So the big news of the week is that BuzzFeed is apparently sending “a team led by a former top FBI and White House cybersecurity official” all over the world to try and verify even one portion of the infamous Trump/Russia dossier (that the site published in full prior to Trump’s inauguration).
Why is BuzzFeed going through all of this trouble? Well, first of all, we would be shocked if they are the only news site that has such a team out there, which in itself tells you something about the dossier’s credibility. If there was one true fact in the whole mess, it would have been front page news a long time ago.
But BuzzFeed is interested in more than an investigative bombshell; they’re also defending themselves against a libel suit from one of the Russian billionaires named in Christopher Steele’s magnum opus. And to do that, they have to prove that the dossier is at least somewhat true.
Good luck with that.
As part of their quest to do so, though, something interesting has transpired. The person who is suing them is a guy named Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian businessman who says he was libeled in the dossier when Steele named him in connection to the Russia-ordered hacks on the DNC’s computers. So BuzzFeed, to prove their case, wants the DNC to hand over digital information that would link the hacks to Russia and Gubarev.
Strangely enough, the DNC will not comply.
BuzzFeed is taking the Democratic National Committee to court in an attempt to compel it to turn over information it believes will bolster its defense against Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian business magnate who says he was libeled in the dossier when it tied him to the Russians’ alleged hacking of the D.N.C.’s e-mail servers. In a nutshell: BuzzFeed believes the D.N.C. has information that could show a link between Gubarev and the e-mail hacking, which would undercut his libel claim. “We’re asking a federal court to force the D.N.C. to follow the law and allow BuzzFeed to fully defend its First Amendment rights,” a BuzzFeed spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
The DNC has said that releasing the information would disclose their digital signatures, thus putting them at risk for another hack. But how seriously can we take that defense? You were wide open for the first one, and besides, it’s not even clear that you WERE hacked. We’re pretty sure you just had some employees who fell for a phishing scam. In fact, there are a whole bunch of former intelligence officials who don’t believe you were hacked by an outside entity at all. And since we only have the private firm Crowdstrike’s word for it that is was the Russians, well, we’ll just say it’s awfully suspicious that you can’t (or won’t) actually prove it.
BuzzFeed is on a mission to prove what may well be unprovable. In doing so, they may unintentionally crack this whole story wide open.