WaPo Admits: Russia Didn’t Hack Pindosi Electrical Grid
Jason Ditz, AntiWar.com, Jan 2 2017
It took a few days to get there, but the WaPo has finally made the circuitous voyage from a headline declaring “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to Pindosi electrical security, officials say” to finally arriving at “Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility, say people close to investigation.” One big thing you’ll notice about the second headline is that it’s not really a story in and of itself. Russia not hacking the Pindosi electric grid would not, on its own, be even a low-level story in a newspaper, because every single day of history Russia has managed to not hack Vermont and not bring down the nation’s electrical grid. Indeed, the only reason the second story exists at all is because the WaPo released the first wildly irresponsible and obviously false story claiming Russia did something, and eventually decided that adding an “Editor’s Note” pointing out effectively that the story was false was simply insufficient.
What actually happened? On Friday, as our own coverage noted, Burlington Electric found a piece of malware on a single laptop not connected to any of their systems, and the malware matched the long litany of “related” malware that a recent government warning claimed was linked to the Russian military. The government warning itself conceded that they usually don’t blame somebody for entire families of malware, but that it had become government policy to blame Russia this time, because of the “election hack” scandal. Hysteria about Russian hackers hiding behind every consulate chef and the eagerness to make a story where one realistically didn’t exist transformed a single laptop getting a piece of malware, doubtless a daily occurrence at any major utility, to a scare piece about Russia working to bring the entire grid down around us. Sure, it wasn’t true, but as the WaPo headlines make clear, it makes for a more interesting sounding story than “Russia didn’t hack Pindosi power grid” would.
WaPo falsely accuses Russia of hacking Vermont power company
Kevin Martinez, WSWS, Jan 3 2017
The WaPo has been compelled to correct an article which falsely claimed that Russia had hacked into the electrical grid of a Vermont electrical power company. It has since been revealed that the laptop that was allegedly penetrated by malware was not even connected to the electrical grid, according to a statement from Burlington Electric that read:
We detected suspicious internet traffic in a single Burlington Electric Department computer not connected to our organization’s grid systems.
This did not prevent the newspaper from running the story without so much as checking with the company in question to see if it was true. The story had been read by countless readers on social media before it was retracted. By that time, readers around the world had only seen the headline:
Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to Pindosi electrical grid security, officials say.
No evidence of foreign hacking was revealed by the article, other than the statements from anonymous officials and authorities. On Friday, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin declared in a statement:
Vermonters and all Pindostanis should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.
Patrick Leahy also chimed in:
This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides. This is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.
Not to be outdone, Democrat Representative Peter Welch of Vermont said:
They will hack everywhere – even Vermont! – in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country. We must remain vigilant, which is why I support Pres Obama’s sanctions against Russia and its attacks on our country and what it stands for.
The newspaper also quoted an anonymous government official who stated ominously:
The question remains: Are they in other systems and what was the intent?
This most recent propaganda piece is in line with the media campaign to demonize Russia and Putin. It follows Obama’s deliberate ratcheting up of tensions with the nuclear-armed power, including new sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the country. Eventually, the WaPo was forced to issue a correction, which read:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the Pindosi electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far.
The provocative headline accusing Russian hackers of breaching the power grid remained however. Remarkably, the WaPo published the story live on its website without bothering to fact check with the power company mentioned in the article. The Burlington Electric Department issued a statement an hour and a half after the story was published through the local paper, the Burlington Free Press. According to Kalev Leetaru of Forbes.com, the WaPo did not contact someone from the company until 10 minutes after publication, by which time the original article with its menacing headline had been viewed all over the world. The only “evidence” that the malware-infected laptop was hacked by Russia was the WaPo’s claim that the malware was “Russian-made.” Russian malware can in fact be purchased online anywhere by anyone. There is a savage irony in the fact that the Post decries the spread of “fake news,” ie news that is not censored by the government and corporate media. The WaPo recently promoted a neo-McCarthyite website called “ProporNot” which accused Wikileaks, CounterPunch and other critical and left-wing websites of being propaganda outfits of the Russian govt. In the Vermont power plant hacking story, the WaPo has once again revealed itself as an arm of the Pindosi military-intelligence apparatus.