This time, it’s an IU computer-science professor. A story about Trump, Russia, and computer servers emerged this week, and while it didn’t knock FBI Director James Comey out of the headlines, it was big enough to draw comment from deadly serious news source The Intercept. First, Slate published a somewhat breathless story on October 31, raising its eyebrows about a special Trump computer server that might have been communicating only with a Russian bank server. That would be really weird, according to the Slate piece. If true, the findings would lend some credence to the accusation that Donald Trump has potentially compromising business dealings with one of the U.S.’s enemies. The data came from a group of American cybersecurity experts, including IU professor L. Jean Camp, who was quoted in the first paragraph describing the consortium as a “union of concerned nerds.” (Um, how can we sign up?) The group had crunched a lot of cyber stuff and believed it had established proof of a shady connection. According to The Guardian, Trump denied the story.
Then The Intercept ran a long eye-roll debunking Slate’s report. (The Intercept was the first news agency to track down Jay after Serial aired on NPR, so it’s good.) It explained that the “concerned nerds” had sent the same data to The Intercept and other major media outlets, and none of them found it credible. The Intercept walked through the data with its own cyber experts and concluded that the two servers were most likely talking to each other with spam. Nothing to see here, conspiracy theorists. Let’s go vote. (Unless you live in Fishers, where the wait was three-and-a-half hours last night.)
But Camp disagrees with The Intercept. “I think the concentration of records indicates that this is not spam, as few spam campaigns target a single entity over time,” she says. “The machine was never reported as a source of spam.”
Camp didn’t know that the FBI investigated this in the summer and didn’t turn up anything incriminating. But she’s still suspicious. “There are inconsistent explanations coming out—it was meetings, it was marketing, it was spam. I think the emails or records of meetings should be released,” she says. “It would be good to have one clear explanation. And certainly Trump can provide that. I do not have enough data. The existence of the nexus of communication, given the parties, is important enough that the matter should be raised.”
It remains to be seen if the story swirling right now will have any legs. But, like usual, it contains a Hoosier.