Was it a hack or a leak?

Yesterday the Nation posted Patrick Lawrence’s article on the the purported hack of the DNC email by the Russians in the run-up to last year’s election. Lawrence reports the analysis by former intelligence officials who assert it was something else entirely. Lawrence’s article was posted under the heading “A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack.”

The “report” comes in form of open letters to the president by a group of former American intelligence officers. The group — Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) — was founded in 2003 and now has 30 members, including a few associates with backgrounds in national-security fields other than intelligence.

The group has written three open letters on the DNC incident, all of which were first published by Robert Parry at Consortium News. The latest is dated July 24 and posted here.

In his article Lawrence notes that “[t]he chief researchers active on the DNC case are four: William Binney, formerly the NSA’s technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis and designer of many agency programs now in use; Kirk Wiebe, formerly a senior analyst at the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center; Edward Loomis, formerly technical director in the NSA’s Office of Signal Processing; and Ray McGovern, an intelligence analyst for nearly three decades and formerly chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch.”

Lawrence’s article presents the analysis based in part on “numerous interviews with all of them conducted in person, via Skype, or by telephone.” The analysis leads to the conclusion that the DNC email was not hacked, but rather leaked by an insider.

Lawrence’s article is shot through with the kind of left-wing rhetoric and allegations one might expect from the Nation. McGovern himself is the co-founder of VIPS and a left-wing activist. I take it that VIPS is a left-wing outfit.

The analysis presented by VIPS and reported by Lawrence nevertheless stands or falls on its own merits. It should be judged on those merits. They are, however, over my head. I can only say the analysis is interesting if true.

At Bloomberg View Leonid Bershidsky performs a service. He summarizes the analysis and subtracts the rhetoric. Bershidsky’s column is “Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don’t Buy the Russia Story.”

UPDATE: I should have made it clear above that the actual research supporting the analysis was conducted by two anonymous workers — “Forensicator” and “Adam Carter” — working off publicly available information. The VIPS appear to be acting basically as publicists in this case.

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