Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Wikileaks and the Trump-Russia scandal

A new Wikileaks document drop happened this week. And it provides yet another example of how US news and politics right now is a bizarre mixture of intrigue, espionage and conspiracy theories.

Noting a new set of documents being released by Wikileaks, Josh Marshall posts You Probably Can't Be Both (TPM 03/07/2017), which reads in full, "According to Wikileaks, the new tranche of CIA documents was provided by a government contractor or ex-government operative concerned at the overreach of various CIA hacking capabilities. But Wikileaks role as a de facto arm of Russian cyber-warfare and disruption operations against the United States certainly complicates its role as a purported or former whistleblower organization."

Marcy Wheeler has a less dismissive take on the sourcing in Wikileaks Dumps CIA'S Hacking Tools Emptywheel 03/07/2017:

We will no doubt have further debate about whether Wikileaks was responsible or not with this dump. But consider: various contractors (and to a much lesser degree, the US intelligence community) have been releasing details about Russian hacking for months. That is deemed to be in the common interest, because it permits targets to prevent being hacked by a state actor.

Any hacking CIA does comes on top of the simplified spying the US can do thanks to the presence of most tech companies in the US.

So why should CIA hacking be treated any differently than FSB or GRU hacking, at least by the non-American part of the world?

This leak may well be what Wikileaks claims it to be — a concerned insider exposing the CIA’s excesses. Or perhaps it’s part of a larger Russian op. (Those two things could even both be true.) But as we talk about cybersecurity, we would do well to remember that all nation-state hackers pose a threat to the digital commons.
The Guardian's story on the leaks if by-lined to Ewen MacAskill, Sam Thielman and Philip Oltermann, WikiLeaks publishes 'biggest ever leak of secret CIA documents' 03/07/2017. They address the documents' credibility this way:

The documents appear to be from the CIA’s 200-strong Center for Cyber Intelligence and show in detail how the agency’s digital specialists engage in hacking. ...

The CIA declined to comment on the leaks beyond the agency’s now-stock refusal to verify their contents. “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” wrote CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak.

But it is understood the documents are genuine and a hunt is under way for the leakers or hackers responsible for the leak. [my emphasis]
That's an unusually vague reference to sourcing, although the placement suggests that they mean that the CIA understands the docs to be genuine.

A Guardian report by Julian Borger focuses on the intrigue aspect, To security establishment, WikiLeaks' CIA dump is part of US-Russia battle 03/07/2017:

In the Washington security establishment ... the leaks are being viewed more as the latest battle in a struggle between US and Russian intelligence services being played out in the US political arena – a fight in which WikiLeaks is widely seen as sitting firmly in Moscow’s corner.

The latest leaks land amid an ongoing and very public feud between the US president and the country’s intelligence agencies over Kremlin efforts to influence the election in Donald Trump’s favour. In recent months, the president has repeatedly denigrated US intelligence agencies – going as far as comparing them to the Nazi regime – while openly cheering on WikiLeaks activities. He has also alleged, so far without any evidence, that the Obama administration spied on him and his election campaign.

The apparent CIA hacking tools published by WikiLeaks feed directly into that struggle. Some Trump supporters have claimed that the apparent Russian hacking attacks could be a “false-flag” operation, hinting it was carried out by the new president’s domestic foes, and the “Vault 7” documents published on Tuesday give them potential ammunition.
The PBS Newshour reports on the latest Wikileaks revelations here, WikiLeaks publishes purported CIA cyber tools for hacking phones, TVs 03/07/2017: