On Thursday, 10 August, 2017, Brian Feldman, writing for New York Magazine, wrote a hostile review of an article featured in The Nation regarding new research, underreported evidence and analysis that, until recently, had apparently been given no attention by the mainstream press, intelligence agencies or intelligence committees (even though one of the major discoveries referenced was made at the beginning of the year, almost 6 months ago).
There are actually some legitimate reasons to criticize the article in The Nation, however, unfortunately for Feldman, he only mentions these minor flaws in passing and instead appears to opt for building strawman arguments, misrepresenting what was written through tactical omission and attacking the character of Patrick Lawrence.
This was foolish, because, if he had attacked the inaccuracies surrounding the "locked file" statements and sought to make a substantive argument against it, he'd have been on solid ground.
Fortunately, he's chosen to do something different which gives me the chance to clear up any misconceptions caused (that, again, are relatively trivial and make no difference to the ultimate conclusions about the validity of Guccifer 2.0's claims to be a hacker):
THE FACTS: Forensicator did NOT have a "key" to unlock anything that was "locked" in any literal sense and nothing was "cracked". The NGP-VAN archive he analyzed was publicly available and it's password publicly known in September of 2016.
This is the only thing in Lawrence's article that I spotted that was significantly different to the circumstances I'm aware of (and it's inconsequential to the evidence, analysis and conclusions made in any of the research carried out that Lawrence references in his article).
Feldman's article starts by introducing the article in the context of who is tweeting about it, picking Kim Dotcom, Jack Posobiec and Nick Short as his examples for some reason.
This in itself look like an effort to create perceptions based on association to the subject through conflation before the subject is even explained to an audience.
(A composition/division logical fallacy in use, attempting to create "guilt by association" to those Feldman's audience is likely to have a dim view of)
Feldman proceeds to do what appears to be introducing the topic, however, he's actually setting up a false argument and priming the reader with an assumption that certain goals are being aimed at when they're not.
"Conclusive proof, or even strong evidence, that the DNC emails were leaked by an insider and not by Russian-sponsored hackers would indeed be a huge story — among other things, it would contradict the near-unanimous opinion of U.S. intelligence agencies, and raise some very serious questions about their objectivity and neutrality."
Here, Feldman writes about proving whether the DNC emails were leaked by an insider or the Russians. That's actually irrelevant to the research and analysis that Lawrence references in his article (that primarily focuses on the validity of the attribution placed on the Guccifer 2.0 persona supposedly being a GRU/FSB/Kremlin-linked operative).
Feldman misrepresents the goals of the article, VIPS' interest and the goal of the researchers/analysts that all of this relates to.
He then tries to dismiss Lawrence's article based on how it fails to fulfil an objective Feldman has introduced (as opposed to the fact Guccifer 2.0 was a phony, which is what is really being explained):
"But this article is neither conclusive proof nor strong evidence. It’s the extremely long-winded product of a crank,"
...and as a result of it not achieving a goal that Feldman has inserted via the previous paragraph, he uses this to justify calling Lawrence a "crank". To me this looks a lot like weak justification to use the most basic of propaganda devices, name-calling.
Now we proceed to Feldman misrepresenting arguments and the basis of them...
Lawrence’s central argument (which, again, rests on the belief that Forensicator’s claims about “metadata” are meaningful and correct) is that the initial data transfer from the DNC occurred at speeds impossible via the internet.
We see "beliefs" and "claims" but this is misleading, it's not about believing someone, the primary source data is available in a couple of torrent files (in the public domain since September 2016 in files that are accessed through a protocol that validates the integrity of the data). The datasets that Forensicator produced from the archive contents can be regenerated by others and every step of the process up to the conclusions being reached has been checked over by several independent third parties.
What's worse is the omission here. Feldman has omitted the fact that in Lawrence's article it is explained that the transfer speeds, at that time, would have been impossible to get when transferring the files over long distances, even specifically mentioning "transoceanic" to clarify the context.
These are important qualifiers and Feldman completely omits these in the version he gives to his readers to give himself an argument he can actually dismiss rather than those actually being presented in Lawrence's article.
The crux of the whole thing — the opening argument — rests on the fact that, according to “metadata,” the data was transferred at about 22 megabytes per second, which Lawrence and Forensicator claim is much too fast to have been undertaken over an internet connection.
No, they don't claim that it's impossible to get those speeds over the Internet, that's a misrepresentation through omission of the qualifiers that were provided in Lawrence's article and willfully omitted by Feldman. It seems that Feldman doubles down immediately in an effort to hammer his distortions into the minds of his readers (who are starting to look like victims of manipulation at this stage).
If that’s your strongest evidence, your argument is already in trouble. But the real problem isn’t that there’s a bizarre claim about internet speed that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
1. The premise that Feldman is demanding evidence for and that he injected earlier in the article has nothing to do with the primary assertions covered in Lawrence's article.
2. It's NOT the strongest evidence showing that Guccifer 2.0 was a fake and Feldman has seen fit to omit that from his article too.
3. The only reason the claim is "bizarre" is because Feldman saw fit to omit critical qualifiers that were actually in Lawrence's article, so, while Feldman's misrepresentation of the argument was bizarre, the original argument was not.
It’s that Lawrence is writing in techno-gibberish that falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny.
I suspect Lawrence was trying to explain things in terms that don't require a high degree of technical knowledge to understand and get the gist of. Handily, Feldman gives me an example to demonstrate this to be the case with:
As an example: Lawrence writes that “researchers penetrated what Folden calls Guccifer’s top layer of metadata and analyzed what was in the layers beneath.” What on earth is that supposed to mean? We don’t know what “metadata” we’re talking about, or why it comes in “layers,” and all I’m left with is the distinct impression that Lawrence doesn’t either.
Instead of just looking at timestamps ("metadata" / "top layer of metadata") of the files, Forensicator recorded timestamps of all files collectively, ordered everything by timestamp sequence, calculated relative differences and subsequently identified the transfer speeds involved from the derivative data set ("layer beneath").
Another part of the "layer beneath" comes from looking at timestamp resolutions, something not easily spotted unless you're looking for a sequence of timestamps that are rounded up to the nearest two seconds (or where you can see the microseconds of the timestamps to establish their resolution) - this pattern is an indication of FAT filesystem usage, something that is rarely seen except for where USB storage devices are used. (FAT disk partitions are a possibility but they're a technology that was starting to become redundant 20 years ago!)
Forensicator also went further to analyse gaps in transfer operations to determine the size of the original batch of files (of which the NGP-VAN archive's contents appear to only be a sub-set a fraction of the size).
Furthermore, he analyzed timestamp timezone formats and determined that file transfer operations were all carried out in the Eastern time zone. (Meta data integrity is given a lot of consideration in the research that Forensicator has done, some of which I've explained on a recent article I wrote recapping what has been discovered over the last 6 months.)
These are effectively all the hidden "layers" (derivative data and data that is typically concealed or unnoticed by people browsing through the files) that I believe Lawrence was trying to give a less jargon-filled explanation of.
Feldman uses a combination of strategic deceptions, misrepresents what he's arguing against, constructs strawman arguments and makes use of propaganda-devices in what, really, is a relatively short article. - in short, what he's done, is just produce a disgracefully sleazy hit-piece.