Propagating Campbell's Conspiracy Theories Does Not Bode Well For TechDirt

By Adam Carter - September 14, 2018

On August 3, 2018, TechDirt published an article by journalist Karl Bode, titled "As 'DNC Hacked Itself' Conspiracy Theory Collapses, Key Backer Of Claim Exposed As UK Troll".

The article promotes conspiracy theories and allegations that formed part of a blatant (and now debunked) hit-piece constructed by journalist Duncan Campbell that targeted this author, Forensicator and Disobedient Media (as well as throwing various unrelated third party researchers under the bus).

Campbell's efforts have been exposed in several articles [here and here, with the final part of the series to be published soon] and his conspiracy theories have been technically debunked by Forensicator too.

Bode's piece starts off with a trip down memory lane, from his perspective:

The article in the Nation wasn't without problems but the research it was in relation to has not been successfully challenged and it is the evidence observed that was important rather than any theories and interpretations arising from that.

The Nation piece also does not suggest that the DNC "hacked itself", this is just a straw-man argument built on a distortion that Bode finds far easier to do battle with than tackling the actual evidence.

For the sake of context, it should be noted that Forensicator has not asserted that he's a "computer forensics expert". Similarly, I've not stated this about myself either.

Karl Bode seems to like to use "self-professed" and "self-proclaimed" phrasing as a means of undermining people who haven't actually proclaimed or professed such things about themselves:

As for Bode's effort to play victim in the above Tweet, he is referencing criticism received when he was responsible for publishing an article that claimed using MB/s rather than Mbps somehow invalidated the research:

His article made claims that were literally nonsensical and was replete with an embarrassing assertion made in the headline (in reality, no conversion error was made).

Forensicator elaborates on this speed issue in an article published to his site titled "The Need For Speed".

Returning to Bode's latest efforts:

The Nation story was built upon knowledge that there were other indicators in the NGP-VAN archive that indicated a USB device had been used (a point covered in more detail in Forensicator's original study but this is something Bode consistently omits from his reportage).

Bode also omits pivotal context from the article published by The Nation (which covered that it was transoceanic transfers being referenced, which is considerably different to domestic transfers).

TechDirt stood alone in offering the most invalid excuse as a justification for claiming others lacked expertise but it wasn't the only source of criticism. However, all the critics could only criticize The Nation article, nobody was able to debunk the study it referenced.

As for the premise that Guccifer 2.0 was part of Russia's military intelligence service (the GRU), such as Mueller's recent indictment asserts with a great deal of specificity (but without citing actual evidence). There are a number of issues with this:

It appears Guccifer 2.0 had no inclination to release anything truly harmful to Clinton's reputation and actually wanted to be perceived as Russian by anyone peeking beneath the surface claims of being Romanian.

The Russian clues we've seen came from an array of conscious choices Guccifer 2.0 had made, yet it was the GRU?

Interestingly, efforts to look at evidence Guccifer 2.0 would have struggled to fabricate (eg. where evidence is recorded independently) or be likely to have been overlooked, has resulted in a considerable number of indicators suggesting that Guccifer 2.0 was operating from within US time zones.

While the Mueller indictment has provided allegations with a considerable degree of specificity, it hasn't provided evidence and the attribution being made does seem to be contradicted by a lot of circumstantial evidence that exists in the public domain.

This author did not write articles critical of everyone raising new links as Bode asserts. Those criticized were primarily those that had tried to unduly discredit third parties and that were using a "strawman" style attack in their own efforts to undermine The Nation article, such as Bode clearly did.

Bode and others were criticized for their writing, use of propaganda devices, for attacking a straw-man and for trying to unduly undermine progress made on research carried out in relation to the Guccifer 2.0 persona.

This author is not the one who has sought to dox individuals or engage in character assassination (such as is true of the blatant hit-piece Bode has promoted and to which to some degree, by lying about this author, has added his own smears).

I stand by my criticisms of Bode's article from last year and extend those to his latest piece, which is a truly sleazy and disgraceful article full of efforts to try to undermine things with little more than derogatory adjectives. [So, you're welcome!]

Funny, because Campbell has avoided every piece of research I've done, made numerous (now debunked) assumptions, has been unable to demonstrate that his targets had engaged in disinformation and instead has just tried desperately to attack the character of multiple parties (which involved Campbell spreading disinformation of his own).

Bode's claims are also contradicted by the fact that I have reported on the fact there is evidence suggesting the DNC may have been hacked as early as 2015 tied to an APT group thought to be tied to Russian intelligence and my site is full of links to many sources that push the premise of Guccifer 2.0 being a Russian, most of which I've never challenged the authors on directly.

The story is tedious, full of innuendo and insinuation, incorporates flawed and debunked conspiracy theories and goes to considerable effort to smear this author's character rather than actually stick to what is relevant about my work as a journalist and my reporting on discoveries in relation to the Guccifer 2.0 persona.

While Bode can throw labels around neither he nor Campbell actually provide the substance to justify them.

Bode claims that this author's efforts to combat disinformation is a pretense. Evidence in the public domain contradicts this and shows I've debunked conspiracy theories about John Podesta, Seth Rich and other topics and have encouraged people to learn about how to identify deceit and recognize propaganda.

After nine months of stalking and trying to dig up any dirt he could find, all Campbell has found is a single statement that I made where I said that I personally think Seth Rich could have been a source of leaks. This comment was made on social media rather than in any of the articles I've published or any of my work as a journalist (and it was expressed as a personal opinion, not asserted as fact), so, it's unclear how this qualifies as disinformation.

Forensicator is an independent, third party researcher who is quite separate from myself and Disobedient Media. Objective stylometic or syntactical analysis will make this clear. Duncan Campbell could have done this analysis himself and figured this out but instead has simply chosen to insist that I've invented Forensicator to spread disinformation.

Analysis built on "bogus insight" that was "created by fake people", yet is still something Karl Bode struggles to counter with anything more than labels and sticking inverted commas around words.

To this author's knowledge, Disobedient Media has no affiliation to any political party, nation, ideology or organization. It isn't funded by investors or backed by think-tanks and it has no advertisers to appease, this seems to qualify it as an independent media organization.

Disobedient Media has reported accurately and factually on the topic of human trafficking and child abuse while diligently avoiding any claim that flawed conspiracy theories are factual.

Regarding coverage of the DNC and Seth Rich, Disobedient Media has covered the DNC Fraud lawsuit and the topic of two individuals involved with it that died under suspicious circumstances in 2016, one being Seth Rich, the other being the process server Shawn Lucas.

To this author's knowledge, nothing false or misleading has been reported on these topics at Disobedient Media.

While Bode wishes to characterize this as incoherent rambling, nothing in his article demonstrates this or provides evidence that helps inform his readers, it's mostly inaccurate labels and name-calling.

Little may have come from the Pompeo-Binney meeting because Pompeo was nominated as Secretary of State only four months later and he is someone who has demonstrated clear disdain for WikiLeaks a few times in the past, so may have had little inclination to pursue what was being raised anyway.

Bode echoes Campbell's vacuous claim that Guccifer 2.0 manipulated data to promote the impression that Seth Rich may have leaked the DNC data to WikiLeaks and that this author and Forensicator helped in that effort, yet, he provides no evidence to support this speculative theory and ignores subsequent discoveries made by Forensicator and other researchers over the past 20 months which demonstrate - with evidence - that Guccifer 2.0 manipulated documents in order to send consistent messages to suggest he was a Russian operative.

There was no "tip-off file", it was an early draft of Forensicator's work that was (and still is) hosted on the site as peer review was being sought at the time. Several claims in the above paragraph have been debunked by Forensicator already.

There was no team creating a persona called Forensicator nor anybody feeding Forensicator a predetermined conclusion and Forensicator's study has never been shown to have pushed any "fake conclusion".

These claims are all the result of Duncan Campbell's overactive imagination and failure to test his own assumptions properly after discovering an early draft of the NGP-VAN research that was hosted on the site.

The files that have been analyzed on my site were Guccifer 2.0's first batch of files, in which we've found evidence to suggest they were deliberately manipulated and the analysis and reporting on my site covers all of this in considerable detail. Recently, additional analysis was provided by Forensicator that supported those conclusions too.

The NGP-VAN analysis is separate to this and there has not been evidence found within the subject of that analysis that indicates that timestamps were arbitrarily manipulated (such as Campbell and those careless enough to regurgitate his claims have asserted).

It also doesn't seem that those cited (such as William Binney and Ray McGovern - both members of VIPS) are "running in the opposite direction" or changing their mind about Guccifer 2.0 being a fake Russian hacker in the manner being suggested by Campbell (and subsequently Bode, etc):

Bode claims that The Nation and other web sites ran stories that claimed that the DNC "hacked itself". That is Bode's characterization, but a careful reading of those articles finds no such claim.  He misses the main point of Forensicator's analysis by deflecting to coverage of Forensicator's findings as reported (wrongly) by various media outlets. The main point of Forensicator's analysis was that the evidence ran counter to Guccifer 2.0's claim that he hacked the DNC from abroad.

Bode doesn't tackle the research or any of the evidence that he's trying to undermine because he is not acting in good faith. He has merely regurgitated Campbell's debunked conspiracy theories and smears, added his own spin (mostly consisting of name-calling), played victim and effectively tried to suggest that flaws in one article equates to flaws in everything he disagrees with that the article covered.

This has resulted in TechDirt propagating debunked conspiracy theories and baseless smears with a bewildering reliance on the name-calling device to a degree that implies Bode was emotionally invested in this story and was incapable of reporting objectively on it. It seems there is a need for greater editorial oversight at TechDirt (and, assuming its editors care about being honest with their readers, corrections or a retraction are in order).

TechDirt was contacted earlier this month, advised that Duncan Campbell's claims had been debunked and asked for a statement in response to this. No response was received.

TechDirt was contacted again shortly before release of this article, giving it a chance to preview and check for accuracy. There has been no reply.