Special Counsel Robert Mueller today indicted 12 Russian nationals for allegedly hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The 12 people indicted were all members of a Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges in a midday press conference on Friday, July 13. The indictment charges that the 12 GRU members “intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury (collectively the “Conspirators”) to gain unauthorized access (to “hack”) into the computers of US persons and entities involved in the 2016 presidential election, steal documents from the computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.”
Beginning in June 2016, the conspirators allegedly began to “stage and release” tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents to the internet. But they didn’t created fictitious online personas to release the documents. Two of those “personas” are DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Mueller Charges that the Defendents Launched DCLeaks.com on April 19, 2016, And Immediately Began Using It To Release Stolen Emails
According to the indictment, on or about April 19, 2016, the 12 Russian “conspirators” registered the doman name DCLeaks. (They first tried to get the domain name electionleaks.com, but it was unavailable.)
Before the website was shut down, in March 2017, it had gotten over one million page views. The site was used to release stolen emails and documents which had allegedly been harvested by the co-conspirators.
The conspirators “falsely claimed” that dcleaks.com had been registered to “American hacktivists” when, the indictment asserts, it was being run by Russia’s GRU.
2. The DCLeaks Facebook Page, Registered to an Imaginary Person Named Alice Donovan, Was Launched in June 2016
Again, according to the indictment, the conspirators created a DCLeaks Facebook page, which was registered to a pre-existing account under the fictitious name of Alice Donovan.
The indictment charges that the GRU agents also used other pre-existing social media accounts, all registered to fictitious names, to promote DCLeaks. The indictment says the fictitious names included “Jason Scott” and Richard Gingrey.”
3. The DCLeaks Twitter Account Also Started Up in June 2016, And The Tweets Are Still Up
The twitter handle @DCLeaks still has nearly 13,000 followers. But the account stopped tweeting just before the US election: DCLeaks last tweet was on October 31, 2016.
The account was used to tweet stories about Hillary Clinton’s campaign: DCLeaks published lists of Clinton’s donors, along with emails from her fundraisers about their efforts. It also published innuendos about the locations of Clinton’s fundraisers, and made plenty of insinuations about the connections between Clinton’s team and the FBI.
In some cases, the DCLeaks tweets are written in a slightly stilted English and read as if they have been written by someone speaking English as a second language. A tweet put out on September 23, 2016, for example, reads, “Looks like Clinton’s staff doesn’t care about security.Wonder from whom did they learn it…”
4. The Computer Used To Operate @dcleaks Was Also Allegedly Used To Try and Start An Online “Flash Mob”
According to the indictment, the same computer that was used to operate the DCLeaks twitter account was also used “in other efforts to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election”.
For example, the conspirators allegedly used that computer to operate the @baltimoreiswhr twitter account. That account called on US citizens to “[j]oin our flash mob” and post pictures with the hashtage #blacksagainsthillary.
The @baltimoreiswhr account has been suspended.
5. DCLeaks Also Retweeted Left-Leaning Journalists, Or Anyone Who Criticized Clinton
The DCLeaks twitter account retweeted Wikileaks, Glenn Greenwald, and other left-leaning sites whenever they had something negative to say about Hillary Clinton. In particular, DCLeaks worked hard to spread the so-called Podesta emails, a trove of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief of staff, John Podesta.
The hacking of Podesta’s email account was widely attributed to Russia. Wikileaks, which obtained and disseminated the emails, was also accused of ties to Russia. In any case, Wikileaks published over 20,000 pages worth of Podesta’s emails, which were also disseminated by DCLeaks.
The DCLeaks twitter account also retweeted calls for Obama to pardon Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who was convicted of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning, who was born Bradley Manning, leaked classified military information to Wikileaks while serving as an intelligence analyst with the US military in Iraq.