2016 Democratic Convention

UPDATED: Is the DNC Hack "Worse Than Watergate"? Only if You're a Democrat or a Gatekeeper Journalist

Russia is the most likely culprit. But does that mean we should elect Hillary Clinton?

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DWS's congressional website, Wikimedia

Note: As Jesse Singal of New York magazine has documented, the interview in which Wikileaks' Julian Assange claims to have emails that will lead to an arrest or indictment of Hillary Clinton doesn't actually say that. In fact, Singal writes, "Based on my attempt to verify the quote in question, Assange may have never actually claimed to have such materials." Singal called me to ask where I had gotten the quote, which was from a headline supposedly summarizing the interview's content. He quotes me (accurately) as saying, "I took it from a headline that linked to the interview, but I had not watched the interview, which is not good journalism, to be sure." Indeed, it's not. While the Wikileaks/Assange story is tangential to my main points below about the DNC hack, I regret the sloppiness of my reporting and my contribution to what Singal rightly dubs the "internet rumor mill." Read his piece here.

The hack of emails written by members of the Democratic National Committe (DNC) has produced a great deal of embarrassment so far (go here for a searchable database provided by Wikileaks). The cache of emails, especially ones in which DNC members bandy about the idea of attacking Bernie Sanders in some states for being both Jewish and an atheist, helped push DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz out the door and made it clear that the officially neutral organization was actively working against the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange has pronounced that there are more hacked emails to come from his group, including ones that will "provide enough evidence" to see Hillary Clinton arrested. Well, we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, you can savor amuse-bouches such as this email in which DNC operatives toss around the idea of creating "a fake craigslist jobs post for women who want to apply to jobs one of Trump's organizations":

Seeking staff members for multiple positions in a large, New York-based corporation known for its real estate investments, fake universities, steaks, and wine. The boss has very strict standards for female employees, ranging from the women who take lunch orders (must be hot) to the women who oversee multi-million dollar construction projects (must maintain hotness demonstrated at time of hiring).

Title: Honey Bunch (that's what the boss will call you)

Job requirements:

  • No gaining weight on the job (we'll take some "before" pictures when you start to use later as evidence)
  • Must be open to public humiliation and open-press workouts if you do gain weight on the job
  • A willingness to evaluate other women's hotness for the boss' satisfaction is a plus
  • Should be proficient in lying about age if the boss thinks you're too old Working mothers not preferred (the boss finds pumping breast milk disgusting, and worries they're too focused on their children).

About us: We're proud to maintain a "fun" and "friendly work environment, where the boss is always available to meet with his employees. Like it or not, he may greet you with a kiss on the lips or grope you under the meeting table.

Interested applicants should send resume, cover letter, and headshot to jobs@trump.com

This isn't particularly clever or funny and it obviously doesn't come close to rising to the level of, say, Project MK Ultra, the CIA's secret mind-control experiments. But it's all pretty foul stuff, especially the way in which the DNC was so clearly putting its thumb on the scale in the direction of Clinton. It's exactly the sort of behavior that makes people think that—what's that phrase that both Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren use? Oh yeah—"the system is rigged." As it stands, faith and confidence in all aspects of government and a lot of other major American institutions are at or near historic lows. That isn't because we are a particularly cynical bunch. It's because we are privy to more information about the politicians, the performers, and the priests (among others) who seek to assert moral authority and control over us.

Lack of trust is the wages of transparency, but only if what's revealed shows bad-faith or really rotten behavior. In fact, in this new(ish) age of transparency, people are by and large forgiving. For all the talk about how the Sony hack or the celebrity-nude pics hack would destroy everybody revealed in them, very little of that happened as a result.

But the general lack of vengeance on the part of the public is matched with pearl-cluting on the part of the media. Indeed, to date, the press has been far more interested in who created the DNC hack rather than what it contains. Despite the publicized role of a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, "all signs point to Russia." Vladimir Putin, after all, is not just bromancing Donald Trump but has a longstanding dislike of Clinton stemming from her challenging the fairness of Russian elections years ago. Isn't this all about Russia trying to throw a U.S. election one way or another?

Writing at Slate, for instance, Frankin Foer, the former editor of The New Republic, argues that

The emails don't get us much beyond a fact every sentient political observer could already see: Officials at the DNC, hired to work hand in glove with a seemingly inevitable nominee, were actively making life easier for Hillary Clinton. It didn't take these leaks to understand that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a hack and that the DNC should be far more neutral in presidential primaries.

What's galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks. Leaks are an important tool of journalism and accountability. When an insider uncovers malfeasance, he brings information to the public in order to stop the wrongdoing. That's not what happened here. The better analogy for these hacks is Watergate. To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon's goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible. This is trespassing, it's thievery, it's a breathtaking transgression of privacy. It falls into that classic genre, the dirty trick. Yet that term feels too innocent to describe the offense. Nixon's dirty tricksters didn't mindlessly expose the private data of low-level staff.

"We should be appalled at the public broadcast of this minutiae," writes Foer, and there I kind of agree with him. But to the extent that what's revealed is minutiae, it will be forgotten or excused, even if it includes off-color humor and language. To the extent that the contents reveal more serious problems, they will remain relevant (and are relevant), regardless of the source. But there is something else at work in most media responses to the DNC hack, and Foer illustrates this too: Concern that Hillary Clinton, presumably the preferred candidate of many journalists, will lose to Donald Trump.

The DNC dump may not have revealed a conspiracy that could end a candidacy, but it succeeded in casting a pall of anxiety over this election. We know that the Russians have a further stash of documents from the DNC and another set of documents purloined from the Clinton Foundation. In other words, Vladimir Putin is now treating American democracy with the same respect he accords his own. The best retaliation isn't a military one, or to respond in kind. It's to defeat his pet candidate and to force him to watch the inauguration of the woman he so abhors.

Read the whole piece here.

For better or for worse, we live in a world where such hacks or leaks (one man's leak is another man's hack, I assume) will happen more and more frequently. That Hillary Clinton spent a lot of time creating a private server system and then misrepresenting what information passed through it will only heighten interest and flavor the interpretation of whatever information might come to light over the next few months.

Edward Snowden, whose character and motivation was attacked the minute his leaks become public, had a more thoughtful response. If Russia is responsible, he tweeted, it should be condemned for doing so. And, he said, if Russia was behind the hack, there's no question that the NSA would know. "Evidence that could publicly attribute responsibility for the DNC hack certainly exists at #NSA, but DNI traditionally objects to sharing," Politico reports.

And so secrecy begets secrecy, rather than transparency. Until our government and its actors start coming clean and actually changing their behaviors, it will be extremely difficult for them to gain back the trust they have lost over the past 15 or more years.

Related: Edward Snowden Interview on Apple vs. FBI, Privacy, the NSA, and More.

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  1. Jesus, dat grill on DWS. It’s like Nosferatu won a Congressional seat.

    1. Nick, Nick, Nick. Posting that pic is the worst passive-aggressive action I’ve seen on H and R in a long, long time.

      1. There should be a Trigger Warning before we see that picture.

    2. There are just so many things wrong with her face.

    3. Pictured: The DNC hack.

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  2. Transparency’s a bitch. Yet it would be better for all concerned if they’d just sign on to it, rather than having it forced upon them by external sources.

    Dumbasses.

  3. Putin has all of Hillary’s emails. To include the ones she deleted – all 33,000 of them – while Secretary of State. It’s just a matter of what he wants to do with them. And what would Hillary give up for them?

    It’s to defeat his pet candidate and to force him to watch the inauguration of the woman he so abhors.

    Yes…who cares what is revealed. Just shut-up and vote Hillary because Russia.

    1. Oh god I wish he does have them and releases them ahead of the election or even after. But if he does have them, he’s just going to use them for leverage. Which sucks.

      1. It sucks for us, if Hillary gets elected.

      2. What leverage? She’s untouchable.

        1. If Russia decided to dump proof of her various and numerous misdeeds into U.S. news markets she would not be untouchable for long. I doubt they have any such thing, or if they do it’s not big enough to sink her, but there it is.

        2. Oh, she would still be untouchable. Those emails could contain proof that she rotisserie-grilled and ate babies right on the White House lawn, and nobody would do a damned thing. The beeyotch has skates where her feet should be.

          There are some pigs who are more equal than others.

    2. And I really can’t see why Putin would want Trump to get elected particularly. Is the idea that he’d be more likely to cooperate with him in Syria or something?

      1. Respect. Putin is tired of being criticized for violating various international rules and human rights by the Western leaders. He is certain that the West demonstrates doubles standards and hypocrisy when it deals with Russia. He believes that Trump doesn’t care about this “bullshit” and will treat him and Russia with respect that the world power like Russia deserves.

        1. Hmm. Do you suppose that Putin actually favors Trump for that reason? I suppose you are in a better position than I to understand Putin’s mindset.

      2. Off the top of my head – Trumps hostility towards NATO.

      3. Off the top of my head – Trumps hostility towards NATO.

      4. It’s hardly surprising that Russia would want to hack the DNC and the RNC both, but what is surprising is that the data dump is being treated as proof that Hillary should be elected to spite Putin. Y’know, the woman and party who were both totally unable to keep secrets from Russia. Sure. That’s some logic for you.

    3. I’d like to see the heads that would roll if the DNC was a private company instead of a political nonprofit org made up of a bunch of Clinton cronies.

      “The Russians hacked us!”
      “What’s the damage?”
      “Oh, some people just found out we are tasteless liars and crooks, that’s all. But that’s not important! The important thing is that THE RUSSIANS HACKED US!!!”
      “Did I stutter? I said, ‘What’s the damage?'”
      “THE RUSSIANS HACKED US!”
      “You’re fucking fired.”

      Clinton-lapdog MSM: “The Russians hacked DNC emails!”
      Reading public: “What did the mails say? What do they show?”
      MSM: “Didn’t you hear us the first time? The Russians hacked DNC emails!”

  4. Oh, and we get this nonsense about how this disrespect’s our democracy. How? By providing people with more information? How does a foreign hacker releasing emails do anything to harm democracy? It does less damage than, say, taking donations from foreign governments in the name of charity as HIllary is already doing. Or a foreign leader coming here to tell us how to vote – as Obama did with the Brexit. Or a foreign nations government spending money to unseat the sitting leader, as Obama’s State Department did in Israel.

    These arguments are laughable. So laughable that Americans aren’t going to care. Only the truly faithful voting blue no matter what are going to be spouting this bullshit.

    1. They’re just mad because they assume the RNC has similar baggage, and they got caught.
      We had to know the spin was coming, afterall, the media loves Hillary and has spun away every single scandal as of yet.

    2. Like any crook, they’re not sorry they did anything wrong; they’re just sorry they got caught.

  5. What’s galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks.

    Because it makes all the difference whether your data was stolen by an insider or an outsider.

    1. Principals not principles

    2. Yeah, they didn’t seem to give a damn about democracy when they were rigging elections.

    3. I’m just gonna laugh if it turns out the leaks actually feom a disgruntled Bernie supporter, and the only Russian involvement is hosting the site.

      1. That seems far, far more likely to me.

    4. Are the douches involved all using private email accounts or their government ones?

  6. This makes the score of Trump-thumping articles about the Dem convention v articles about the Dem Convention 5-4.

    And with that, I’m wrapping up my role as score-keeper. On the theory that I may be paranoid and suffering from confirmation bias, and Reason really isn’t drifting into just another fungible media outlet parroting the talking points of the day.

    1. Everybody’s got biases.

      With the exception of two or, maybe, three new additions, everybody on Reason staff more or less calls it fair.

      I might disagree with this or that, but they still call it fair.

      . . . except for a couple of new additions.

      I think it was 2004 when Reason.com separated the campaign blog from the regular blog. That worked well. I wish they’d stuck with that. Otherwise, everything becomes a campaign issue for one candidate or another–or it makes it seem that way, anyway, when it’s all jumbled together.

      1. That’s a good idea. I don’t think I was following Reason then. They should do that. It’s too easy for everything to get tainted by the campaign stuff.

    2. This election is boiling down to economic class versus political class. Journalists are naturally part of the political class.

  7. Hillary Clinton hired Wasserman Schultz to work for the Clinton campaign–after it became obvious that Wassermn Schultz had screwed everybody else over in the Democratic Party?!

    What Hillary did in response to this says more to me about Hillary than the emails themselves say about anybody or anything.

    Hillary is a crook, and when someone acts like a crook on Hillary’s behalf, Hillary hires them to work on her campaign. This sustains a pattern of misbehavior with Hillary that stretches back to the Travelgate scandal and continues through Hillary taking money from foreign governments while she was the Secretary of State.

    I wouldn’t vote for Al Capone to head the FBI–not even if he were against warrantless wiretapping and in favor of legalizing marijuana.

    That’s because it doesn’t matter what the other issues are once basic propriety becomes an issue.

  8. I wish Christopher Hitchens were here today to write about Hillary.

    1. You’d need a flame proof suit

    2. I’ve been reading No One Left to Lie To. Oh, how I yearn for this caliber of polemic on Hillary. And just in general these days. Can anyone contemporary compare to Hitch?

  9. Shorter New Republic

    WDATPDIM

  10. But it’s all pretty foul stuff, especially the way in which the DNC was so clearly putting its thumb on the scale in the direction of Clinton.

    Is there anybody in the known universe who wasn’t already aware of Schultz and the DNC’s active efforts to hand the nomination to Hillary?

    1. I suppose this is the one Clinton case where there is a smoking gun.

      1. Yeah, there is still no reason to think that the Russians might have hacked Hillary’s e-mail server.

    2. Is there anybody in the known universe who wasn’t already aware of Schultz and the DNC’s active efforts to hand the nomination to Hillary?

      Sure, die-hard Hillary supporters. Employing crimestop, of course.

    3. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to have hard copy, particularly when you’re dealing with serial gaslighters.

    4. There’s a difference between hearing from the neighbors and townsfolk that your spouse is cheating on you and seeing pictures of them in bed with someone else. Unfortunately, for many, they’d have to catch them in the act to really believe it, and they are usually self deluding enough to know when to not get home early and walk into the bedroom.

  11. I’m reminded of the old saying of con men everywhere, that they can’t cheat an honest man, and all their victims were trying to get something for nothing.

    Whether Putin is behind this or not is immaterial. If they hadn’t been behaving badly, there would be nothing to leak.

    1. Whether Putin is behind the leaks is immaterial to whether the DNC was rigging the primary – it’s not immaterial for other matters.

      Much like the Snowden case, when the powers that be in the US subvert American democracy, I want the American public to know about it.

  12. If it really is Putin that’s behind the leaks, someone should send him a really good bottle of single-malt and a thank-you note: “Respect, d00d. You helped our democracy. You just keep doing you.”

  13. There is no credible, much less conclusive, evidence that the Russian government is in any way responsible for shining the cleansing sunlight of truth on this vile nest of perfidious vermin. If they ever take responsibility for this great act of civic virtue President Trump should gift them a giant statue. Wholly paid for by private donations of course,

  14. Thought experiment: Who are Wikileaks?

    1) It’s the Russians. If it really is an external state power, they dump fairly innocuous intra-party stuff to help their assumed preferred candidate, keeping the rest bottled up for future use in case the election doesn’t go the way they prefer and use the rest for blackmail.

    2) It’s an extra-state affiliate of a state power. This organization has parallel goals to its benefactor, but has protected itself by also spying on its patron, putting itself in a tenuous, albeit more temporary powerful position.

    3) It’s a non-state player. In this case, I would presume that out of fear, they would dump everything right now, knowing what a soup drones can make out of their bodies.

    1. Pretty sure Assange has ample personal reasons to want the ruin of any champion of the establishment like Clinton.

    2. It’s an out of control hamster that can’t keep its mouth shut about anything.

  15. I’ve been wondering how Watergate would have been judged if a) the burglars were successful (and not a bunch of clowns) and b) if they had uncovered massive wrongdoing by the the DNC?

    1. Watergate was such a nothing burger compared to recent government criminality.

      1. But of course the Robert Redford/Barbra Streisand/Hippie/People for the American Way end of the pool STILL cloak themselves in the sanctimony of anti-Nixon, the for-the-people purity of the Democrats. As Camelot segued into Woodward and Bernstein, it fixed a meme so deep in their conceit that it still is a cornerstone today. Even as the Democrats are rotten and corrupt and criminal to a level that would make Nixon blush, they STILL trot out the old purity trope. It’s a centerpiece as to how they’ve been the establishment for the better part of four decades but still market/self-delude themselves that they are the “outsiders”. A parallel is a slutty bar hag that sleeps around with anything that moves but still sees herself as that cute, innocent little girl.

  16. There are lot of people who think Snowden was a Russian agent all along If that turned out to be true, would Nick suddenly think those revelations were an assault on our democracy?

    Nick’s biases are starting to get embossing. Can’t Huffpo or the Atlantic hire him and get him out of reason’s hair already?

  17. Why does it matter who hacked the DNC. If they weren’t so damn corrupt they would have nothing to hide. Whoever it was I personally want to thank them because it is about time this house of cards came tumbling down

  18. How to protect yourself from hackers, Russian or otherwise: don’t be stupid enough to put any of this stuff in writing. DWS and her gang are a pack of idiots — so, of course Hillary hired her.

    1. Exactly. That’s the point that I just can’t seem to get people to understand; our supposed “betters” are actually quite stupid and it’s insane to think that they can do a better job of running our lives than we can.

  19. The DNC dump may not have revealed a conspiracy that could end a candidacy, but it succeeded in casting a pall of anxiety over this election. We know that the Russians have a further stash of documents from the DNC and another set of documents purloined from the Clinton Foundation.

    Good! I hope he’ll leak them in due time.

    In other words, Vladimir Putin is now treating American democracy with the same respect he accords his own.

    If only he started leaking secret party documents in Russia!

  20. “Until our government and its actors start coming clean and actually changing their behaviors, it will be extremely difficult for them to gain back the trust they have lost over the past 15 or more years.”

    15 or more?
    FIFTEEN or more?!
    Cripe… I guess I should be thankful it’s been above board for the past millennia of legitimized theft.

  21. *adjust tin foil hat*

    I didn’t make this theory but I kinda like it. Why is it Russia? Maybe it’s someone in say the FBI, or in some other branch that is just tired of the way Hillary gets off scott free. They are releasing the information secretively because of how she has treated them for the last 20 years.

    Who am I kinding it’s Booooosh!

  22. Of course the Democrats are saying hat leaks are “Worse then Watergate”; they’re scared to death hat the emails will do to them what the exposure of Watergate did to Nixon.

    Hmmmm.

    Nixon and (Ms.)Clinton; there’s a pair I’d go to Hell to see shackled to each-other.

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  24. Assange has more hacked emails that could lead to Clinton’s arrest but….. he’s allowing the DNC to proceed?

    So he’s being a sadist, I guess.

    1. DNC Convention

  25. “the officially neutral organization was actively working against the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.”

    But what evidence is there of that? If authentic, the emails mean that some people at the DNC suggested dirty tricks against Sanders. Is there any evidence they actually did any of those dirty tricks?

    Also, these emails were obtained by Russian intelligence agencies, and Russia is pro-Trump. They have an incentive to withhold emails that would be exonerating – for example, if someone suggested a dirty trick, and someone emailed back “we can’t do that, we’re supposed to be neutral”. And perhaps the Russians withheld emails where people said positive things about Sanders.

    A lot of the emails just concern their negative opinion about Sanders and about his campaign. It’s understandable that they would have a negative opinion, and it would be surprising if they actually felt neutral. This has been an intense campaign. And they had a right to share their negative opinions among themselves, and vent among themselves, in what they thought were private emails.

    If the DNC was actually actively engaged in working against Sanders, you’d think there would be more evidence of it – like people discussing actually having done dirty tricks against Sanders. But in 20,000 emails there were only a few that suggested the DNC might be doing unethical things.

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  27. Did they NOT hear her speak or see her face before they made DWS the “spokeswoman” for the DNC? My cat’s ass is more compelling. (I guess that might say more about me than it does about her, but never mind that!)

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