Hack Yields Clinton Campaign E-Mail, Records

Gmail breach was part of a broader cyberattack

JUNE 28--The broad spear phishing campaign targeting the e-mail accounts of Hillary Clinton campaign officials has yielded hackers a wide assortment of internal memos and other communications, according to documents provided to The Smoking Gun.

The attack--which investigators believe is a Russian government operation--has recently focused on the Gmail accounts of scores of Hillary for America staffers, according to SecureWorks, a research firm that published its findings earlier this month.

The firm contends that the hacking campaign has targeted “individuals managing Clinton's communications, travel, campaign finances, and advising her on policy.” The assault, which reportedly began in mid-March, relied on a spoofed Gmail log-in page in an attempt to deceive victims.

That gambit tricked at least one Clinton volunteer, Sarah Hamilton, records show. Hamilton’s Gmail account appears to have been breached in late-March and hackers copied a large swath of campaign e-mails, memos, and documents. Hamilton, former spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has aided the Clinton campaign’s press operation. Contacted today, Hamilton (pictured below) declined comment on the hack.

As with recent online attacks on the Democratic National Committee, TSG learned of the Hamilton hack from “Guccifer 2.0,” who claims to be a Romanian “hacktivist” and solitary “hacker with a laptop.” He has dismissed the contention of assorted security researchers that he is part of a Russian operation as a “Total fail!!!”

The breach of Hamilton’s Gmail account provided hackers with a glimpse at the inner workings of a massive presidential campaign--from schedules and talking points to briefing books and assorted logistics. But the records are absent the kind of intel for which hackers were probably searching, like policy discussions and confidential deliberations.

Which is not to say, however, that the hackers did not unearth some embarrassing information, especially with regards to the Clinton campaign's dealings with the press.

For example, a February e-mail chain details how aides marshaled advance and press staffers to thwart reporters at a Las Vegas rally attended by the candidate, her daughter Chelsea, and former President Bill Clinton.

Anticipating that all three Clintons would work the crowd following the Democratic candidate’s speech, a campaign official advised that a rope line had to be “covered with staff bodies to make sure the crowd can get to the ropeline and you stay in front of cameras.” Sarah Pollack, who works on the campaign’s “National Press Advance Desk,” noted that while “Press have been politely yet firmly asked to stay in press areas but we should expect press and cameras to move forward for ropeline.”

In a series of e-mails, members of the rope line platoon reported on the movement of journalists, especially Dan Merica, a CNN producer covering the Clinton campaign.

After an advance staffer wrote to report that an aggressive French journalist was “at stage right,” the Merica tracking kicked in.

“Watch out for Dan Merica center right,” a press aide warned. Eight minutes later, an advance team member wrote, “Dan Merica stage left.” A minute later Hamilton advised colleagues, “French journos and dan merica heading to stage right.” Moments later, a new Merica update came from an advance team member: “Dan America is on backstage bleachers.” Less than a minute later, the staffer gave an update: “I’m with dan America on back stage bleachers.”

It appears Merica was being secretly tracked by campaign workers concerned that the CNN employee might detonate a question if he got too close to any of the Clintons.

When Clinton visited Chicago in mid-March, the local press pool included Lynn Sweet, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. In an e-mail to Hamilton (“Subject: Lynn Sweet”), campaign traveling press secretary Nick Merrill advised, “Let’s keep an eye on her.” Hamilton immediately replied, “Yes. I’m sitting next to her on the bus.”