Russian intel started the Seth Rich rumor to cover for DNC hack
The purported details in the account of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, seemed improbable on their face: that Seth Rich, a data director in the Democratic National Committee’s voter protection division, was on his way to alert the FBI to corrupt dealings by Hillary Clinton when he was slain in the early hours of a Sunday morning by the former secretary of state’s hit squad. Yet in a graphic example of how fake news infects the internet, those precise details popped up the same day on an obscure website, whatdoesitmean.com, that is a frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda. The website’s article, which attributed its claims to “Russian intelligence,” was the first known instance of Rich’s murder being publicly linked to a political conspiracy. The Russian effort to exploit Rich’s tragic death didn’t stop with the fake SVR bulletin. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the Russian government-owned media organizations RT and Sputnik repeatedly played up stories that baselessly alleged that Rich, a relatively junior-level staffer, was the source of Democratic Party emails that had been leaked to WikiLeaks. It was an idea first floated by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who on Aug. 9, 2016, announced a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s murder, saying — somewhat cryptically — that “our sources take risks.” At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. Within months, the Rich conspiracy story was also being quietly promoted inside President Trump’s White House.
Exclusive: The true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. A Yahoo News investigation. Report: Russian intel started the Seth Rich rumor to cover for DNC hack (ars technica)