A recent investigative report—from an unlikely source—reveals a conclusion that rebukes popular narratives: the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was never ‘hacked’ by Russian interests. In fact, evidence points away from any outside interference, instead making a case that DNC electronic communications were leaked by one or more party employees.
An account published by The Nation makes the following arguments: First, a remote hack of Democratic National Committee servers is technically impossible by the present capacity of computer technology. Secondly, the documents and files leaked by Gucifer 2.0, the persona responsible for the leaks, do not stand up under scrutiny—they are forged for the purpose of arousing suspicions about Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. It bears notice that The Nation opposed the candidacy of the Republican victor, Donald J. Trump.
The primary source for this article—written by Patrick Lawrence—is an association of former intelligence personnel called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Founded in 2003 to counter Bush Administration intelligence estimates regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), VIPS is far from a right-wing or Republican group. In its mission to call out those who misrepresent intelligence findings, however, it is dedicated to clearing the public air with regard to “Russiagate” and alleged DNC “hacking.”
Of the current VIPS membership, four are focusing on this job: William Binney, a one-time technical chief at the National Security Agency who wrote many of the programs in use at the agency; Kirk Wiebe, who once served as a senior analyst to NSA’s signal intelligence unit; Edward Loomis, who previously managed signal processing for the NSA; and Ray McGovern, former chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. All four conclude that if hard evidence of Russian hacking existed, the NSA would have it.
Of the evidence used to bolster Russian hacking claims, VIPS makes it clear that the tempo of downloading from DNC servers is inconsistent with the ability of external internet service providers:
“On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second…No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed.”
A more realistic speed would be about 16 megabytes per second, according to former IBM program manager Skip Folden, who further notes that 22.7 megabytes per second is doable by using a USB drive to download the files directly. Only DNC staffers have such physical access. Furthermore, Folden demonstrates the shoddy way in which surface metadata conceals deliberate misdirection toward Russian interference.
The ideological leanings of the hacking theory’s strongest advocates; the fact that the FBI has not examined the DNC servers; and the reality of three “hand-picked” analysts representing a 17-agency consensus casts further doubt on an already crumbling accusation that Russia hacked the DNC.