“It's the summer of 2014. A hacker from the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD has penetrated the computer network of a university building next to the Red Square in Moscow, oblivious to the implications. One year later, from the AIVD headquarters in Zoetermeer, he and his colleagues witness Russian hackers launching an attack on the Democratic Party in the United States. The AIVD hackers had not infiltrated just any building; they were in the computer network of the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear. And unbeknownst to the Russians, they could see everything.”
“That's how the AIVD becomes witness to the Russian hackers harassing and penetrating the leaders of the Democratic Party, transferring thousands of emails and documents. It won't be the last time they alert their American counterparts. And yet, it will be months before the United States realize what this warning means: that with these hacks the Russians have interfered with the American elections. And the AIVD hackers have seen it happening before their very eyes.”
“The Dutch access provides crucial evidence of the Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic Party, according to six American and Dutch sources who are familiar with the material, but wish to remain anonymous. It's also grounds for the FBI to start an investigation into the influence of the Russian interference on the election race between the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate Donald Trump.” (Volkskrant)
The events behind this story have been alluded to in various accounts of digital penetrations of US computer systems over the last few years. Rick Ledgett described the Department of State hack in November 2014 as intense “hand-to-hand combat within a network” against an aggressive and tenacious foe known as Cozy Bear or APT29. The fight to rid the Pentagon and JCS networks of an uncharacteristically aggressive foe in August 2015 was also attributed to Cozy Bear and the Russian government. The same person who led the NSA team in the JCS fight, Captain Johnston, USMC, faced this foe again as a CrowdStrike employee when he responded to a call from the DNC in April 2016. When the FBI first warned the DNC in September 2015 that hackers were in the DNC network, Special Agent Adrian Hawkins referred to the intruders as the Dukes, another name for Cozy Bear or APT29.
In each of these cases we knew who the intruders were because of the digital and visual surveillance of those intruders and their SVR handlers by the Dutch. Information from that surveillance let USI identify the SVR officers involved. USI subsequently bugged the SVR officers’ phones and monitored their communications. This is a major reason why the CIA, NSA and FBI were able to assess with high confidence that Moscow made a concerted effort to influence the 2016 election.
There are still many who find it inconceivable that the Russian government attempted to influence the election much less pull off the DNC and Podesta hacks. They also find it inconceivable that a concerted, long term intelligence operation could ever prove attribution. It can and it does. I’ve done it myself. I see plenty of room for doubt concerning the effects of such a Russian influence operation or whether anyone in the Trump camp knew about this or took part in it. That’s a whole different story requiring its own concerted, long term investigation. l’m more than willing to wait for this investigation to run its course. It's just a damned shame that more sources and methods will inevitably be burnt in the process.