October 2015—Mid-May 2016: Hackers, alleged to be Russian, target almost 4,000 Google accounts related to US politics.

Center for American Progress logo (Credit: public domain)

Center for American Progress logo (Credit: public domain)

According to a June 17, 2016 Bloomberg News article, during this time period, the same allegedly Russian hackers who breach the computers of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and Clinton’s presidential campaign “[burrow] much further into the US political system, sweeping in law firms, lobbyists, consultants, foundations, and the policy groups known as think tanks, according to a person familiar with investigations of the attacks.” Almost 4,000 Google accounts are targeted by “spear phishing,” which involves tricking targets to give log-in information so their data can be accessed. The Center for American Progress, a think tank with ties to Clinton and the Obama administration, is one known target.

Bloomberg News will further report that, “Based on data now being analyzed, various security researchers believe the campaign stems from hackers linked to Russian intelligence services and has been broadly successful, extracting reams of reports, policy papers, correspondence and other information.”

The Russian government denies any involvement, but cybersecurity experts who have investigated the attacks believe the hackers are working for Russia. It is believed that either or both of two major Russian hacking groups, Fancy Bear (or APT 28) and Cozy Bear (or APT 29) are behind the attacks. (Bloomberg News, 6/17/2016)

October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes the first batch of emails belonging to Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

John Podesta (Credit: The Associated Press)

John Podesta (Credit: The Associated Press)

WikiLeaks publishes 2,060 emails it claims belong to John Podesta. Podesta is chair of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, as well as being chair of the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), and was once chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, as well as a top advisor to President Obama. WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange says the emails focus on Podesta’s “communications relating to nuclear energy, and media handling over donations to the Clinton Foundation from mining and nuclear interests.” (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016) (The Hill, 10/7/2016)

Tony Carrk (Credit: CSpan)

Tony Carrk (Credit: CSpan)

However, one email, sent by Clinton’s campaign research director Tony Carrk to Podesta and other Clinton aides on January 25, 2016, contains excerpts from dozens of Clinton’s private speeches, and draws most of the media attention. (Politico, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks labels the release as “Part I of the Podesta emails.” The emails date from 2007 to late March 2016. The next day, a WikiLeaks Tweet claims, “We have published 1% of the #PodestaEmails so far. Additional publications will proceed throughout the election period.” (WikiLeaks, 10/8/2016) (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016) Another Tweet claims therre are “well over 50,000” Podesta emails to be released. (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks refuses to say where it got its material from, which is its usual policy. However, earlier in the day, the US intelligence community formally accused the Russian government of being behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, which were publicly posted by WikiLeaks as well.

Clinton’s campaign doesn’t confirm the authenticity of the emails, but doesn’t explicitly deny it either. However, Podesta comments that he is “not happy about being hacked by the Russians,” which indicates the emails are his. (Politico, 10/7/2016) (Politico, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks soon beginss posting more of Podesta’s emails on a daily basis.