Lucifer, Guccifer and WordPress… A Detour

Since my blog features travel, outdoor adventures and Burning Man, I usually don’t discuss politics here, other than an occasional comment. This doesn’t mean that I’m not concerned about what is happening in the nation and world. In fact, I am deeply concerned. And occasionally this concern slips over into my blog. Today is one of those occasions. I have been reading the Mueller Report.

I highly recommend that people who are interested in the future of America (and other democracies throughout the world) do likewise. Going to the source provides a different perspective that is well worth the effort. The report is on-line, easy to download, and free (download a copy here). Regardless of how people feel about the relationship between the Presidential campaign and Russia, there is no doubt that the Russians made an all-out effort to impact the American election and sow discord in the nation by utilizing social media in 2016— all the while posing as someone else. 

We’ve heard a lot about Russia using Facebook and Twitter, but it also used YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram. But what about WordPress? That’s where Lucifer and Guccifer come in. Lucifer, as you know, is the devil. You might think of Guccifer as his evil twin brother in disguise. Guccifer 2 was the WordPress site created by the GRU, the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation, to release the data that it had stolen/hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Here is a section of the Mueller Report that addresses Guccifer 2 found on pages 42-45:

“On June 14, 2016, the DNC and its cyber-response team announced the breach of the DNC network and suspected theft of DNC documents. In the statements, the cyber-response team alleged that Russian state-sponsored actors (which they referred to as “Fancy Bear”) were responsible for the breach. (145) Apparently in response to that announcement, on June 15, 2016, GRU officers using the persona Guccifer 2.0 created a WordPress blog. In the hours leading up to the launch of that WordPress blog, GRU officers logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and searched for a number of specific words and phrases in English, including “some hundred sheets,” “illuminati,” and “worldwide known.” Approximately two hours after the last of those searches, Guccifer 2.0 published its first post, attributing the DNC server hack to a lone Romanian hacker and using several of the unique English words and phrases that the GRU officers had searched for that day. (146)”

(If you want to keep a secret, you shouldn’t leave behind such an obvious trail)

“That same day, June 15, 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog to begin releasing to the public documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC computer networks. The Guccifer 2.0 persona ultimately released thousands of documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC in a series of blog posts between June 15, 2016 and October 18, 2016. (147) Released documents included opposition research performed by the DNC including a memorandum analyzing potential criticisms of candidate Trump, internal policy documents (such as recommendations on how to address politically sensitive issues), analyses of specific congressional races, and fundraising documents. Releases were organized around thematic issues, such as specific states (e.g., Florida and Pennsylvania) that were perceived as competitive in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

“Beginning in late June 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release documents directly to reporters and other interested individuals. Specifically, on June 27, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 sent an email to the news outlet The Smoking Gun offering to provide “exclusive access to some leaked emails linked [to] Hillary Clinton’s staff.” (148) The GRU later sent the reporter a password and link to a locked portion of the dcleaks.com website that contained an archive of emails stolen by Unit 26165 from a Clinton Campaign volunteer in March 2016. (149) That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DC Leaks websites tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.”

“The GRU continued its release efforts through Guccifer 2.0 into August 2016. For example, on August 15, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a candidate for the U.S. Congress documents related to the candidate’s opponent. On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona transferred approximately 2.5 gigabytes of Florida-related data stolen from the DCCC to a U.S.blogger covering Florida politics. On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a U.S.reporter documents stolen from the DCCC pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement.” 

“Around the same time, WikiLeaks initiated communications with the GRU persona Guccifer 2.0 shortly after it was used to release documents stolen from the DNC. On June 22, 2016, seven days after Guccifer 2.0 ‘s first releases of stolen DNC documents, WikiLeaks used Twitter’s direct message function to contact the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account and suggest that Guccifer 2.0 ” send any new material stolen from the DNC here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” (160)

“On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next two days preferable because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, “ok… i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.” (161)

I don’t have a clue if other WordPress sites were created to generate conflict in the US. WordPress has been conspicuously silent on the whole issue. 

Now, your feeling might be, “Oh this is just politics as usual.” And if the election turned out the way you wanted, you might even feel that the interference was a good thing. Except it isn’t. Consider this. What if a Russian sub slipped along the Maine Coast and a group of armed soldiers disembarked for some nefarious purpose, say knocking out the power grid for the Northeast. It would be an act of war. And it would be an act of war regardless of whether you were on the right, left, or center of the political spectrum. Millions of Americans have given their lives to protect us against such a scenario. If an American of left, right or center persuasion aided the Russians in their efforts, it would be considered treason. Plain and simple.

Next, think of this. Vladimir Putin and the GRU are not America’s friends. Their total objective is to weaken the United States and other Western Democracies— to replace freely elected governments with something closer to Russia’s government where tyranny, secret police, rigged elections and controlled press dominate. And to create governments willing to look the other way as Russia re-conquers the territory it lost at the end of the Cold War, using whatever force is required.

And finally, this. The nature of warfare has changed. Yes, ships and planes, and bombs, and missiles, and guns and soldiers are still part of it. But cyber warfare has become a major new player. And it is much more insidious. In 2016, the Russians invaded America. Their efforts went far beyond trying to discredit Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. For one, they tried to hack our voting system. Picture going to the polls, voting, and having your vote changed, or lost. To the degree such an effort is successful, it goes to the very heart of our democratic system. It creates distrust in the system. It destroys the system. 

Even worse, Russia tried to sow hatred and discord between groups of Americans, between ethnic groups, between religious groups, and between political groups. That such tensions already existed in America is obvious. It is also obvious that the strength of our nation, and all democracies, lies in the ability of various groups to work together for the better of the whole, to take advantage of the strengths the various groups bring to the table, and to compromise when necessary. The future of America (and the world) is based on bringing people together, not tearing them apart.

25 thoughts on “Lucifer, Guccifer and WordPress… A Detour

    • The old saying from the 1700 and 1800’s still applies, AC. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” It’s pretty much the saying the same thing. Thanks. –Curt

  1. When I worked for the Minneapolis police, we discovered that city council members were bugging each other’s offices. No surprise there – but what truly was surprising was the display of technological history found in the ceilings. There devices from the earliest days of the telephone.

    Nixon’s “plumbers” got their name from JFK’s unit that did the same thing.

    Germany discovered that the US was spying on it, then Israel discovered the Germans spying on them. Putin was sore that Western NGO’s were trying to “destabilize” him. So on and so forth.

    One could even say that the Hillary Clinton and the DNC illegally hired Perkins Coe to conspire with a British spook and Putin to undermine Trump.

    None of that amounts to a hill of beans.

    Putin is going to do what Putin does. Xi is going to do what Xi does and even little bit players like Qatar and Nigeria and Chile routinely hire outfits like Fusion GPS to spin US policy in their favor – and utilize all the tools of spycraft to do it.
    .
    They will use stories planted in the NYT or WAPO citing single anonymous sources or get their memes planted on FOX, CNN, Facebook or Google – and that is just the way it goes.

    There is nothing we can do to stop that.

    Especially when like Ben Rhodes said, “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns”

    In other words, journalism is dead.

    But what we can not tolerate and we do have the ability to stop, is the FBI, CIA, NSA and DOJ interfering with the political process.

    And that they did.

    When the MPD found bugs in the Minneapolis City Council offices, one old cop commented, “At least it wasn’t us who did it.”

    And damned glad of that.

    • In my youth, I worked closely with the City Council and Board of Supervisors in Sacramento. Such shenanigans would have gotten the elected leaders run out on a rail. As it should have been. I know, Greg that there is a difference between reality and ideal in politics. Having worked as a legislative advocate for environmental and health interests on the state level in California and Alaska, I know a bit about it. It’s important, from my perspective, to fight for what is right as opposed to accepting what is wrong, even when we lose. Indeed, Putin is going to do what he is going to do. I would prefer that he not do it here, however, or be encouraged to do it here. It’s a small step from hacking into our election system to hacking into our power grids. Cyber warfare and cyber terrorism are all too real in this day and age. Thanks much for your comments. Appreciated. –Curt

  2. Too many things influence elections, including the U.S. interfering in other countries. Politics has never been an honorable career (IMO), learning to lie and talk in circles is Politics 101 after that, it’s all downhill! So I take it with a grain of salt. All any of us can do is try to find out what each one stands for and attempt to make logical conclusions.

    • Certainly money, G. Lots and lots of it. I don’t think we can give up, however. I really don’t care whether a politician is conservative or liberal, as long as they have the interests of the people at heart. Democracy is a fragile thing. It depends upon the faith of the people. If we lose that faith, we lose our democracy. Admittedly, we have lots of problems. –Curt

  3. Thank you Curt. I was unaware of these details.
    Well before the election, I started replying to emails and Facebook posts from friends on both sides of the aisle “if it is designed to make you angry, it is probably untrue; Check it out before you pass it along.” That seems to have been more effective with that little group than what I was doing before — checking them out myself and replying with corrections. Unfortunately, it is human nature to look for information that confirms our bias. I learned that as an investor but now professionals have given it the name “confirmation bias.”

    • Excellent message, Ray. Peggy and I were doing the same thing. Confirmation bias is a powerful force. I suspect we are deeply programmed by our DNA to have it. Being aware doesn’t cure it, but it at least makes us more aware. Thanks for commenting. –Curt

    • That is a great idea! My gentle attempts to point out errors in forwarded scare messages without hurting feelings…usually hurts feelings anyway, or is so subtle the point isn’t made. So easy: if it’s designed to make you angry, it’s probably not true. If you get angry, there’s your clue to go check it out for facts.

  4. This is quite unsettling, but I’m glad you posted it, and that I read it. I tend to avoid the news even though I know there’s a lot going on. I keep hugging close to Canada hoping it will keep me safe. But in the long run it won’t necessarily. There’s a strong right wing movement here too.
    Alison

    • We are living in dangerous times, Alison. The world is changing rapidly and it is hard to keep up. Maybe not even possible. Many are left behind and they become easy targets for those who would exploit them, often by extremists on the political spectrum who care little for the true plight of these folks and are primarily interested in their own ends, be it power, wealth, or ideology. What you do on your blog, as do many of my other blogging friends, is carry a strong international, positive, people to people perspective that is so vital to the world today. It is the bright side of the web. –Curt

  5. And then there is American interference in Canadian elections – where the interference isn’t even disguised.

    “In the 2015 annual report of the California-based Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN) where Ben Brandzel, one of Leadnow’s founders, currently works, he said: “We ended the year with . . . a Canadian campaign that moved the needle during the national election, contributing greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.”

    And that’s just the tip of this Iceberg.

    • It’s impossible in our world of instant, worldwide communication, Margy, to stop individuals and groups, and even governments form crossing national boundaries, just like it is impossible to keep international business, crime, ideas, and even disease contained within national boundaries. We are moving toward a future where these challenges can only be met on an international level. Until then, we have to muddle through, coming up with the best solutions we can. I’m curious, did OPEN create fake ads, encourage hatred between groups, and try to meddle with the mechanics of how people voted? If so, they certainly weren’t open. Thanks for commenting. –Curt

  6. Curt,
    Thank you for bringing this up and for clarifing the issue of foreign intervention in our election process in a factual and non-partisan way.

    • Thank you Dave. Much appreciated. It is what I hoped to do, recognizing the depth of divide out there. It is far too easy to easy to get caught up in partisanship and forget, or gloss over, the deep threat to our nation and other Western democracies. On another note, how are you doing, my friend? –Curt

  7. Fascinating stuff Curt. The Russians certainly backed the UK leave vote as it is in their interests to dismantle the European Union.
    The internet is a powerful tool but frightening in the wrong hands.

    • Powerful, indeed, Andrew. On the one hand, it lets us share and make new friends in ways unimaginable not very long ago. And then there is the dark side. A weakened West is definitely in the interest of Putin. Putting the spotlight on him and his allies doesn’t stop him, but it can help counter some of his more damaging moves. Thanks. –Curt

  8. Politics is hard enough to swallow these days, but what worries me most is the world we’re leaving behind for the grandkids and those that follow… if there are any.

  9. I appreciate this further education on the topic. I recently heard an interview of a woman on OPB who clearly laid out additional examples of Russians inventing stories in order to enrage Americans and draw divisions in order to influence the vote. Even though I agree that it’s inevitable that these things will happen, I do not at all support the response of just throwing up our hands. I want both enhanced government efforts to stop it, and also massive public education. The response of people who find out they have been duped by Russian fake news is dismay, even if they still feel the same politically. None of us wants to fall for it, and probably everybody is susceptible. It is a national imperative to make the problem widely known and as understood as possible, to help people who want to make their own decisions have the power to do so.

    • Even scarier than it happening, Crystal, is the lack of effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again. One gets the feeling that there is an open invitation for Russian intervention.

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