Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald is Currently Losing His Marbles [updated; again Oct. 20, 2016)]

Oy. This is happening right now, and it's quite convoluted.

Quick intro:

Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald has a story up saying - well, a bunch of crazy shit. Primarily: that he has discovered a Russian news service story that carried a mistake regarding Eichenwald himself (Eichenwald is correct on this!); that the mistake proves that a Hillary Clinton campaign-related email that was recently published by Wikileaks was somehow falsified (wrong!); and that Donald Trump has apparently been fed falsified info related to that email—directly from Russia! (Whacky!)

Let's start slow:

Eichenwald's story is about a story that appeared this morning in the Russian news service Sputnik about an email from Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton champaign chief John Podesta (the email actually says it's to "undisclosed recipients," but this if from the Wikileaks Podesta email dump), which was acquired by hackers, and recently published by Wikileaks. Sputnik's story - now deleted - appears to have incorrectly interpreted/understood/transcribed that email, and incorrectly put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth.

Then came the money quote: '"Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate," said Blumenthal, putting to rest the Democratic Party talking point that the investigation into Clinton's management of the State Department at the time of the attack was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.'
Those words sounded really, really familiar. Really familiar. Like, so familiar they struck me as something I wrote. Because they were something I wrote. 
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000 word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article.

Remember: this is Eichenwald quoting the Sputnik story about the Wikileaks email, not the email itself. But Eichenwald conflates the two, and has used the apparent Sputnik mistake to strongly imply (bonus tweet) that the email released by Wikileaks was itself fabricated. That's wrong: here's the email. It doesn't put Eichenwald's words in Blumenthal's mouth, as the Sputnik story apparently did.

This was, if Eichenwald is to be trused on what the Sputnik story said (I believe him), Sputnik's mistake. It does not reflect on the email at all. (And please note that if the email published by Wikileaks was falsified, or simply made up, Podesta and Blumenthal could and presumably would deny writing or receiving it. They haven't.)

Eichenwald goes on to make a huge conspiracy of how Donald Trump came to get this story - he mentioned it in a speech just today - implying that he was fed it directly from Russia.

I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin—and, somehow, Donald Trump—seem to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election, but also how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.
This false story was only reported by the Russian controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article). So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin’s mouthpiece?
At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”
“This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.
The logical, not hair-on-fire, not nutty conclusion about how Trump got that info: the same way other people got it - on Twitter, where it was spread around by tons of people. (Here's a tweet - on the actual email - from October 8. More here.)

Note: In case it's not clear, Eichenwald uses the fact that Trump "advanc[ed] the same falsehood" in the story as Sputnik as proof that Trump was fed the info from his best friend, Putin. And it's not even clear that Trump did that. (Elaborated more fully by Marcy Wheeler here.)

Update: Oof:

Update II: Eichenwald is now hilariously claiming to have not said what he did in fact say:

Gleen Greenwald on this here.

Note, October 12 (Aus): Eichenwald has drastically edited and added to the article in question. It now acknowledges that the Wikileaks email was in fact not doctored. (It's still dumb and silly in every other way.)

Update, Oct. 20: Holy shit. (You've got to read it to believe it. It's so crazy and convoluted it's hard to make sense of. The gist: the writer of the Sputnik story, an American in D.C, says he got the bad info via a tweet. And: he contacted Eichenwald about that. The response: pure craziness. Plus: the writer lost his job at Sputnik. His personal story here.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Report: British Spy Agency GCHQ Gave Recordings of Dutch Citizens' Phone Calls to Australian Software Company

This is a crazy story: it came about because a British woman working for the Australian company heard the voice of an ex-boyfriend in one of the recordings:

The private conversations of thousands of Dutch citizens have ended up in the hands of the Australian technology company Appen which develops software for converting speech into text.
A report in the Dutch online site Volkskrant said telecommunications experts had opined that the only way this could have happened was by the British spy agency GCHQ tapping the information and then handing it over to Appen. 
According to Volkskrant, the matter came to light through a Dutch woman who had been employed by Appen in the UK. The company has four main offices: in Sydney, Seattle, San Rafael (California) and Davao City (the Philippines).
This woman was tasked with describing thousands of short audio excerpts in which she heard Dutch people chatting on the phone, with many of them being communications by cabbies in The Hague.
In one excerpt, she recognised the voice of an ex-boyfriend, who was speaking via Vodafone. He had not given the telco permission to share his calls with anyone and confirmed this to Volkskrant.
Much more from the original story at the Dutch site Volkskrant - in English - here.

And a very interesting and related Twitter thread (to to tweet to see full thread):