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About That 'Leaked DNC Memo'

Russians, leaked memos, and muddy waters...Oh My!

Just when we should be focusing on making sure Trump is not elected, the conflict between Bernie Sanders supporters and the Democratic National Committee has to rear its head again. This time, the fooflah is related to one of the documents purportedly swiped by Russians hacking into the DNC computer. Before I get into this memo, a little background.

The document appeared in a Wordpress weblog entry by an entity calling itself Guccifer 2.0. The entity claims to be the sole hacker, having hacked the DNC and therefore shown the world how smart/capable/geeky/whatever Guccifer 2.0 is.

However, Ars Technica did an excellent forensic investigation of the documents posted by Guccifer 2.0, showing that, in several cases, the documents had Russian digital fingerprints associated with them. This jibes with the assertions made by CrowdStrike, the company the DNC hired to investigate the cyberattack on its servers.

Let's face it: the writing at the Guccifer 2.0 weblog reads like a Russian's characterization of an American hacker. A really bad characterization of an American hacker. And what hacker would host a weblog at Wordpress.com?

Leaving aside the dubious origins of Guccifer 2.0, what about the posted documents?

Most of the material is already public knowledge.

  • The donor list that contains Morgan Freeman and Steven Spielberg is from data you can pull directly from the FEC, for contributions made to the Priorities USA Action independent expenditures PAC.
  • The memo to Secretary Ashton Carter looks like it could be from a recent FOIA request related to Secretary Carter's use of a private email account.
  • The "Secret" document supposedly found on Clinton's PC is nothing more than a first 100 day transition plan for Obama from 2008.

The metadata for the financial spreadsheet documents I examined showed they were all created by members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DNC has claimed that none of their financial documents were compromised in the hack, and this could be true: these documents could have been ones sent to the DNC, or even pulled from other servers.

The Word documents originally were created by several different people from several different companies, but were all seemingly last saved by a person named "Ernesto Che", from, we presume, Ernesto "Che" Guevera.


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If these were stolen from the DNC, there's remarkably little in any of the documents that seemed to actually originate in the DNC.

What about the memo that seems to have everyone in a tizzy?

Shaun King, from New York Daily News, and Jordan Chariton from The Young Turks, as well as others, have been tweeting up a storm about it. Dr. Jill Stein from the Green Party tweeted one line from it:

Use specific hits to muddy the water around ethics, transparency, and campaign finance attacks on HRC.

The netizens can't seem to decide if they're more outraged that the memo existed, or the implications of this one particular line. I'll focus on the line, first, and then the entire memo.

Kim LaCapria of Snopes, who always seems to be in the middle of events such as these (fancy that), posted a full copy of the memo. What Dr. Stein, King, and Chariton and their fellow Twitterphiles don't mention is that on the second page, the "muddy the waters" strategy is spelled out. I copied the relevant section from the Daily Banter's text conversion of the entire memo.

Muddying the Waters

As we all know, the right wing attack machine has been building its opposition research on Hillary Clinton for decades. HRC’s critics have been telegraphing they are ready to attack and do so with reckless abandon. While reporters have much less of an appetite for ethics stories about GOP candidates, we will utilize the research to place highly targeted hits—for example, GOP candidates taking positions supported by their major super PAC donors

.

What you have is a fairly innocuous game plan related to hitting the GOP back, using the same talking points that have been used against Hillary Clinton for years. The same talking points that many Sanders supporters have, unfortunately, adopted as their own.

Why on earth would anyone think this is somehow nefarious or unscrupulous? Did people assume that Democrats were going to maintain a dignified silence while unfounded crap is tossed at the Democratic candidate?

The terminology used in the memo is strange, but the concept is sound: you don't spend your entire campaign in defense mode. When you get hit, hit back. End of story.

What about the memo, itself?

The memo was released with several other Word DOC files in the first Guccifer 2.0 weblog post. These files share a similarity, both in font, in water mark, as well as the fact that none seems to have any metadata. We can't authenticate the documents, because there's nothing really distinctive or identifying about any of them. They are documents listing general talking points and strategy discussions.

But according to the New York Post, the memo is proof that the system "was rigged from the beginning", demonstrating the DNC's preference for Hillary Clinton, to the exclusion of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, this is why Hillary Clinton ended up with almost three million more votes than Bernie Sanders, and almost 400 more pledged votes. It wasn't because people genuinely preferred Hillary Clinton. No, the system must be rigged. After all, doesn't everyone on the left think exactly the same? And if some people really want Bernie, why, then, all of us must want Bernie.

Shaun King proclaims that the memo shows the "ugly connections between the party and Hillary Clinton's campaigns". Well, I suppose that could be true, except for the fact that the memo has all the appearances of a generic, unsolicited suggested strategy, that's either incomplete or has been edited before being released to the public, and is addressed to the DNC, rather than demonstrating any ongoing discussion with the DNC.

I suspect there are similar memos related to how the DNC can deal with the GOP talking points about Bernie Sanders, if he were to win. We know for a fact that Jeff Weaver never hesitated in telling the DNC what it should do, will do, and must do, at numerous times in the last 18 months. If these were published, do we assume that the Sanders campaign was colluding with the DNC?

The Hill has it right about the memo: this is the Republican Party trying to stir things up between the DNC and Bernie Sanders supporters. It's about the only attack they have, considering who their candidate is. And frankly, I have to wonder if the Russians wouldn't prefer a more easily manipulated Donald Trump as President, too.

A release of a very small set of unverified documents, by someone claiming to be a hacker, all related directly or indirectly to a known Russian hack of the DNC servers, proves nothing other than we believe what we want to believe, even though intellectually, we know we're being fed a line of hooey.

We need to be better than this, or come this November, our worst nightmare will come true and Donald Trump will be President.

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