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Former Marine Who Proved Russia Hacked DNC Emails is Speaking Out

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By Debbie Gregory.

When former Marine Capt. Robert Johnston chose computer science as his major at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he had no idea how that decision would impact our nation.

During his service in the Marine Corps, Johnson directed the Marine Corps Red Team, which tries to hack into the Corps computers to test its defenses. As a civilian, Johnson led the private security team that investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers, coming to the conclusion that Russian intelligence was indeed responsible.

In 2015, Johnston was leading newly formed Cyber Protection Team 81, based in Fort Meade, Maryland, as part of the military’s Cyber Command (Cybercom) when a malware attack against the Pentagon had reached the unclassified computers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Johnston helped the Joint Chiefs firm up security measures.

He left the Marine Corps in November 2015, and signed up to work for CrowdStrike, a well-known cyberprotection company.

In April, 2016, the DNC IT department became convinced that there was a hacking problem, and they called CrowdStrike.

Johnston found that their computer systems had been fully compromised by two attacks. Malware from the first attack had been festering in the DNC’s system for a whole year. The second infiltration was only a couple of months old. Both sets of malware were associated with Russian intelligence.

CrowdStrike and the DNC gave the story to the Washington Post, and on June 14, 2016, the Post published the story: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”

In retrospect, Johnston thinks the Washington Post story accelerated the hackers’ timeline.

“I believe now that they were intending to release the information in late October or a week before the election,” Johnson said. “But then they realized that we discovered who they were. I don’t think the Russian intelligence services were expecting it, expecting a statement and an article that pointed the finger at them.”

In July 2016, WikiLeaks began to release thousands of emails hacked from the DNC server. Johnson’s analysis laid the groundwork for what would eventually lead to the investigation of Russia’s intervention into the U.S. presidential election.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Chelsea Manning Freed After 7 Years in Prison

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By Debbie Gregory.

Transgender Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of passing sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, has released from the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Manning, who was previously known as Bradley Manning before gender transitioning in prison, was convicted in 2013 of  Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

Before leaving office, Manning’s 35-year sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, who said that seven years in federal custody was enough for her crimes.

Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, saying she did so because she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard of the effects of war on civilians.

The leaks did reveal some of the nation’s most-sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety.

Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures.

Manning announced after her conviction that she is a woman. She was approved for gender reassignment surgery. The assurances from the Army that she could have the procedure came two months after Manning tried to commit suicide, and after a hunger strike that lasted four days, according to the ACLU.

Army officials said Manning will remain on active duty, but will be on unpaid leave while she pursues an appeal of her court-martial conviction. That means she will be eligible for benefits, including health care and commissary privileges.

Manning hopes to continue hormone therapy, and may pursue gender reassignment if doctors continue to recommend it, according to Chase Strangio, Manning’s attorney.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.