Russian hackers released leaked documents on N.H. political races

Monitor staff
Published: 12/14/2016 10:09:41 PM

Mysterious hacker Guccifer 2.0 had a simple motto when it came to leaked emails: Ask and you shall receive.

William Tucker, author of the liberal New Hampshire politics blog Miscellany Blue, was one of the people who asked.

In late summer, Tucker published a political scoop detailing behind-the-scenes Democratic drama in New Hampshire.

Using leaked Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, Tucker uncovered that D.C.C.C. members were privately expressing doubts about 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Carol Shea-Porter, and advocating “a fresh face” to replace her – Executive Councilor Chris Pappas.

Ultimately, the story wasn’t a game-changer in the election and Shea-Porter narrowly survived her race against Republican Frank Guinta.

But the information released about New Hampshire was part of a coordinated operation by Russian hackers to influence House elections around the country, according to a new investigation by the New York Times.

There is increasing evidence that Guccifer 2.0 was not a person, but rather, a group of people working for the Russian government to undermine U.S. elections.

The Times investigation reveals Russian hackers successfully targeted Democrats this election cycle, including hacks of the D.C.C.C. and Democratic National Committee. Hackers also released thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s top advisors, which were published by WikiLeaks or directly leaked to the press and bloggers.

Even back in August, Tucker said the suspicion of Russian hacking was in the back of his mind.

“I knew at the time it was likely somewhat involved with Russian intelligence,” Tucker said. “It was something that was of concern to me when I wrote the piece, not wanting to be (a) participant in this Russian scheme to attack the American electoral system.”

All it took to get the trove of documents was a direct message on Twitter.

Tucker first contacted Guccifer 2.0 in late August.

“I report on NH politics. Very interested in obtaining DCCC data on NH1 race you leaked to Washington Examiner. Thanks!” he wrote.

The hacker responded a few hours later.

“hi man. r u going to make a story about me?”

The two corresponded about the leaked documents with information about New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

“do u only need nh1 report?” Guccifer 2.0 wrote. “i have more than one file on nh.”

Finally, he wrote, “check ur email.”

Tucker received two leaked D.C.C.C. files on the 1st and 2nd congressional races in the Granite State.

“The piece I did on Carol Shea-Porter’s race was pointing out a very limited piece of that,” Tucker said in an interview Wednesday.

Last week, officials at the CIA told Washington lawmakers they believe Russian hackers disseminated the leaked information with the goal of aiding Trump’s presidential bid.

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are now calling for a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s actions.

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told New Hampshire Public Radio, “We know there was a lot of interference.”

Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said U.S. intelligence officials informed her and other lawmakers that “there was evidence (Russians) were attempting to sew confusion about the election process here in the United States. And they said it reached to the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Shaheen said she hopes the Obama administration will declassify information related to the Russian hacking.

“I hope we’re going to get to the bottom of this and we’ll take appropriate actions depending on what we find out about what Russia has done,” Shaheen told NHPR.

University of New Hampshire history professor Cathy Frierson, an expert in Russian history, says the news does not surprise her.

“Information control is a hallmark of Soviet governance,” she said. “That is what Putin was trained in and he’s been extremely effective at it. This makes all the sense in the world for them to do this.”

Frierson said the hacks and leaking is consistent with the view of Putin’s government that information must be controlled and used as a weapon to destabilize Western countries.

Frierson suspects the Russians have similar troves of files on the Republican National Committee and President-Elect Donald Trump.

“They gather information constantly, they just keep it in reserve,” she said. “They’ve got everything else on the RNC as well. Now, they don’t have to deal with a Clinton administration and they have all this potentially compromising information about the Republicans, including Trump.”

Frierson, who has studied Russia for decades, said she believes the hacking incident should be a wake-up call for American politicians and the public.

“It’s easier to think it’s Cold War alarmists,” she said. “We don’t really think this goes on, we don’t really want to adjust our behaviors. ... When in doubt, assume they’re listening.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)

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