The allegedly hacked Democratic National Committee server that handled email from the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign and the DNC is the key piece of forensic evidence in Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The intelligence-community assessment on purported Russian meddling in the race, conducted by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA released in Jan 2017, concludes Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the hacking of the DNC and the dissemination of e-mails from key staffers via WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
But the intelligence agencies attributing the sweeping cyber-intrusion to Russia-backed hackers have yet to provide any actual evidence substantiating their claims about how the DNC data was obtained or by whom.
In fact, not a single government agency has even viewed the hacked computer servers to conduct a forensic data-breach investigation.
They never will.
The DNC destroyed the server, former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile revealed.
The FBI asked the DNC to surrender its allegedly breached servers to the bureau. But the DNC didn’t comply and instead, hired the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to make a “replica” of all the information on its server and computers, turning over a major law-enforcement investigation to the private sector.
“The person we hired was the former No. 3 at the FBI, and they worked it out. [CrowdStrike] got a list from the FBI – the things that the FBI wanted. In that list of items that the FBI requested, they asked for a replica or an exact copy of everything that we have from our server – knowing that if we got rid of our server. We actually would get rid of our entire database,” Brazile explained during a discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., about her new book, “Hacks.”
“Our brain would be gone. And then essentially we would have nothing.”
CrowdStrike claimed in the summer of 2016 that “two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries” had hacked into the DNC network in May 2016 by a group the firm encountered in 2015 while investigating a hack on the unclassified networks of the White House, State Department, and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Google, which gave millions of dollars to the Clinton campaign and was under fire during the election for manipulating and suppressing negative search results for Clinton, is one of the CrowdStrike’s primary investors.
Another company which significantly invests in CrowdStrike is Warburg Pincus, a company run by a former staffer of both the Clinton and Obama administrations, Timothy Geithner.
Availing the server to the FBI for examination would allow intelligence agencies and federal government resources to determine whether the DNC was in fact hacked, establish the source of the breach, and verify whether the trove of DNC and Clinton campaign emails published during the election were leaked from a party within the DNC.
Yet, Brazile insisted “killing” the server was critical after the data was breached because the server would continue to be affected by spyware had it not been destroyed.
“In the last two weeks of the election, we had to make another decision as to whether or not to shut down that server – to actually kill it – because we kept getting, you know, we kept getting more spyware,” she said. “They were so stealth; the operation was so stealth.”
The replica and remediation process after the hacking cost the DNC “millions” of dollars, Brazile said.
“We made a replica of everything and turned it all over to [the FBI]. We also let them see all of the evidence from all of the individual computers, from everything else. So, we – trust me, it cost us quite a penny to make replicas and then we destroyed the machines and then bought the staff people new laptops,” she said. “If you can imagine this, right before the convention, these staffers had lost all of their data, all of their materials – everything was gone. Everything was wiped clean, but we made a replica.”