"Briton Ran Pro-Kremlin Disinformation Campaign" Story Was Disinformation

An article unwittingly published by ComputerWeekly contained demonstrably false claims that the publication has refused to correct and contained claims that its author almost certainly knew were false or misleading.

Tim Leonard (aka Adam Carter) --- July 5, 2019 (Updated July 30, 2020)

Duncan Campbell, author of ComputerWeekly's discredited hit-piece.

On July 31, 2018, ComputerWeekly published a hit-piece constructed by author Duncan Campbell.

The article falsely accused this author of running a "pro-Kremlin disinformation" operation and asserted that Forensicator (an anonymous analyst based in the US) is an imaginary or invented person. Campbell goes so far as to imply that this author may be in control of Forensicator (despite glaring differences in our work output).

The article pushed claims and frames that the author knew to be untrue, made demonstrably false claims about evidence (that remain uncorrected), misrepresented third parties, omitted critical information that would help make sense of Campbell's motives and presented it's own conspiracy theory to readers that was ludicrous and promptly dismantled.

[For those that are unfamiliar with Campbell's efforts and the ongoing disputes between different parties, the full back-story, links to the original hit-piece and links to articles debunking it are all available on this page.]

The purpose of this article is just to provide a brief recap on how Campbell's hit-piece disintegrated under scrutiny during the past year and to highlight evidence that has since emerged providing further corroboration of the findings of those Campbell had attacked and smeared.

 

What Has Happened Since Publication?

  1. Campbell's "Forensicator Fraud" conspiracy theory was promptly debunked by Forensicator.

  2. Campbell was shown to have engaged in disinformation by an independent analyst.

  3. The falsity of many of Campbell's claims were highlighted and his reliance on cherry-picking and distortions were made clear.

  4. Bill Binney clarified his position where Campbell had promoted misconceptions and misled people on Binney's position (including deceptive framing of Binney's testimony to make it appear as though it was a criticism of this author's site, deceiving many ComputerWeekly readers in the process).

  5. ComputerWeekly's editor in chief Bryan Glick was informed of numerous inaccuracies and challenged to provide evidence for his publication's "pro-Kremlin" and "disinformation" allegations. He was unable to substantiate these claims and, in private, has admitted that ComputerWeekly's position is based on "belief" and "opinion". (Unfortunately, such frail basis of claims was never stated to ComputerWeekly's readers and instead the claims made have been presented as though they are facts.)

  6. New evidence emerged with an East coast timezone indicator that has existed since July 6 2016 and that was written to a file on the day it was published, caused by editing the document with LibreOffice while Eastern timezone settings were in effect.

  7. New evidence emerged with Central timezone indication that existed as of June 21 2016 (and which also seems to have involved a USB storage device) which, again, further corroborates Forensicator's past findings.

  8. Despite being publicly presented with new evidence, Campbell has continued to make claims based upon a false presupposition of others lacking additional evidence (when we have far more than he's willing to acknowledge or concede).

  9. When challenged with evidence and challenged to provide evidence for their allegations online, Campbell and cohorts have become unresponsive.

  10. Campbell's "Timestamp Tampering" theory was scrutinized by Forensicator. Forensicator has published a rebuttal that argues Campbell didn't consider the duration of each transfer and that if he had, he would have found clashes in his timeline rather than things neatly slotting together.

  11. When it comes to Campbell's timestamp tampering theory (at least, as explained by Binney), all one has to do is look at the "DNC.rar" archive within the NGP-VAN 7zip archive to see the theory has a hole in it. (The last modified minutes-past-the-hour values in timestamps of the RAR file and it's contents, according to the one-hour timeline scenario, are chronologically backwards. The RAR's last modification timestamp shows 48 minutes past the hour, the files within it show 50 minutes past the hour.) Even with the date and hour stripped from the timestamps we can see, logically, the contents must have had their timestamp come from an hour that occured prior to when the RAR was last modified. This contradicts the premise of the activity all originally occurring within the same one hour time frame and if we restore the timestamp data Campbell discarded, the anomaly disappears and chronological order returns. (ComputerWeekly's editor in chief has been notified of this issue.)

 

Let's Be Reasonable!

Let's just say, hypothetically, for sake of argument, that we were to ignore the obvious problems that exist with Campbell's theories and just accept that timestamps were tampered with and agree to throw out the July 5, 2016 date he seems to object to...

...it ultimately makes little difference.

The two most significant and controversial discoveries identified (USB device use and Eastern timezone indicator) in Forensicator's study of Guccifer 2.0's NGP-VAN archive aren't really affected by this (though Campbell does suggest that RAR v4 and 7-zip were used deliberately to plant this) and we have a lot more evidence aside from this, including:

 

Conclusion

Campbell peddled nonsense conspiracy theories and rumors, knowingly misled the public, misrepresented third parties, made demonstrably false claims about evidence and relied on a litany of propaganda devices and logical fallacies as part of his efforts to smear people and has shown absolutely no compunction or care about the accuracy of his claims since then.

If Campbell's efforts were legitimate he would have just published a paper explaining his technical theory to dispute Forensicator's study but he never attempted to do that and, instead, has focused on attacking character and inventing convoluted and absurd conspiracy theories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.

Bryan Glick, editor in chief of ComputerWeekly.

ComputerWeekly should have validated and verified Campbell's claims properly but clearly didn't.

They fell for a salacious smear campaign, refused to check with other parties cited in the article when advised to, have refused to make appropriate corrections and they don't seem to care that they fed demonstrable disinformation and dubious theories to their readers while falsely accusing others of disinformation.

(Evidence showing that Campbell had engaged in disinformation was shared with the publication's editor in chief, Bryan Glick.)

 

 

UPDATE (March 30, 2020): Source of False Allegations Propagated By NBC News

As if the above wasn't bad enough, in October 2019, Campbell was a source for an article published by Ben Collins of NBC News that claimed "fake documents" were given to Bill Binney and that there is "proof" of the documents being fake.

NBC News were promptly challenged to substantiate and asked why they made no effort to validate or verify claims. Their author and a handful of editors were contacted. They didn't respond.

Their source, Duncan Campbell, was emailed on January 1st, 2020 and asked to substantiate the claims and produce the alleged "proof" (NBC editors were also CC'd in on that communication). Campbell did not respond and neither did NBC editors.

Campbell was sent another email a few weeks later asking him to explain why he deliberately misled the public and to respond to the fact his original article made false claims about evidence and to respond to his technical theory being challenged by Forensicator. Again, he did not respond.

Campbell was called on March 9th, 10th and 11th (at different times of the day each time) and he refused to answer, so, messages were left asking him to substantiate the claims made in the NBC News article. He did not respond.

NBC News author Ben Collins was also publicly challenged to explain the claims published and produce proof.

At the time of this update he has refused to respond.

Nobody from NBC's editors and author to their source is actually willing to be accountable for these claims and they seem unable to explain what they're referring to and won't produce the alleged "proof" they claim exists.

Full details on NBC News misreporting can be found here.

A summary of the countervailing evidence relating to Guccifer 2.0 discovered over the past three years is here.

Campbell's conspiracy theories, character attacks, manufactured drama and nonsense have contributed almost nothing of value to advance public understanding of the Guccifer 2.0 operation.

Campbell's efforts have distracted from the evidence and have even misinformed people on what evidence is available.

I hope ComputerWeekly and NBC News learn to properly vet sources, verify and validate claims before publication and can, one day, bring themselves to retract the lies and disinformation they have published.