Marcel Lazăr Lehel (a.k.a Guccifer)
I can understand why many people doubt the claims of the man who says he hacked Hillary Clinton’s email server. If you read Marcel Lazăr Lehel’s letter from his prison cell in Romania, you will find it difficult to assess the personality of the man behind it. The letter is a combination of hacking facts, anti-Semitic rants, and conspiracy-theory speculations. But Lehel, who hacks under the name of Guccifer, is not insane. Even the prison psychologist, who New York Times interviewer, Andrew Higgins, was forced to use as a translator, acknowledges this.
This strange story begins when, Lehel, an unemployed taxi driver with lots of free time on his hands, began experimenting with hacking. His success in hacking local officials, and eventually Colin Powel and the Bush family, gave Lehel considerable international publicity, which this poor resident of an underdeveloped Romanian village found intoxicating. He soon became as obsessed with hacking as others would be obsessed with computer games.
Not that Lehel was a good hacker, technologically speaking. He was not. He mainly had the time and patience to design social engineering attacks. He would comb the internet for background information on his intended victims and then try to guess the password or password question from their email or Facebook accounts. He guessed Colin Powel’s AOL password by learning his grandmother’s name.
Lehel found Hillary’s email address by accident when he hacked into her long-time friend, Sydney Blumenthal’s, AOL email. Lehel readily admits doing this and he delivered the evidence to prove it. When he feared he would be captured, and possibly killed, Lehel released 7 GB of his hacking data to numerous media outlets. This he did by sending out links to a Google Drive address where he had uploaded all of his hacked information. Unfortunately, no one except Russia’s RT TV network, Cryptome, and a few other sites were interested in posting the links. But good luck finding them now. Google has since removed the files. I managed to get a copy of this archive but I cannot explain how for fear of compromising that site. It is, however, still available to persistent investigators.
The archive proves, beyond any doubt, that Lehel controlled Blumenthal’s email for a period of time. Lehel claimed he was in Blumenthal’s account, copying emails for about 8 hours. The following screenshot of a letter to Hillary can be found in his leaked archives. It shows Sydney Blumenthal’s sent box.
I can’t think of any way he could have gotten this screenshot without actually hacking into Blumenthal’s account.
The above shows that Lehel had access to Hillary’s email address and, through this, her IP address. He was well-aware of IP scanners. He could have scanned her server and found weaknesses, but a good hacker may have used a different approach. First of all, he could have maintained control of Blumenthal’s account without Blumenthal being aware of it. He could have reset the original password, for example, before Blumenthal came back online (He purposely hacked the account when he assumed Blumenthal was sleeping). He could have arranged for Blumenthal to install a keylogger or other malware by posing as one of his contacts and asking him to open an attachment, but Lehel does not mention considering this. We only know that he believed Hillary’s server was easy to hack into. He does not give the details for this assessment.
For now, we have no evidence that he did anything more than read the emails sent to her from Blumenthal’s ‘sent’ box. Lehel claimed he hacked into Hillary’s account a couple of times. Some believe that some drawings he took from a Bill Clinton account proved he had breached Hillary’s server. But Lehel, himself, claimed he hacked these from the Clinton Library site. One document that could have come from Hillary’s email is an invitation to speak at the American Society for Clinical Pathology for a healthy fee of $200,000 (see below). But this document could have been retrieved from locations other than Hillary’s email.
The truth is that, at the time of his hacking Blumenthal’s account, Lehel was not really interested in Hillary but in finding information that would confirm his theory that the world was being controlled by an elite group of rich people or Illuminati. The problem with these conspiracy theories is that one posits the theory first and then sets out to discover facts that would support it. In other words, the theory itself does not arise from a preponderance of evidence but from the whims of its inventor. This was Lehel’s problem. He was obsessed with proving this theory which led him to probe the sites of world leaders. In the process, he would ignore any facts that would subvert his theory and would even see things that weren’t there at all. This is what makes his diatribes confusing and casts doubt on what he says. It does not mean he did not uncover significant connections among people. Some connections were right on target.
He found, for example, a number of significant connections between Blumenthal and the CIA. This is how Blumenthal got the leaks he sent on to Hillary. The list Lehel leaked of Blumenthal’s contacts was like a guest list for powerful people within the liberal establishment. It’s exactly what Lehel needed to flesh out his conspiracy theories. To demonstrate what I mean, I will use the same list to ‘prove’ another theory.
Let’s say I have a ‘wild’ theory that CNN has a liberal bias which, at this point in history, would make it pro-Clinton and anti-Trump. If I look at the leaked Excel spreadsheet of Blumenthal contacts, I will see listed two prominent CNN program hosts, Fareed Zakaria and Christiane Amanpour. Anyone who watches Zakaria knows that he dedicates a large part of his program to pontificating on why Trump should not become president. Amanpour is well-known for espousing liberal causes and making anti-Trump comments. By finding these names among other liberals on this list, I have, therefore, (using Lehel’s logic) proved my theory; that is, CNN is connected to prominent people in the liberal establishment and, thus, has a liberal, anti-Trump bias. In the Lehel style, I would conveniently ignore the fact that NBC’s Chuck Todd is also listed as a contact. In the end, my theory may or may not be correct, but I haven’t proven it. However, the information I gained may inspire me to explore other connections among the contacts, which is what happened to Lehel.
Blumenthal was hacked to find an Illuminati connection. In the process, he found Hillary’s email. At the time, he was probably aware of growing interest in Hillary’s connection to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, that’s why he released some of these emails to RT. He wanted the fame associated with them. This is why he put his Guccifer logo on each page.
He actually didn’t need to hack into Hillary’s account to get this fame. So why did he admit to the crime of hacking into Hillary’s account when he may not have done so? Again, the answer is that he liked the attention.
To prove that he really did hack into Hillary’s email, he would either have to show us a screenshot from within her email or give more details on the weaknesses he found in her server. Such weaknesses can be verified. We already have information that shows her emails were compromised through her contacts and by some spam (see my post, Hillary’s Email was Hacked, but What was the Extent of the Damage?) so we know there were weaknesses which he could have exploited if he had wanted to.
To explain this lack of evidence, Lehel claims he did not release all of the information on Hillary that he downloaded. He claims he has some 30 GB of data still hidden away. That’s probably one of the key reasons why the F.B.I. extradited him to the U.S. Clearly, if he produces this evidence, it could undermine Clinton’s claim that her email server was safe.
However, in the last few days, another strange story surfaced. It has been widely reported that the Russian secret service has 20,000 Hillary emails. The story is that Lehel attempted to hack into RT TV and they used the information in his attack to find and follow him into Hillary’s server. Once there, they downloaded some of her emails. I am skeptical of this because the source this information is based on has a questionable reputation. In fact, the Washington Post describes it as an “ultra-fringe conspiracy theory Web site”.
Again, I’ll believe Russia has these emails when I see them. In addition, even if Russia produces these emails, they will have to be different from those that have already been released elsewhere online.
My guess is that if the Russian intelligence community has these emails, they will release them. Some believe that Putin would prefer a Trump to a Clinton presidency. They’ve already experienced Clinton putting pressure on them for human rights violations and don’t want to go through that again. Putin may be worried about Trump for other reasons, but the belief is he may be more pragmatic than Hillary. If all this is true, they may try to influence the election by releasing any incriminating Hillary emails at the appropriate time.
In short, the U.S. election may hinge on the antics of an unemployed, Romanian taxi driver. Who would have thought?