August 09, 2017

Seth Rich murder: Separating fact from speculation

Seth_rich

via @jonzgreenberg

People who work in politics and suffer violent death are not often left in peace by conspiracy theorists. These aides and staffers don’t simply die, the theories go -- they die for a reason.

The story of the 2016 shooting death of Democratic party worker Seth Rich has followed that pattern, with one important difference. A recent lawsuit alleges that Fox News and the Trump administration fueled an unsubstantiated narrative that Rich was the source of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that showed up on WikiLeaks.

The suit’s message is that both Fox News and the White House used the Rich story in an effort to neutralize the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the stolen emails.

If true, this would raise serious questions about the role of the media and the government in spreading fake news.

But what do we really know at this point, and how much insight does the lawsuit really offer?  We set out to separate the facts from the speculation.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's report from PolitiFact.

July 28, 2017

Florida fulfills request for voter data by Trump election commission

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@amysherman1

Florida provided voter-roll data to President Donald Trump’s election-fraud commission Friday despite a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida attempting to prevent the state from providing the information.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner complied with the request by the commission after a federal judge in Washington D.C. cleared the way Monday for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to resume its effort to collect voter data from all states. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to block the data collection.

“Today the Department of State pursuant to Florida law fulfilled the public records request that we received from the Presidential Advisory Commission,” said Sarah Revell, Detzner’s spokeswoman. “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”

Keep reading here.

Broward elections supervisor to testify in federal voter roll lawsuit filed by conservative group in Miami

Snipescourt

@amysherman1

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is expected to testify Monday in a lawsuit that alleges she has failed to adequately purge voter rolls of ineligible voters including those who have died.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the conservative American Civil Rights Union in federal court in 2016. (Hat tip to the Sun Sentinel about Snipes' upcoming testimony.)

The ACRU is being represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation which has filed similar lawsuits in other states including North Carolina, Virginia and Texas. The president and general counsel of the foundation, J. Christian Adams, is a member of President Donald Trump's commission on voter integrity which has sought to collect voter roll data from all of the states. Trump's allegations about widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election have repeatedly been debunked by PolitiFact, a Miami Herald news partner.

The complaint filed against Snipes alleges that she has violated federal law by failing to conduct reasonable voter list maintenance for federal elections. It does not allege that ineligible voters cast ballots. The lawsuit seeks that a judge order her to make improvements in handling list maintenance.

The complaint states that Broward's voter rolls have "either more total registrants than eligible voting-age citizens or, at best, an implausibly high number of registrants," according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Election Assistance Commission.

At the time of the 2014 general election, approximately 103 percent of the citizens of voting age were registered to vote, the complaint states.

Among actions the plaintiffs seek is for Snipes to request jury recusal forms from the clerk of courts to determine if anyone who has declared themselves a non-citizen has registered to vote. (Florida's controversial attempt to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls before the 2012 election led to about 85 being removed statewide.)

Snipes disputed the allegations in a letter she wrote to ACRU in February 2016. Snipes wrote that Broward "adheres strictly" to the state's guidelines about voter list maintenance. Court records show Broward removed about 240,000 voters between 2014 and 2016.

"At no time in my tenure, which began in November 2003, has the number of registered voters outnumbered the live persons living in Broward County," she wrote.

Before filing the suit, in January 2016 the plaintiffs sent letters raising concerns about voter roll maintenance to multiple Florida counties in addition to Broward including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Clay, Flagler and Santa Rosa. However, a lawsuit was only filed against Broward County. 

When asked why the plaintiffs ultimately only sued Broward, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation pointed to Adams's opening statement in which he said that Snipes was unwilling to "engage in substantive discussions -- essentially saying all counties in Florida who received a letter from the ACRU must be involved in those discussions."

Broward has about 1.2 million voters and has the highest number of registered Democrats -- about 600,000 -- in the state. Snipes, a Democrat, was first appointed to fill a vacancy in 2003 by then Gov. Jeb Bush and has subsequently won elections.

The trial began July 25th and is being presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom. Burnadette Norris-Weeks is representing Snipes.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs said that Snipes is expected to begin testifying at 9 a.m. Monday.

Miami Herald photo of Brenda Snipes testifying in a separate matter pertaining to ballots in 2016. 

 

 

 

 

July 24, 2017

Ex-Miami-Dade elections worker pleads guilty in mayoral voter-fraud case

Gladys3 coego lnew cmgvia @DavidOvalle305

An elderly woman pleaded guilty on Monday to filling out other people’s mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade’s elections department.

Now, a judge must decide whether to give 74-year-old Gladys Coego jail time.

Prosecutors want six months behind bars. Her defense lawyer is arguing for no time in jail.

“This is a very serious case,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milián told Coego. “This is a very serious matter that undermines the basis of our democratic institutions.”

Milián will decide a sentence on Aug. 16. She faces a maximum of up to 10 years in prison but such a harsh sentence is unlikely because she has no previous arrests. 

In a case that got national media attention, Coego was arrested for voter fraud just weeks before the November election. It was a campaign season marked by heightened sensitivity after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made repeated allegations of a rigged election.

Although there’s never been any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, Trump has persisted with his claims, even creating a controversial commission to investigate the issue. Earlier this month, the Presidential Advisory Commission for Voter Integrity raised concerns about privacy by requesting voter information from states across the country, including Florida.

Coego’s case mirrors that of a woman in Oregon who was arrested four years for marking someone else’s ballot while working at an elections department. She accepted a plea deal that include 90 days in jail.

Coego was arrested along with another low-level campaigner, Tamika Curgil, in an unrelated case. Curgil, an out-of-work security guard campaigning for a pro-medical marijuana campaign, was accused of filing out forged voter registration forms. She got probation, with no felony conviction appearing on her record.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

July 11, 2017

Marco Rubio says special counsel will determine if Donald Trump Jr. violated the law

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@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller will determine whether Donald Trump Jr. violated the law when he met with a "Russian government attorney" who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. tweeted an email chain from June 2016 on Tuesday morning that showed his meet up with a Russian lawyer organized by music publicist Rob Goldstone. In the email chain Trump eagerly accepted a meeting for information provided by the Russians.  

"The Crown prosecutor of Russia ... offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," said a June 3, 2016, email to Trump Jr. from Goldstone. "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." 

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. said in response, giving no indication that he was disturbed by Russian government's effort to aid his father. 

When asked if Trump Jr.'s cooperation with a foreign official who supposedly had dirt on Clinton amounts to criminal activity or collusion, Rubio deferred to Mueller. 

"That’s something Mr. Mueller will have to determine," Rubio said. "Our job is to issue a report on how the Russians interfered in our elections and the tactics they used." 

Mueller was appointed in May by the Justice Department as a special counsel tasked with overseeing a federal investigation into Russia's influence in the 2016 election. 

Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee tasked with its own Russia investigation, would like Trump Jr. to testify.

"We’d love to talk to him," Rubio said. "His willingness to talk I think is great." 

Rubio declined to elaborate on Trump Jr.'s conduct, saying he needed more time to review the emails. 

"When I learn more about it, absolutely," Rubio said.

June 22, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says former DHS secretary is "utterly misinformed" about contact regarding DNC Russian hacks

ELECTION0831 WASSERMAN CTJ@alextdaugherty

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday that former Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson was "utterly misinformed" after Johnson testified to Congress under oath on Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee refused his organization's help regarding Russian hacking in the 2016 election. 

"The former secretary of homeland security testified yesterday about the Russian hacks during the election and he flat out said that the DNC refused his department's help. You put out a statement afterward basically saying that Jeh Johnson was wrong, where is he wrong?" CNN's Kate Bolduan asked Wasserman Schultz.  

"He's wrong in every respect," Wasserman Schultz said. "Let me just be very clear, at no point during my tenure at the DNC was I contacted by the FBI, DHS or any government agency, or alerted or made aware that they believe the Russians, an enemy state, was intruding on our network." 

Johnson said the opposite during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday. 

"I spelled out in my opening statement -- my prepared statement, the first time I recall hearing about the hack into the DNC," Johnson said. "And I recalled that it had been some months before I was learning of this that the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other about this. And I was not very happy to be learning about it several months later, very clearly." 

Wasserman Schultz stepped down as head of the DNC on July 24, 2016 after leaked emails from WikiLeaks showed that Wasserman Schultz expressed contempt towards Bernie Sanders' campaign manager. She vehemently denied that Johnson or anyone from the Department of Homeland Security directly contacted the DNC about Russian hacking beyond phoning the organization's tech support. 

"The FBI and other federal agencies did virtually nothing to make sure that when they were aware or concerned that there was an intrusion on our network by the Russians that they did virtually nothing to sound the alarm bells to make us aware of that," Wasserman Schultz said. 

Video below: 

 

 

June 19, 2017

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks

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@KyraGurney

Two months before the U.S. presidential election, international hackers slipped into the computer systems of at least four Florida school district networks in the hopes of stealing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of students.

They infected the systems with malware — malicious software — that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites.

They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers, UDT found. The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

Luckily, the hackers from Morocco, not Moscow — never found one or managed to get their hands on personal data. But the attempted hacking exposed the vulnerabilities of Florida’s school district networks: vast computer systems that store sensitive information on thousands of students, and their parents, and could potentially provide a backdoor into other government systems. Amid the national obsession with the alleged Russian hacking during the U.S. election and the constant stream of headlines on corporate data breaches, like the ones at Target and Chipotle, experts say the dangers of cyber attacks targeting school districts are being overlooked.

To read the rest, click here

June 06, 2017

Trump encouraged Russian hacking during Doral speech less than a year ago

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@alextdaugherty 

Over the weekend, the FBI arrested a suspected leaker for turning over classified documents that outlined the extent of Russian hacking efforts on voting systems, including an attempted hack on Florida officials, during the 2016 election. 

But less than 12 months ago President Donald Trump encouraged the Russians to hack into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails during a press conference at his golf resort in Doral.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to a room full of TV cameras at Trump National Doral in July 2016. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Since assuming the presidency, Trump has railed against "leakers" who provide anonymous information to news media outlets, arguing they undermine his ability to lead, after repeatedly promoting information from WikiLeaks during the campaign that was obtained through leaks.  

During a rollicking hour of back-and-forth round of questioning from the press in Doral, Trump flippantly promoted the idea of Russian involvement in Clinton's email server. 

“They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there,” he said. “So let's see.”

Trump surrogates characterized his comments as a joke after the speech. 

Jason Miller, Trump's communications adviser at the time, said Trump was not calling for Russia to hack Clinton but to hand over emails to the FBI if they had them.

“To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails today,” Miller said on Twitter. “Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them.”

But in order for Russia to have the emails, the government would have likely needed to engage in hacking if Clinton declined to hand them over on her own free will. 

The arrest of Reality Winner, a 25-year-old intelligence contractor, is the first leak case that led to an arrest under President Trump. The FBI said Monday that Winner had contact with a news outlet and the FBI announced Winner's arrest, which occurred last weekend, about an hour after national security website The Intercept published a story based on classified documents. The documents, which were partially redacted, outlined the ways in which Russian hackers attempted to obtain voting information using emails. 

A Herald/Times story from September 2016 said the FBI was investigating a "malicious act" against election supervisors throughout Florida. There is currently no evidence that Russian hacking efforts altered votes in the 2016 election. 

Barack Obama brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions during his eight years in office, about twice as many that were brought under every previous presidency. 

 

Detzner's office says there is no sign of hacking in Florida's voting systems

Voting in Miami David Santiago elneuvoheraldFlorida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure in 2016, a spokesperson for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Tuesday, despite what appears to be confirmation that a phishing email was sent to state elections offices  and news reports indicate that federal officials believe the Russians were behind it.

"The Florida Department of State participated in an informational call with the FBI related to elections security at the end of September 2016, said Sarah Revell, spokesperson for the agency that oversees Florida's elections system. "But there was no indication of a Florida-specific issue."

She denied there were any successful hacking attempts from the phishing emails investigated by the National Security Administration. The investigation was first reported by The Intercept, an online national security news outlet that said it obtained a copy of the NSA’s classified intelligence report, dated May 5.

"There are multiple safeguards in place to protect against elections fraud and prevent any possible hacking attempts from being successful,'' Revell said. "The Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS) database is secure and we have no indication that any unauthorized access occurred. Steps taken to secure databases include implementing software, hardware and firewalls to protect information."

In Florida, voter registration data and the software used to count votes are on two separate electronic systems, as Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel emphasized on his Facebook page.

“Important: Even if the bad guys would have accessed our local registration files (which they didn’t), those files are in no way connected to vote counting,” Ertel wrote on Facebook. “I’ve said it hundreds of times: ‘You can’t hack paper.’ Seminole County votes on trusted paper ballots.”

Revell noted that because all voting in Florida is done on paper ballots, there is an opportunity to double-check the final vote with the original record.

"The only exception in law permits voters with disabilities to vote on accessible equipment that meetings voting system accessibility requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act,'' she said. "Additionally, voting machines are not connected to the internet."

READ MORE: At least 2 Florida counties targeted by Russian hacking attempt

 

May 25, 2017

Florida Republican operative asked alleged Russian hacker for documents to hurt Democrats

From the Wall Street Journal:

The hacking spree that upended the presidential election wasn’t limited to Democratic National Committee memos and Clinton-aide emails posted on websites. The hacker also privately sent Democratic voter-turnout analyses to a Republican political operative in Florida named Aaron Nevins.

Learning that hacker “Guccifer 2.0” had tapped into a Democratic committee that helps House candidates, Mr. Nevins wrote to the hacker to say: “Feel free to send any Florida based information.”

Ten days later, Mr. Nevins received 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee documents, some of which he posted on a blog called HelloFLA.com that he ran using a pseudonym.

Soon after, the hacker sent a link to the blog article to Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, along with Mr. Nevins’ analysis of the hacked data.

Mr. Nevins confirmed his exchanges after The Wall Street Journal identified him first as the operator of the HelloFLA blog and then as the recipient of the stolen DCCC data. The Journal also reviewed copies of exchanges between the hacker and Mr. Nevins. That the obscure blog had received hacked Democratic documents was previously known, but not the extent of the trove or the blogger’s identity.

More here.