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The terrible irony of Sidney Powell’s criminal charges in Georgia | #cybercrime | #computerhacker


Last week’s indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, named Sidney Powell among 18 other co-defendants, including former President Donald Trump, accused of being part of a sprawling conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state. But a deep irony undergirds the particular legal threat to Powell, who turned herself in to the Fulton County jail for booking on Wednesday.

Among the wildest of her claims in the aftermath of the election was that a consortium of socialist countries had stolen votes from Trump by using an “algorithm” deployed against voting machines. And yet now, in the pursuit of trying to prove these and other entirely unsubstantiated claims about purported vote hacking, Powell is the one who’s been charged with cybercrimes.

In the pursuit of trying to prove these and other entirely unsubstantiated claims about purported vote hacking, Powell is the one who’s been charged with cybercrimes.

It’s hard to believe now that Powell began her career as an assistant federal prosecutor in Texas. Like so many “wackadoodle” charlatans who have risen to prominence in the last half-decade, Powell did so on Trump’s coattails. She became a conservative media darling for her attacks on the Russia investigation and her willingness to castigate the Justice Department’s case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Her on-air advocacy drew the attention of semi-professional TV watcher Donald Trump, who called her multiple times before she eventually became Flynn’s lawyer in 2019.

Fast-forward to November 2020, and there’s Powell, standing alongside erstwhile Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, another lawyer charged in the Georgia indictment. Ellis introduced the three of them as part of an “elite strike force” that intended to expose election fraud. But the news conference itself was nothing short of a fiasco, with Giuliani and Powell all but competing to see who could tell the least credible lies about the election’s results.

“The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out,” Powell said at one point during the conference. She added that the machines in question “can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden.”

None of her claims about Dominion Voting Systems or Smartmatic’s connections to Venezuela were even remotely true. There was, and is, no evidence that their systems had been used to switch votes from Trump to Biden. And as Dominion later showed in its defamation lawsuit against Fox News, hosts and executives at the network thought she was absolutely off her rocker for making such accusations — despite repeatedly putting her on-air to voice them. (Powell is currently the subject of a separate defamation suit from Dominion that is seeking $1.3 billion in damages from her.)

She wasn’t taken much more seriously inside Trump World initially. The House Jan. 6 Committee report revealed that when Powell repeated her claims in a call with Trump, he muted the speakerphone to tell others in the room: “This does sound crazy, doesn’t it?” The Trump campaign, including Ellis and Giuliani, issued a statement just four days later declaring that she “is practicing law on her own” and “is not a member of the Trump legal team” or “a lawyer for the president in his personal capacity.”

And yet she still remained part of the fold moving throughout December. She was at an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, at which her client, Flynn, floated the idea of the using the military to seize voting machines. There was also talk of her being named special counsel to oversee an investigation into claims of voting fraud. Neither suggestion was carried out, but Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis listed both suggestions at the meeting as “overt acts” to further the conspiracy to overturn the election.

And, crucially for the Georgia case, Powell signed a contract that month with SullivanStrickler, a forensic data firm based out of Fulton County, to run analyses on voting tabulators in Nevada and Michigan. According to the indictment, members of SullivanStrickler later accessed voting equipment and copies of sensitive data from Coffee County’s election systems without the same legal authorization that it had gotten in other states. Surveillance footage obtained by NBC News showed that they were escorted into the Georgia elections office where the alleged data breach took place. Their escort was Cathy Latham, then-chair of the county GOP, and also one of 18 “fake electors” who signed false documents purporting to cast the state’s electoral votes for Trump. (Latham has been charged in connection to both incidents in the Georgia case.)

Latham was joined that day by Misty Hampton, a county elections supervisor who had made a viral video alleging that Dominion machines in her county could be manipulated, and Scott Hall, a bail bondsman in Atlanta who had “been looking into the election on behalf of the President at the request of” Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, according to the indictment. It was Hall who called an election security group during the data breach to declare that the SullivanStrickler team he’d picked up from the airport had “imaged every hard drive of every piece of equipment.”

The Coffee County incident took place the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, meaning it has been mostly overlooked in other indictments and reports. But it’s worth noting that all of this took place in a county that Trump won by a 40-point margin with nearly 70% of the vote. And it’s illustrative of how deeply the lies that Powell and Trump spread had seeped into the consciousnesses of supporters at that point even in places where Biden didn’t come close.

It’s illustrative of how deeply the lies that Powell and Trump spread had seeped into the consciousnesses of supporters at that point even in places where Biden didn’t come close.

As a result of her role in hiring SullivanStrickler, Powell has been charged with six counts related to the data breach: two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud, for accessing voting machines and possessing ballots outside of a polling place; conspiracy to commit computer trespass, for gaining access to the county election system without authorization; conspiracy to commit computer theft, for taking Dominion’s data; conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy, for knowingly “examining personal voter data with knowledge that such examination was without authority;” and conspiracy to defraud the state, for having “unlawfully conspired and agreed to commit theft of voter data.”

These are all serious allegations that, unlike some of the others filed in this case, are relatively straightforward: The participants downloaded data that they shouldn’t have, accessed ballots that they definitely shouldn’t have, and allegedly knowingly did so in a way that has been well documented. And the data breach that Powell enabled may have actually made future elections in Georgia less safe, according to experts.

Notably, the charges that Powell faces, while part of the broader RICO case against Trump and the other co-defendants, all also had the potential to stand alone as clear violations of Georgia law. Powell may do her best to say that while she did hire SullivanStrickler, she had no real role in coordinating its efforts beyond that. Or that she was merely contracting a team of experts to verify what she believed were accurate claims of voter fraud, as the Trump campaign did in other instances.

But in the end, after railing against the lack of security in electronic voting machines, like a Scooby-Doo villain when the mask has been ripped off, it may well wind up that it was Sidney Powell who was the real cybercriminal all along.



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