I've been silent on this site recently because as of late I don't think anything I say matters. As I've mentioned a few times lately, the blog I respected the most used to be Cilmate Audit. It and its proprietor, Steve McIntyre, had a huge impact on me as I grew up.
I discovered McIntyre's first website back when I was in high school, and I followed his the subsequent blog for well over a decade. Following it taught me a great deal, both about technical matters and how the foibles of people shape aspects of our world. I could go on, but I don't want to as I've lost any and all respect for the site as of late.
To demonstrate part of why I've become disillusioned, I'm going to discuss the question of whether or not Hillary Clinton's private mail server got hacked. Following from this, I'll ask, did someone commit a felony by destroying the evidence which would have shown whether or not that server was hacked? Finally, did the person investigating this topic ignore such a felony to cover things up? Thses may seem like strange questions, but they stem from McIntyre stating:
Comey whitewashed the situation, saying that there was no evidence that the Clinton server had been hacked. “No evidence” because all the server logs had been destroyed. Comey ignored the obstruction of justice.
According to McIntyre, the head of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private mail server, James Comey, whitewashed the situation by ignoring a felony then misled people by saying there was "no evidence" Clinton's server had been hacked when that was tautological as the evidence which would have shown such was destroyed. This narrative is delusional.
For those who don't know, during her time as Secretary of the State, Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail server contrary to government policy. A variety of issues arose from this, one of which being that by doing this, Clinton stymied attempts to get copies of her e-mails via legal Freedom of Information requests. Even worse, when instructed to turn over e-mails, Clinton had staff pre-screen e-mails to filter out ones which were supposedly personal. Because it was her own staff which did this screening, it was impossible to tell whether or not some of the material deleted was relevant government communication.
Another issue was using a private e-mail server created the risk confidential material might fall into the hands of people who weren't supposed to see it. This concern was proven justified as some of the e-mails Clinton received were later found to contain confidential material, One of the questions this raises is, did someone hack into Clinton's private server and gain access to confidential material?
According to McIntyre, someone did hack into Clinton's server:
one of the oddities of the bitly campaign – which has never been discussed – is that it hacked many more hillaryclinton.com addresses than dnc.org addresses, but nothing was ever leaked from the hack of the hillaryclinton.com server. Why not?
According to McIntyre, the logs for the server were destroyed so how could we know the server was hacked if "nothing was ever leaked from" it? McIntyre says we have neither security logs nor material from the server, so what is the basis for saying the server was hacked?
It turns out McIntyre's basis for saying this is a report which noted various accounts on Clinton's e-mail server (she was not the only person who used it) received e-mails from hackers trying to steal people's passwords, and such links were clicked a total of 20 times. The e-mails the hackers sent were like this one I received last week:
The e-mail purports to be from PayPal, with its title telling me I need to update my account information. The body of the e-mail doesn't match that, saying PayPal has updated its User Agreement while providing a link to read it. That contradiction is one of many red flags indicating this e-mail is not legitimate. If I click on the link, I am sent to a page showing this:
That is new. A few days ago clicking on the link would direct me to a page which looked like the normal PayPal login page. Had I typed my username and password into that page, hackers would have collected it and been able to access my PayPal account. That's the same situation people using Clinton's server would have faced, only with Google/Gmail accounts instead of PayPal accounts.
There are a couple things to note here. First, I clicked on that link several times without ever having my account stolen. That's because clicking on a link for a page which wants to steal your information isn't how your information gets stolen. Your information gets stolen when you type it into a form on an illegitimate website. That links sent to people using Clinton's server were clicked 20 times does not mean anyone's account got hacked. I clicked on the link sent to me half a dozen times without being hacked.
Second, if I had been fooled by this e-mail and got my PayPal account stolen, nobody would say PayPal got hacked. If somebody steals my password for a site, that site ehasn't been hacked; my account has been hacked. McIntyre's reference to "the hack of the hillaryclinton.com server" is nonsense because there's no evidence anything was hacked (in this particular phishing capaign), and if there had been a hack, it'd have been of individual accounts, not the server itself. I brought these points up in response to McIntyre's statement, but he didn't respond.
I don't think the fact some people clicked on links in phony e-mails, with it being possible/likely multiple clicks came from the same person (such as someone examining e-mails to look into the phishing attempt), means we can say Clinton's e-mail server was hacked. The FBI certainly didn't reach that conclusion. The FBI concluded there is "no evidence" Clinton's server was hacked. McIntyre criticizes this, again, because:
Mills and Clinton have argued that they produced all the non-personal emails, but were never pressed on server logs. Comey whitewashed the situation, saying that there was no evidence that the Clinton server had been hacked. “No evidence” because all the server logs had been destroyed. Comey ignored the obstruction of justice.
If all the logs for a server have been destroyed, it would be disingenuous to say t here is "no evidence" the server was hacked. According to McIntyre, the former Director of the FBI knew the server logs had been destroyed but itnentionally misled people by making the disingenuous statement there was "no evidence" the server had been hacked. According to McIntyre, Comey's dishonesty was so great he ignored a felony (obstruction of justice) committed to destroy that evidence in order to whitewash things.
This is a strange delusion not connected to any factual basis. Nobody destroyed the logs for Clintons' server. As far as I can tell, nobody other than McIntyre has even said that happened. I don't know where he got the idea from, but it's a figment of his imagination. The FBI's report on Clinton's e-mail server which said there was "no evidence" it had been hacked (which Comey relied upon in his public statements) explicitly discusses the server's logs.
Where did McIntyre get this strange idea? I don't know. I responded to note it wasn't true as kindly as I could:
The FBI reported examining the server logs you claim had all been destroyed. Are you saying the FBI not only lied but fabricated specific details about the server logs? That seems a bit far-fetched.
McIntyre responded, questioning where I got this idea from, and I said:
As for the FBI having server logs for the Clinton server, it was widely reported back in March, 2016 that the guy who set up Clinton’s server had provided the logs to the FBI. As one example, here is an article by The New York Times. Server logs were then in the official July, 2016 FBI report on the investigation into Clinton’s e-mail server. Included in this report is a discussion of how a review of IIS logs were used to figure out an e-mail account on Clinton’s server had been broken into. That would have been impossible if the server logs had all been destroyed like you claim.
I have no idea where you’re getting your ideas from, but the only person who “knows” any of this seems to be you.
Numerous media outlets had reported the FBI being in possession of the server logs, and the FBI's report on Clinton's server not only said it examined those logs, but cited those logs in discussing a specific example of someone's account on the server having apparently been accessed by an unauthorized source. When McIntyre responded, he quoted the very portions of the FBI report I referred to and said:
A point that I hadn’t noticed and doesn’t seem to have been widely discussed: this paragraph of the FBI report states that an email account on the Clinton server was “compromise[d]” on (at least) one occasion.
Which struck me as odd given I had brought up that exact example myself, yet he didn't make any reference to me having it brought it up. That was weird, but the more important point is something McIntyre said before that:
I’ve shown an excerpt from page 29 of the FBI report, which, as I read it, describes a review of Internet Information Services (IIS) weblogs, not server logs from the Clinton server. If I’ve misunderstood this, please clarify.
McIntyre's use of "weblogs" throws me off as a "weblog" is a blog. What the FBI examined were "web logs." I'm not sure if that was a simple typo or an example of McIntyre not being familiar with this sort of topic. That latter seems likely as McIntyre draws a distinction between "server logs" and Internet Information Services (IIS) logs. I don't know what distinction McIntyre believes he is drawing, but there is no magical set of files called "server logs." As I explained to him:
As for IIS logs, I don’t understand what distinction you are trying to draw here. There is no single, special thing called a “server log.” Server logs are whatever logs a server creates. They can be created by the operating system, services installed on the server (such as IIS) or even created by something like a homebrew script an admin wrote.
For a Microsoft Exchange server like this, IIS logs are what one would want to examine to look for signs of an intrusion. How confident one could be in saying no attack succeeded would depend on what kind of information the server was configured to log and how many of the entries that got logged were still available (as opposed to being deleted/lost for a variety of reasons, including to save space).
Different types of servers have different types of logs due to how they are programmed/configured. Microsoft Exchange servers are designed to use IIS logs. It would be possible to set up additional logging if one desired, but there's no reason to think that had was done here (and I can't imagine why anyone would have). There is simply no reason to think any server logs had been destroyed. There is certainly no reason to think all server logs had been.
(As an aside, I'll warn readers if you look at the exchange McIntyre and I had, you may find things muddled. That's because McIntyre responds to people with an administrator account whose comments are automatically placed immediately below the comment he responds to. Everyone else has their comments placed in chronological order. As a result, a person reading the exchange will see our exchange has timestamps of: 12:33 PM, 6:21 PM, 12:44 PM, 1:45 PM, 3:42 PM. Not only are they out of order, but McIntyre's comment at 6:21 PM comes before his comment at 1:45 PM.)
Despite there being absolutely no factual basis for McIntyre's narrative, with him being forced to rely upon some bizarre distinction between the server's IIS logs and some magical set of "server logs" he can neither define or describe, McIntyre concluded:
So, after review, I do not agree that either of your points invalidate my conclusion that there is evidence of obstruction of justice, though both points were relevant.
McIntyre continued to argue a felony had been committed. Why? I don't know. I asked:
Could you clarify what server logs you think were destroyed? Could you clarify why you think the destruction of those logs should discredit claims there is “no evidence” Clinton’s server was hacked? Could you clarify how this supposed destruction of server logs shows there was obstruction of justice? You say you believe your substantive points remain valid, but I can’t see any basis for any of those three claims.
McIntyre's response was to stop responding. He didn't say another word on the topic. When I then discussed his remark saying the Clinton server had been hacked (in regard to phishing e-mails, as discussed above), McIntyre also chose not to respond. But later, when I noticed I made a typo in a response to someone else then corrected it:
Er, I have no idea how I typed “Hilary for Clinton” instead of “Hillary For America.” Maybe a Freudian slip? I suspect it’s a more accurate phrase.
McIntyre made a bizarre claim to falsely accuse a person of committing a felony, claimed the Director of the FBI ignored that felony in order to whitewash a scandal. Not only did he have no factual basis for his claim, he didn't even attempt to offer one. When challenged on his claim, presented clear evidence what he said was untrue, McIntyre resorted to some weird contortion where he tried to pretend server logs weren't server logs because... reasons. When that made it clear he had no idea what he was talking about, and his entire narrative was some weird delusion, he simply stopped responding.
And that has been the pattern McIntyre has held to for weeks. He keeps saying things that are inaccurate or completely false, insists nothing anyone says changes the substance of his claims, and when he can no longer find ways to contort himself to justify his strange delusions, he simply stops responding.
(While it didn't happen in this case, in some cases McIntyre then jumps into later discussions to pretend the previous discussion stopped with the other person having never responded, flat-out denying they said the things which wwere inconvenient to his views.)
I cannot explain this. I can't even begin to describe the full extent of McIntyre's behavior as of late, as there are dozens of different things he does that are inappropriate/wrong/bizarre. It's gotten to the point where McIntyre does things like cite obscure conspiracy theorist by name, with no introduction, as though he expects people to know who they are. And as shown in a previous post, he deems "plausible" analysis by such conspiracy theorists which are as bad as, "We've identified who this hacker is because we can identify who the picture used in his fake profile is of."
There is so much more wrong about what's been going on at Climate Audit of late, but I've reached the point of not caring. A site I once loved and a person I once respected now promote worse than shoddy work, mindlessly parrot Russian propaganda and refuse to have anything resembling a meaningful discussion with anyone who disagrees. If the "best" site has fallen this low, what's left?
To put it bluntly, I feel like nothing I say or do matters because the entire climate discussion is a blighted wasteland devoid of any intellectual value. Actually, it seems devoid of any value at all. I can't find a single site or group with any sort of standards or integrity. There are still readers who rise above this morass, but they seem to have all but given up participating as they've reached similar conclusions.
There are so many aspects of the climate debate I find interesting, and there are so many problems with what's going on I'd love to discuss, but why bother? I don't mind being on a quixotic crusade, but the vapidity of people and groups today is... well, boring.