In August 2016, John Bambenek, a former Republican state senate candidate in Illinois, launched his own clandestine investigation of Guccifer 2.0, the public face of the Russian cyber break-in at the Democratic National Committee. What Bambenek found was that the Guccifer 2.0 persona — believed to be a cover for Russia’s military intelligence arm — reflected a more slapdash chapter in the operation to sow U.S. election chaos than usually presented.
Why it matters: In transcripts of Twitter messages that Bambenek shared with Axios, Guccifer 2.0 seemed to be either careless or indiscriminate, apparently failing to do even a cursory check on Bambenek, and with only a vague understanding of what he was sharing.
How it happened: In June 2016, the DNC told the Washington Post that hackers apparently working for the Russian government had penetrated its computer networks. The day after, Guccifer 2.0 surfaced with the first of a trove of stolen DNC documents, including a 231-page dossier on Donald Trump, the start of a drumbeat of leaks that would dog Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign until she ultimately lost in November.
Not long after, Bambenek approached Guccifer 2.0, asking for documents to help the Republican cause. “I knew I had a good chance of passing the Google test for being a Republican, and it came at a time when Guccifer was probably receiving many inquiries from the press,” he told Axios. […]
The catch: Bambenek wasn’t wearing a GOP hat while conducting the conversation. Instead, he was an executive at Fidelis, a Bethesda, MD, cybersecurity firm that, along with CrowdStrike, had quickly attributed the attack to Russia. Bambenek was more or less just continuing the investigation out of curiosity.
The FBI was in the loop: “Every [direct message] I sent, every [one] I received was turned over to the FBI immediately. I assumed they would have been monitoring the account to begin with,” Bambenek said.
Though Guccifer 2.0 provided him exclusive documents, they focused on almost comedically non-competitive races.
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