Published daily by the Lowy Institute

The hack that keeps on giving

The hack that keeps on giving

Until a little over a week ago, Julian Assange was probably suffering from relevancy deprivation syndrome after being holed up in London's Ecuadorian Embassy for years. But not anymore. As debate continues over Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee network, the one unassailable truth is WikiLeaks, as publisher of the hacked DNC emails and campaign plans, has to know a bit more than the rest of us about who did what and when.

You could almost see Assange’s chest puffing out as he was questioned as to the source of the DNC material on NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend. You can watch the whole interview here but this is the most relevant response from the Australian-born Assange.

We don't give any material away as to who our sources are. It's a security matter for us as to who our sources are ... many sources from across the world of many different types rely on us to protect their identity, and their rights, to communicate the truth to the public

So WikiLeaks gives no thought to motive at all? Is that wise? Journalists should always question why someone is telling them something and WikiLeaks is no mere conduit but an essential part of this story. If the Russian government was involved in the hack, WikiLeaks is assisting a national government to interfere in the internal politics of another nation. Moreover, this is not a one-off: Assange has confirmed WikiLeaks is sitting on more material from the Clinton campaign that it will drop at some point between now and election day on 8 November. There is obviously a pretty involved strategy at play here. It seems unlikely Assange doesn't know who is pulling the strings.

Of course, the rest of us still don't know if the Russian government was involved.

When it comes to security matters few are as well informed as the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council about intelligence related to national security. According to Clapper, we are all getting just a little bit overexcited. [fold]

Here's The Hill reporting his comments on the DNC hack. 

The spy head was decidedly phlegmatic in his assessment of the incident, describing himself as "taken aback by the hyperventilation over this.”  

“I’m shocked someone did some hacking. That’s never happened before,” he said drily.  

But despite his unflappable response to questions, Clapper did note that an attempt by a foreign government to manipulate an election would be “a serious proposition.”

That's certainly the line Hillary Clinton campaign's is now running with. No doubt hoping the continued focus on the messenger will take some of the sting out of the message, Clinton has blamed Russian intelligence services for the hack while noting Trump has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin.

And of course the Trump campaign is pushing equally hard to link the hack with all things terrible about its opponent, including attempts to make sure the debates between the two nominees take place at the same time as top-rating NFL games.

As Politicfact revealed, it is indeed true the Democrats didn't hold many primary debates and they took place on nights where there was a lot of competition for eyeballs. However, despite assertions by Trump's campaign chairman Paul Mannafort, there was nothing about the timing, frequency or lobbying around these debates in the DNC emails distributed by WikiLeaks.

It should be noted Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the whole affair, both when the story first broke in June and again last week. Of course, this falls into the category of 'they would, wouldn't they', as indeed does the positioning from the Clinton and Trump camps.

The truth is, we don't know much for sure and there is plenty of room for the determined to hide in the murky world of cyber esponiage. What is clear is the purpose of the hack. Undoubtedly, it is to highlight malfeasance in the Democrat camp and consequently weaken the campaign to get Clinton into the Oval Office. As expected, Clinton got a boost in the polls on the back of last week's convention but this race is close. Buckle up for what is sure to be a wild ride.

You may also be interested in