillat Clinton cheat in a debate—now that’s outageous!
15. How much should Obama be trusted in this episode? Is he using the episode to try to cover the fact that his administration has been unconscionably lax and ineffective in the crucial area of cyber-security? Indeed, we are in this–whatever it is–solely because his Secretary of State, with his passive approval, blatantly ignored government policy and placed US security at risk.
What’s going on here?