A conversation with former Secretary of State John Kerry. He weighs in on the upcoming midterms, the state of the Democratic party and why he sees hope for America's democracy.
WikiLeaks has published thousands of Clinton campaign emails over the past week obtained by hackers. The content of the emails has led to embarrassing headlines about the Clinton Foundation, internal campaign disputes and talks with Goldman Sachs. The Clinton campaign is neither confirming nor denying the authenticity of the emails. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, alleges the Russian government is behind the hacks. U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating. WikiLeaks, Russia and the 2016 presidential race.
- David Sanger National security correspondent, The New York Times; author, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power"
- Fiona Hill Senior fellow and director, Brookings Institution's Center on the U.S. and Europe; co-author, "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin"
- Josh Gerstein Senior reporter, POLITICO
- Andy Greenberg Senior staff writer, WIRED; author: "This Machine Kills Secrets: How Wikileakers, Cypherpunks, and Hactivists Aim To Free The World's Information"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Wikileaks has released thousands of hacked Clinton campaign emails. It promises to release tens of thousands more emails before the election. Today, Wikileaks said its founder, Julian Assange's internet access has been cut by an unidentified state actor. With me in the studio to talk about Wikileaks and the 2016 presidential race, Josh Gerstein of Politico and Fiona Hill with the Brookings Institution.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, David Sanger of the New York Times and from NPR in New York, Andy Greenberg with Wired magazine. Do join us with your comments and questions, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And thank you all for joining us.
MR. JOSH GERSTEINGood to be here.
MR. DAVID SANGERThanks for having us.
MS. FIONA HILLThank you.
MR. ANDY GREENBERGGood to be here.
REHMJosh, I'll start with you. Give us kind of an overview of what's happened here with the release of Clinton campaign emails. Whose emails are they and what do they tell us?
GERSTEINSo these are emails that seem to be entirely from the Gmail account of John Podesta. John Podesta is the Clinton campaign chairman in the current campaign. He also is somebody who worked in President Bill Clinton's White House, was chief of staff there at one point and also worked in Barack Obama's White House as a senior advisor to Obama dealing with a bunch of issues, including environmental issues.
GERSTEINAnd it's really a huge volume of information that Wikileaks seems to have downloaded, perhaps somewhere on the order of ten years' worth of Podesta's emails. I don't know if they have them all from the ten year period, but they have a lot. Somewhere around 50 or 60,000 emails, they're saying. And they've, so far, released only about a sixth of them. But they give you a pretty broad cross section of what high level officials within the Clinton campaign have been thinking and talking about in the current campaign cycle.
GERSTEINAnd then, there's also a smattering of messages in there from the 2008 cycle as well right before President Obama came into the White House.
REHMGive me an example of something that seems particularly relevant and/or damaging.
GERSTEINWell, I don't know how much is hugely damaging, but the most probably obvious thing that has come out there that, I think, would grab people's attention are excerpts from Hillary Clinton's paid speeches that she delivered after she left office as secretary of state and before she started running for president this time around. And folks may remember this was an issue of some contention in the primary, has continued to be in the general election, would she release the transcripts of her paid speeches and she said she might under some circumstances, but she hasn't actually done it.
GERSTEINWell, now, we find out, of course, that her campaign had gone through those transcripts very, very carefully, had very smart and talented folks look at what might be the most vulnerable or problematic statements that she had made there and isolated them and sent them around to top campaign officials. A lot of the ones the campaign seemed most concerned about had to do with speeches she'd given on Wall Street where some folks might say she sounded cozy, familiar or sympathetic to Wall Street executives.
GERSTEINThere was one at Deutsche Bank where she said if there were financial reforms, it really would have to come from the industry itself. Another one at Goldman Sachs, she said people that know the industry better than anybody are people who work in the industry. And in another one, she talked about it being an over simplification to blame the economic downturn on Wall Street. And so, obviously, in the context of the race against Senator Bernie Sanders, those would be problematic statements that he would've pointed to if they'd been available at the time to say this was evidence that, you know, she's chummy with the folks on Wall Street.
REHMJosh, have you, yourself, looked at many of these and if you have, how can we be sure they're authentic?
GERSTEINSo yeah, I've looked at, I would think, probably more than a thousand of these. I can't say I've looked at all -- I think there's maybe 10,000 or so that have come out so far. I've looked at a significant number of them. What I would say is this. You can't be sure that any individual email is authentic. And the Clinton campaign has said some of them might be doctored, I think, is a word that's been used. But they also haven't pointed to any specific email where they've said, well, here's the one that is made up.
GERSTEINAnd, you know, if you think about it, this is not really Podesta's filing system. These are all messages he exchanged with other people sometimes, including journalists, sometimes including outside political groups and consultants. And we have authenticated at Politico a bunch of the messages because we've talked to people who were on the receiving end of the exchange who said, yes, and here's what I meant. And so I do think that it's fair to note that so far, no one has come forward and said, well, here's a specific example of something that somebody tampered with.
GERSTEINAnd I also think it might not be a great idea for someone to tamper with the messages because if it could be proven that it happened, it would really cast doubt on the entire archive.
REHMJosh Gerstein is a senior reporter at Politico. Turning to you, David Sanger, obviously, the emails are embarrassing to the Clinton campaign, but have they revealed anything criminal.
SANGERSo far, we haven't seen anything criminal. Mostly what you see are statements that, as Josh suggested, the Donald Trump campaign could use to maintain that Secretary Clinton was too friendly with the Wall Street types that she was supposed to go regulate, that she had taken various positions on free trade, more in favor of TPP before she was against it. That's not exactly a shock to us. What I found most interesting, Diane, and I wrote about this some in this morning's edition to the Times, is when you read the Goldman Sachs speeches that she gave -- and some of them were conversations back and forth where she's taking questions first from Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs and then from members of the audience, she is -- she shows a tremendous fluency in foreign policy issues, as you would expect.
SANGERThese were from 2013, right after she had -- about a year after she had left as secretary of state. She is clearly being paid and paid handsomely -- we're told $225,000 a speech or so -- for insights into foreign leaders. She talks about her encounters with Xi Jinping, the president of China, with Vladimir Putin. She talks about North Korea and its threat. And what it does is it gives you a very insider-y feel and her assessments -- I found it interesting that she had said that, you know, we really don't do covert action very well in the United States anymore because it always leaks out.
SANGERBut that's the way she would've handled Syria if she had her druthers, which is more covert action. But nothing that would -- I think you could argue was of a classified nature.
REHMInteresting. Fiona Hill, how did these Wikileaks come to light? How did Wikileaks operate? How did the emails get into the public realm?
HILLWell, this is the big question that we're all grappling with and I think that some of my colleagues working in the media actually probably have much better insight than the rest of us in terms of some of the conduits because certainly, on the release side of these emails, there's a great deal of dependency on the media to look at them, to go through them, and to explain them and analyze them for public consumption. Now, on the receipt end, this is where things get extremely tricky.
HILLAs we know from all the public debate about this, it's extremely difficult to trace back, with any great certainty, the exact point of origin of the hack, who actually did it, the actors behind this, who may have ordered it. As Donald Trump famously and quite rudely said in one of his interventions in the debate, it could easily be somebody sitting at home in their bedroom on their bed who is doing this. And this is what gives this and extra piquancy and great difficulty here, that we don’t actually know for certain who ordered this particular hack.
HILLBut if we think of it in terms of perhaps a state actor and intelligence, what you do know about the intelligence world is that leadership at the top of any state actor will set intelligence gathering priorities. So it would set out a list of information that they want to obtain and then it's left to the collection agencies, to the intelligence agencies to find out the best method of collecting that. Our difficulty then is using the FBI or other legal channels ourselves to trace this back, technically.
REHMOf course, your own email was hacked. Isn't that correct?
HILLThat's correct. After I left my time at the National Intelligence Council and returned to the Brookings Institution, my whole email was brought down. I lost my calendar with all of my appointments and all of my contacts database. And when it was returned to me, it was returned in triplicate, which let's just say created an awful lot of problems later. There's lots of services and software that you can use to get rid of duplicates, but triplicates actually made it immensely unpopular. And I have had the misfortune of just basically losing access to my internet over and over again.
REHMFiona Hill, senior fellow, director of the Brookings Institution's Center on the U.S. and Europe. She is co-author of "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin." We'll take a short break here. When we come back, more about these leaked emails, your calls and comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back as we talk about the release of thousands of Clinton campaign emails. Let's go now to Andy Greenberg. He's senior staff writer at Wired. And Andy, many, many people are asking why Wikileaks is only publishing leaks damaging to Democrats and not the Trump campaign. How do you respond to that?
GREENBERGWell, I think there are two reasons here, or at least theories. First, Wikileaks publishes what it receives. You know, that's always been Assange's claim is that they take what they get from whistleblowers or hackers, and they don't really ask questions about what the source is. In fact their real innovation was to use cryptography to prevent themselves from knowing anything about their source. So essentially they're kind of dependent on those sources to give them materials. They can't dig up something unless somebody hands it to them.
GREENBERGNow the question is why hasn't anyone leaked them, for instance, Donald Trump's tax returns, why didn't somebody leak them, the video of Donald Trump saying misogynist comments on a bus. And, you know, it's not clear why that is. I mean, those leaks went to the mainstream media instead. But it's also true that Assange has very clearly allied himself with the Trump campaign simply by attacking Clinton repeatedly.
GREENBERGClinton was a secretary of state at the time that he leaked a record-breaking trove of classified documents about the State Department and I think made her an enemy for life. He knows that if she becomes the president, she would continue the legal attacks on Wikileaks. If he were not stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy trying to get asylum, she might prosecute him for conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States.
GREENBERGSo he may not love Trump, but he certainly hates Clinton and is afraid that she'll put him in prison.
REHMInteresting. Josh Gerstein, we've got a number of questions posted on our Facebook. First and foremost, and many people might appreciate a bit of an explanation here, who is Wikileaks, where are they located, why do we listen to them, what made them an authority?
GERSTEINWell, I don't know that they are an authority, but they have leaked a bunch of information, including the material Andy was just referring to, which is what we call the Bradley or Chelsea Manning leaks from several years ago, where you had a whole bunch of State Department cables and military reports from Afghanistan that were released. And I don't remember people in those instances saying, well, this is all fake, or a lot of it might be fake, or some of it might be fake.
GERSTEINSo I think they probably have a pretty good record with authenticating their materials, although we don't know exactly how that process works. I don't know that much about how Wikileaks' internal operations are running at the moment. As Andy mentioned, Assange is holed up in an embassy because he's wanted on charges in various places, and so -- or at least for interviews and investigation.
GERSTEINAnd so it's sort of a shadowy operation. They at this point need to use I think pretty sophisticated techniques to keep their operations secure, and so I don't think they share a lot of detail about how they're running and how they're vetting things.
REHMDavid, is it true that Julian Assange does not like Hillary Clinton, or is it that he doesn't like any politicians, including now Donald Trump but nevertheless falls into Trump's line because he doesn't want to see Hillary Clinton as president?
SANGERWell, he certainly dislikes the establishment, and the concept of Wikileaks is basically free information on everything, total transparency. It's such an extreme position that even Edward Snowden at various points in the past few months has criticized it, saying that he edits through his material in an effort not to do great harm. I was part of the Times team that went through the 250,000 State Department cables back in 2010, which we published pieces of in a series called "State's Secrets," and there had also been some leaks of military, Pentagon videos before that.
SANGERAnd while the videos were not altered, it does look like some parts of them that were released were edited so that it made some activity look a bit more incriminating or harder to explain than it really was, particularly the bombing of a convoy. We're not sure if that was deliberate on Wikileaks' part or not.
SANGERAs for his feelings about Secretary Clinton, at the time that the State Department series began in the Times and in the Guardian and Der Spiegel, Secretary Clinton had stepped out and said this had done enormous damage to American diplomacy. Of course that started off investigations of Mr. Assange. There were also investigations going on on unrelated charges back in Sweden. So that all I think added to this feelings about Hillary Clinton.
SANGERNow in the end, he wanted to show that the State Department cables showed the perfidy of American diplomacy, and when you read them through, you largely came to the conclusion that American diplomats were usually doing what they said they were doing. There were interesting details. There was fascinating analysis on everything from Iran to North Korea. There was some material that I think you could argue helped spark part of the Arab Spring. But it was hard to make the case that it showed that the State Department was deceiving the world about its role.
REHMBut, you know, it's fascinating because Wikileaks originally was designed to create transparency, at least that's what it said, and to aid whistleblowers, Andy, and to in the meantime uncover wrongdoing. How much has Wikileaks contributed to transparency and the uncovering of wrongdoing?
GREENBERGYou know, even before Julian Assange was sort of saying these public things about how Wikileaks reveals the truth, and transparency is an inherent good, he wrote an essay in 2006 where he kind of laid out Wikileaks' real mission, or at least what I think he thought of as its mission at the time, which is to take down conspiracies, as he described them.
GREENBERGAnd one particular form of conspiracy he describes in an essay is a political party. I mean, that's the way that he thinks about the establishments. And he wrote about how, by leaking information, you can basically induce fear in political parties or other conspiracies so that they communicate less effectively, they stop collaborating, they compartmentalize information and thereby become less efficient and lose two their adversaries. A political party can't really function when it's constantly afraid of leaks.
GREENBERGSo I think that more than transparency or even the truth, Wikileaks has always been about attacking what they see as corrupt conspiracies, trying to take them down, and in this case he sees the Democratic Party as one of those conspiracies, and, you know, it's -- it may be that the fear of leaks that he's inducing is hurting them against their political rivals.
REHMAnd Fiona, where does Russia come in here?
HILLWell, I think on this latter point that Andy has stressed, there's an important element to pay attention to. Just as this may be one of the goals of Julian Assange to bring down political parties and, you know, very specifically one party, it seems at the moment, the Democratic Party, because I guess there's an argument to be made that the Republican Party is in a degree of disarray of its own generation at the moment, given the enormous debates that are being aired about this presidential campaign and the role of the Republican Party, this is something where there's a real intersection with Russia and Vladimir Putin.
HILLThe United States has been very critical of the Democratic processes in Russia, been very critical of the conduct of elections and the role of the ruling party in Russia, United Russia, which Vladimir Putin is not actually a member of or even the head of but is certainly an organization, an entity that acts in support of President Putin.
HILLAnd if we look back to 2011 and 2012, the previous Russian election cycle, there were a great deal of fraud in the election 2011, when United Russia was running, again, in Russian parliamentary elections, criticism from the United States about the conduct of those elections and other international organizations where the United States has an important role. And then of course there were protests in the wake of that December 2000 election, 2011 election, to the idea of Vladimir Putin returning as president of Russia.
HILLHe ran a presidential election campaign in 2012 where there wasn't much competition. He has dominated the Russian politics for so long that there wasn't really any other effective opposition candidate. There were protests again on the streets of Moscow and other major cities. And there was a strong feeling in Russia and around the Kremlin that the United States had some hand in exposing some of the accusations of fraud and encouraging protests and street demonstrations.
HILLYou might recall that the -- this is now being in our newspapers again quite frequently, that Putin openly accused Hillary Clinton as secretary of state for having a hand in the demonstrations by way of U.S. NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy funding activist groups monitoring elections.
HILLSo I think that there's an element here in which the Russian government is certainly relishing the idea that now U.S. political parties seem to be nothing more than a big machine involved in a lot of dirty politics.
REHMBut David, no concrete proof that Russia is involved, even though the president of the United States has singled out Russia in this regard.
SANGERWell Diane, no revealed evidence yet. So we had an unusual statement about 10 days ago from the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the Department of Homeland Security that came months after the first reports that we published, and others, that the intelligence community had traced back the DNC hack and the Democratic Congressional Committee and some of the email hacks back to the Russians.
SANGERAnd the White House waited and waited and waited before they authorized a statement of attribution of these attacks, and when they did, what the DNI said was, first, these were state-sponsored from Russia, and second that they had to have been approved at the highest levels of the Kremlin. They didn't quite name Putin, which may have been a diplomatic move. Fiona would give us a better sense of that than I could. But they did mention that the Kremlin hierarchy had to have done this.
SANGERNow they said there were a second group of hacks, which were the scanning of the registration rolls of polling places that they had traced back to Russian hackers but did not know or could not yet say whether those were government sponsored. What have we not seen? The evidence that they have to back this up.
SANGERNow that could be, Diane, because much of it probably comes from implants at the NSA has put in Russian computer systems and networks that they tracked back, and of course to reveal the evidence is to reveal to the Russians which of their own systems have been compromised, and this is the great dilemma of cyber-investigations.
REHMDavid Sanger of the New York Times, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Andy, I wonder if there are any theories as to why Wikileaks doesn't just release all these emails at once, rather than some here, some there, keeping the conversation going.
GREENBERGWell, first I just want to address what David was just saying, which is all correct.
GREENBERGBut the DNC hack, the Democratic National Committee hack, that began all this chaos this summer, at that time we did actually see some of our own kind of hands-on proof, or not proof but evidence, that Russia was tied to these hacks. Those emails were released simultaneously by Wikileaks and an independent hacker who claimed to be a sort of Romanian amateur hacker, but the emails leaked by that Romanian, that supposedly Romanian hacker, actually had Russian error messages in them. He had used a Russian DPN.
GREENBERGThese were all clues that the cybersecurity community used, among others that they haven't revealed, or like more technical things like the servers that they connected to and the malware that they had installed to point to Russia. This was long before any federal agency had come out and claimed that these were Russian hacks. So, you know, that's just to say that, you know, you don't need to trust the department of -- any federal agency to see some evidence that this was -- had Russian fingerprints on it.
GREENBERGAnd to your question of why these leaks are being trickled out rather than simply dumped in a single release, you know, I think that Assange's -- one of his main motivations is relevancy and influence. And he did used to release things all at once, and I think he saw that that would kind of overwhelm the mainstream media, he would get one day of publicity, and then people would forget about the news, and he's learned that you can slowly trickle these things out, stay in the headlines day after day and thereby increase his exposure, which is one of his promises to his sources, really, to maximize the impact of their material.
GERSTEINHe may be learning a lesson also from the Edward Snowden leaks, the NSA contractor who released a lot of information on NSA surveillance. Snowden turned all his records over to a group of journalists and activists, and those were then released over a long period of time, and I think anyone would say that really maximized the media attention to those particular sets of leaked NSA materials.
REHMSo he's living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He's been there for more than four years. So Wikileaks now says his Internet access has been cut by an unidentified state actor. What does that mean to you?
GERSTEINWell, I mean, I think they're probably pointing fingers at the United States, but they don't quite want to come out and say it. It's definitely the case that there's long been a fear/paranoia on the part of Wikileaks that the U.S. government is out to get them, that maybe, you know, Assange might be indicted, rumors that he might be under some kind of sealed indictment, and I kind of strongly doubt that, but this has been one of their fears, well-placed or not well-placed, for some time, that the U.S. government is looking to disrupt Wikileaks' operations in some way, shape or form.
GERSTEINI suppose it could be any other sort of allied state actor, although the timing would seem odd given the way that these emails that are coming out at the moment focus directly on the U.S. election.
SANGERDiane, you could have...
REHMAnd especially given the comments of the vice president yesterday.
GERSTEINYeah, I mean, look, there's no question that this is the kind of activity that makes a lot of U.S. government officials angry and upset. I think it's another thing to say that they would actually direct a cyber attack against a private organization that claims to be journalistic. That would cause a lot of alarm bells within the government.
REHMJosh Gerstein, he's a senior reporter at Politico. After a short break, we're going to open the phones, hear what you think about all this. I look forward to speaking you, short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. 800-433-8850. First to Eddie in Raleigh, North Carolina. You're on the air.
EDDIEThank you, Diane. My comment is that how is the general public supposed to actually trust the media when you have, in the Wikileaks documents, actually -- them naming different newspapers and agencies and reporters saying that these are friendly to our campaign. And then on top of that, you have the complete blackout of any kind of Wikileaks news, as far as any of these. And also, you have a newspaper that says that they have to run the articles by the Clinton campaign for veto rights on any kind of articles or quotes.
GERSTEINSo, there have been some revelations, or interesting facts that have come out in these emails, which we at Politico have written up at least some of these incidents of what some folks would see as overly cozy relationships between the media and the Clinton campaign. The caller's correct that within the Clinton campaign, they sometimes refer to certain members of the media as a friendly place to take an interview. It's quite clear that when Clinton was really dealing with the serious headwinds of her email controversy last year.
GERSTEINThat she was looking for a friendly place to go to do an interview that would talk a little bit about policy but where she could clear the air about some aspects of the email controversy. So you do see that, you do see sometimes certain reporters sending portions of their articles, perhaps, to sources saying am I getting this right or am I not getting this right, which is a fairly controversial practice within the journalistic community. So, and we've even seen things, for example, Donna Brazil, who is now the interim chair of the DNC and friendly to the Clinton camp, seems to have had the wording of a question that was going to be asked at a Clinton town hall meeting.
GERSTEINAt a CNN town hall meeting earlier in the campaign. So, look, when you pull back the curtain like this, you will see some sausage making that I think people in the public would find unpleasant. I don't think it's true that no one has written about those things, but I would say it can be a fairly uncomfortable thing for folks in the media to write about. Because you do wonder what somebody might have on you.
REHMDavid Sanger, do you want to jump in there?
SANGERYeah, a couple of interesting points. I think Josh had that just right. Every campaign, you know, tries to figure out who are their friendly, unfriendly reporters. Sometimes it's a little bit confusing, and sometimes they've got it just right. Donald Trump's campaign, as you've noticed, does not consider the New York Times, where I work, to be a friendly place. He threatened to sue for liable last week. The Times revealed his tax -- part of his tax returns two weeks ago. And yet he gave me and my colleague Maggie Haberman three and half hours of interviews on foreign policy earlier this year.
SANGERAt various points. So it's a little bit hard to go make your way through. And at the same time, the Times and other mainstream media, as the phrase goes, have not exactly given Hillary Clinton an easy time on her private email server. In fact, that story was broken by the Times. So, you know, there is a temptation when you read these emails to figure that each publication is in one camp or another. And when you actually look at what they've published, it's a lot harder to go sort that out.
REHMOne other thing, David, I gather the Russian television network RT, released an announcement about some of the emails before even Wikileaks released them.
SANGERYeah, it was an amusing moment last week when RT, which is controlled by the Russian government, turned out a tweet saying that citing some documents on the Wikileaks site before Wikileaks had even issued a tweet saying that these documents were up. That certainly suggested some level of advanced knowledge. And goes back to something you were saying before the break and that that goes to the question of what do we know about these?
SANGERAnd if you look at the source code that got released by private investigators, it's clear that these, that much of the material that came out of the DNC hack went through Russian computers and may have been edited on Russian computers. You can see some of the commentary in Cyrillic. That doesn't necessarily tell you that the Russian government was part of it, but it certainly is -- creates suspicions.
REHMFiona, do you believe that Putin himself is involved here?
HILLPutin doesn't have to be directly involved in terms of giving the instructions for this. I think that as many of our colleagues have said here, there is a lot of evidence, circumstantial, but you know, kind of rather overwhelming and also from some of the cyber communities' investigations that point a very strong finger in the direction of the Kremlin. The Kremlin Presidential Administration and the security agencies around it are very big institutions. It is very evident, I think, in all of this, that someone within those institutions would have given the order for this.
HILLBut it doesn't have to go all the way to President Putin. It gives him a degree of plausible deniability if he needed it, in any case. And as we've heard, he's had plenty to say about this. I mean, he's made certain amount of denials about his own complicity, but he's also said does it really matter if it's hacked? This is just paraphrasing. What's important is what is contained in this information.
HILLMaking sure he's pushing us in the direction that he and others would like us go.
REHMLet's go to Karen in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
KARENThank you, Diane. I -- several times during the conversation, the Podesta emails have been referred to as having been leaked and I don't -- as far as what I know, they're just plain stolen. And this from a private individual and I don't hear the press drawing a distinction between the alleged leak of whistleblower -- or, by whistleblowers of state actors as opposed to these private conversations. Even if it's an important person, their private conversation. So I feel like we are engaged in this massive public voyeurism of private conversations.
KARENAnd the media is complicit in encouraging people to go out and steal this stuff. And I see very little accountability by the press or by the public in a discussion of should we be doing this at all?
GREENBERGWell, I can first say that we at WIRED have had some very deep conversations about whether we should be sifting through emails that do appear to be hacked. We don't actually know that these John Podesta emails were hacked. We don't know the source of them. It seems that the DNC, the Democratic National Committee emails that Wikileaks released earlier this summer, were hacked. We've seen evidence of that. Wikileaks and Julian Assange don't make a distinction. And Assange has his own history as a hacker.
GREENBERGI think, as I've said, you know, Wikileaks innovation is to use cryptographic tools to know nothing about its sources so that it can't be legally beholden to anyone or be able to give them up. So that means that he can't tell the difference between a leaker and a hacker. And I don't think he really wants to because Assange has that kind of hacker mentality. And he sees, I think, hacking or hacktivism as a kind of noble pursuit.
GERSTEINI think that it's worth pointing out that at least during some of the period covered by these emails, that Podesta was a high ranking White House official. Karen's correct, it comes from his personal Gmail account, but as we've learned in various email controversies over the past few years, a number of people use their work related and private accounts, or solely private accounts, for work purposes interchangeably. So, there is some official overlap.
GERSTEINAnd I think the other thing we have to think about here is there is a degree of inevitability to the media discussing these. And part of the reason for that is look, the way that the internet works, people can post whatever they want, someone can go to that information and look at it. People can circulate it to their friends without any member of the organized media being involved. That's the whole idea behind Wikileaks. And once we have that happening in political circles, you're going to have people like the GOP candidate, Donald Trump.
GERSTEINOr Rudy Giuliani, one of his key surrogates, saying you know, this is evidence that Clinton is criminal. Or this is evidence of disgraceful activity. I think the media, at that point, has some duty to try to, you know, put those remarks in context, say what they're referring to and take some look at the material and try to indicate what it shows while noting that yes, it very likely was stolen. And we can't, in each instance, 100 percent verify it, although as I said before, in some instances, we have authenticated these messages as being correct.
REHMAll right, to Teri in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.
TERIThank you, Diane, for all you've done for us. This is two parts. One is, why is the Watergate break-in a crime and the break-in to the DNC and to the private campaign emails not a crime? And secondly, if we do have to put up with this, in the case of the Snowden leaks, that was a one-sided thing. Here we have a political campaign highly contested and the only side that we're hearing all of these private, how we run our campaign things about, is the Democratic side.
TERII'm sure if somebody hacked the Republican campaign, we would find all kinds of things like this. How -- what's the press's responsibility there?
SANGERWell, two very good points. So first, on the difference between the DNC hack and the Watergate events, the answer is the only difference is technological capability at the time. If you were going to get Watergate files at the time, you had to break into their offices, which were then at the Watergate Hotel or right by it. And in a cyber age, you don't even have to be in the same country. Are they both legal violations? Yes. Are you likely to be able to catch the perpetrator if they aren't Jimmy Malock (sp?) of the hotel office?
SANGERProbably not, so...
REHMAll right, let me stop you right there. To remind listeners, this is the Diane Rehm Show. You know, it strikes me that this is a case where the law has not caught up with technology. You had a break-in of Watergate, a physical break-in. Here, you have a break-in of a technological variety. And therefore, it's going to take a while.
GERSTEINWell, David can probably speak about this, but there have been cases where people have been charged for these types of things. In the political context, I recall from 2008, somebody got into Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, on the Republican side, her personal email account. That person was indicted, prosecuted. I believe served some time in jail. It was just a, you know, domestic political activist, probably somebody closer to the category of sitting in their bedroom, trying to see if they could hack into somebody's Gmail.
GERSTEINBut at the state actor level, we have seen the US government announce charges against Iranians, announce charges against Chinese for what are believed to be state sponsored hacking activities. Not in the political realm, as far as I know, but in the more of infrastructure oriented kinds of attacks. So, it is something the government goes after. The problem is what can the US government do if you're talking about a foreign state actor or people protected by a foreign government? Not a heck of a lot, other than what they call maim and shame.
SANGER...and Diane, it's tricky, because of course, the United States does it too. State spon -- in the state sponsored way. Something like the DNC, its equivalent in Russia would be considered to be a legitimate target for the NSA, at least for espionage. And of course, as we've discussed in other contexts, the United States has also done destructive hacks, including against the Iranian nuclear program.
HILLYes, this brings us to the real level of national security. What we're seeing playing out on the domestic scene is something that we're grappling with internationally. So for example, NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which the United States is a major player in, has been trying to come to terms with how it deals, as a more conventional military alliance, with the threats of cyber-attacks. And, of course, there's this central idea to NATO of Article 5, of collective defense.
HILLWhich is where all of the members of the alliance would come to the defense of another member if they were under attack, as NATO did after 9/11 when the US suffered from the devastating terrorist attack. The big question is what now rises to that level of one of these attacks? What if the Secretary General of NATO, the Supreme Allied Commander, all their personal emails are revealed in this same way? Is that a cyber-attack? What about the personal communications of the Deputy Secretaries and -- I hope I'm not giving anyone ideas here, by the way.
HILLAnd all of the inner workings of NATO come out in this same way, it's going to be very hard to say that that is the kind of cyber-attack that where we've been thinking of complete denial of service on a national level or a tax to infrastructure. Like national grids, which is things that we've been the most concerned about. So I think this debate that we're having on the domestic level, we ought to be having also on the national security level about what would we do in this kind of instance if the object of the hacking is not just the DNC, but is in fact NATO? Or another critical international institution like the UN, for example?
REHMAndy, do you want to jump in?
GREENBERGWell, I agree that there's -- it's very unclear what their response to this could be. It's almost impossible to track down hackers that are protected by the Russian government. We have names, for instance, in the past, individual Chinese hackers who were hacking on behalf of the Chinese governments. And I don't think, David might know the answer to this better than I do, that we've ever brought them to justice in any kind of meaningful way. The other options are things like sanctions.
GREENBERGI'm no foreign policy expert, but it seems like we've kind of overplayed that card with Russia and we're trying to keep it in our back pocket. Or we can launch our own cyber-attacks against them, and that seems to be actually what we're doing. And we don't know what that is, but Biden has said that the CIA, probably with the NSA's help, is counter-attacking Russia right now. And we have no clue what that could mean and it's a big, murky, ambiguous question of how and what we are doing. And whether it will have the intended effects.
REHMI want to close with this email from James because I want to ask you whether this is true. He says, I wish you would mention that Mr. Trump publicly, on national TV, asked the Kremlin, in particular Mr. Putin, to please hack the Democratic Party and in particular, all of Secretary Clinton's emails.
GERSTEINHe did say something close to that at one point. I think he later said that he was, of course, joking around and it was simply hyperbole. But again this past weekend, we saw Rudy Giuliani, a surrogate, saying he's now a big fan of Wikileaks with all the information about Clinton that they're making public. Which is just a huge reversal for Republicans on the Hill who had been talking, in an earlier time, about droning people that were involved in Wikileaks and what a terrible organization it was for the release of sensitive information several years ago.
REHMAll right. We'll have to leave it there. And watch what happens next. Josh Gerstein of Politico. Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution. David Sanger, the New York Times and Andy Greenberg, Senior Staff Writer at WIRED. Thank you all so very much.
GERSTEINThank you very much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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