The chaos surrounding the Democratic National Committee leaks during the 2016 presidential election has yet to abate. In one capacity, it has transformed into the “Russia-Gate” of the Trump administration, and in another, it is being termed the “Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory” by the mainstream media. The publicly available knowledge on Seth Rich is hard to separate from the convoluted partisan chaos that has surrounded his death.
Seth Rich was a DNC staffer and was murdered on the 10th of July, 2016. Wikileaks began to publish its leaked material on the 22nd of July, only twelve days later. This material consisted of thousands of emails and off-the-record discourse the DNC had with the press, revealed an anti-Bernie Sanders bias within the DNC, and ultimately led to the resignation of then DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. At this point, neither Seth Rich nor the Wikileaks releases had any public association. This changed on August 9th, a little over two weeks after the release and less than a month after Seth Rich’s death. Wikileaks’ Twitter handle released the following statement: “WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.” Further, Assange himself in speaking to Sean Hannity on January 3rd, 2017 claimed the source of the leaks was a non-state actor.
This isn’t fire, but it sure is smoke. The argument against believing anything Assange says is that he is untrustworthy because he publishes state secrets illegally and was wanted for sex crime charges in Sweden until recently. However, the fact remains that the information released by Wikileaks was real and not fabricated. No matter how illegal his behavior or unlikable Assange is, this proves the credibility of his enterprise. So why is it ignored or glossed-over when his organization offers a reward for finding Seth Rich’s killer and claimed the DNC leaks came from a non-state actor?
The explanation lies with Russia and the United States intelligence community. There is no doubt Russia or its proxy associates hacked the DNC. This has been confirmed by US intelligence and private firms hired to investigate the DNC hacks. However, one source of leaked information doesn’t mean there were not others, a fact that seems to be forgotten by most in the media. The Washington Post confirms this, contrary to its own direct efforts. According to the Washington Post, independent researchers into the DNC hacks claim it is also possible “that someone else besides the Russians were inside the DNC’s network and had access to the same documents.”
So why hasn’t Rich been investigated as a leaker? There are three arguments put forth to stop this kind of investigation, and none of them holds up to scrutiny.
- US intelligence probes have not flagged Seth Rich as a leaker. But if there was a leaker inside the DNC, it is highly unlikely they would be discovered in a US intelligence probe of Russian cyber activity. Why? Because that isn’t what US intelligence is looking for. They are looking specifically for Russian activity among known and suspected Russian actors. US intelligence probes of Russian involvement start from an investigation of Russia and look for a cyber trail from the Russians to the DNC hacks. This trail was proven to exist, but it is distinct from the information that was leaked. In fact, these US intelligence probes are barred from investigating United States citizens like Seth Rich.
- D.C. police indicated that Rich’s murder was a botched robbery. But the problem with this investigation is that it was a murder investigation. Given all available knowledge, it was assessed that Seth Rich’s murder was the result of a botched robbery. If it were investigated whether Seth Rich was a leaker and new knowledge came to light, it is entirely possible that assessment would be altered. A murder investigation focuses on the facts of the murder and probable cause within the sphere that can be known by investigators. If Seth Rich were leaking to an institution like Wikileaks, it’s unlikely he told his friends or family. He would go to great lengths to scrub any obvious connections in the cyber realm, like use of a VPN, fake email addresses, and moving information and communications outside his normal channels. These are unlikely to be pursued in a murder investigation where there is no reason to look for them. This is in contrast to a leaks investigation, where the use of such methods would be considered and specifically searched for.
- The Rich family has gone on the offensive, attempting to honor the legacy of their son by sending cease and desist letters or claiming falsehood against institutions and people that have made various claims about Seth’s activities — in particular, if those activities do not align with the type of person they believe their son was or if no hard evidence is provided regarding his alleged associations with those activities. The problem is, such hard evidence is usually the product of an investigation into something like a connection to Wikileaks. Such an investigation has not taken place.
On the flip side, there is now mounting evidence to support an investigation of Rich as a potential leaker.
A) An investigation was done by Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family but paid by a third party to investigate his murder.
This third party and Mr. Wheeler himself have come under tremendous scrutiny and have been accused of being partisan political operatives. There is certainly evidence of the partisan ties of both Mr. Wheeler and the third party who funded his work for the Rich family. Furthermore, there is motive; if Seth Rich is proven a leaker, it undermines the Russian collusion argument currently in contention on the national stage. However, ties do not mean de facto prejudice in an investigation.
What is claimed by Mr. Wheeler is that there is a link between Seth Rich’s murder and his place of employment. Mr. Wheeler claims it is possible that Seth Rich’s murder is the result of a botched robbery, but has discovered evidence in his investigation that doesn’t support that theory. He also stated that a detective with the “totality” of knowledge in his possession and information he received from a DC police investigator inside the department, who has seen Seth Rich’s computer and case file, could reasonably think that “perhaps there were email communications between Seth and Wikileaks.”
The most significant claim made by Mr. Wheeler is that after his initial inquiry to the DC Police Department, a “high-ranking official at the DNC” reached out to the Rich family to find out why Mr Wheeler was “snooping around”, and the DCPD initially failed to return any contact because of possible political pressure. Mr. Wheeler claims he has “confirmed” Seth was having problems at the DNC with this same high-ranking DNC official.
B) Seth Rich’s alleged association with Kim Dotcom, a world-renowned hacker and internet entrepreneur.
Kim Dotcom claims to have evidence Seth Rich was involved in the DNC leak, via alleged direct contact between both parties discussing bringing Dotcom’s “Internet Party” to the United States. He has even gone so far as to offer his evidence to the newly-assigned Special Prosecutor of the Russia probe, Robert Mueller. What precise evidence Kim Dotcom has is unclear, let alone if there is any real evidence at all in his possession. Nonetheless, it is another interesting turn in what was originally ruled an open-and-shut botched robbery murder case. That a world-renowned hacker wanted in the US for cyber crimes claims to have had a relationship with Seth Rich and can confirm he was a leaker should be examined in greater detail and not idly dismissed.
The actions of Wikileaks in particular warrant the opening of an investigation to discover the truth surrounding any relationship between Seth Rich and the DNC leaks. Wikileaks does not deserve an outright dismissal by a media whose job it is to investigate the substantial associations that exist and the claims that have been made. There is a screaming chorus from the media that any assertion Seth Rich was a leaker or associated with Wikileaks has been discredited and disproven. But that can’t be accurate because no hard evidence to discredit such a possibility has surfaced in the first place. What the media has done is aired the dirty laundry of the sources and questioned the moral legitimacy of the foreign institutions interested in Seth Rich. That is very different than actually disproving anything.
No formal investigation has been done into whether Seth Rich was a DNC leaker to Wikileaks. The one formal investigation that was done was into who murdered him; such an investigation is limited by its purpose and scope into discovering secondary or tertiary activity in which Seth Rich may or may not have been involved.
In the case of Seth Rich, action is needed.
The involvement of Wikileaks, and the claims made by those such as Investigator Wheeler, require action. A formal federal investigation into whether or not Seth Rich leaked information that undermined the outcome of a national election is warranted. Known circumstances demand this, and such an investigation, apart from getting to the truth, would provide definitive closure to Seth Rich’s family.
By Joseph J. Hyde
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