DNC Server

Date updated: November 28, 2019 [Up]
Material is free to copy, use, and modify.

In 2016, the Russian government hacked the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to gather information that could be used to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Recently, however, a conspiracy theory has emerged that the server that was hacked was hidden away in a foreign country so that it couldn't be examined. The implication is that there is something fishy about the whole hacking story. This isn't true, of course. The location of the server has never been secret.

However, in response a number of Democrats have been circulating the picture above saying that this is a picture from the DNC, in the DNC basement, where it's been for a while. Not only is it not secret, but there is literally a picture of it hanging out in a basement.

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Picture of a filing cabinet and a computer in a basement.

The server isn't in Ukraine. It's here, in this photo, right next to the Watergate cabinet in the DNC's basement.

Is this true? Let's start with what we always do, and think for a minute about why this picture might be important if real. In this case, if the server that people are claiming has been secretly hidden is sitting in the DNC basement in plain sight it shows how silly the conspiracy theory is. There are no unanswered questions about the server's location.

So is the picture really of the server? Let's search Google for this image through right-clicking it. Google image search is not the best image search but it's often good enough.

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Screenshot showing a right-click image search action.

We get an interesting result right away. The auto-suggested text seems to think the file cabinet pictured is the Watergate file cabinet (which, maybe?) But the second result -- from Ars Technica -- indicates we're on the correct track.

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A search result page with search terms watergate filing cabinet and an arrow indicating a promising article.

I keep scrolling and see an NYT article that has the server picture in it. I'd like to look at that, but it's behind a paywall. Above it is a tweet from someone with the handle @ericliptonnyt. I think this 'nyt' might indicate he is a reporter for the NYT, and if so maybe his tweet can verify this for me.

Screenshot described in surrounding

In this case it's looking pretty good. It's a verified checkmarked account, which shows the picture and describes it as the Watergate filing cabinet sitting next to the DNC server, and the reporter seems to be the original source of the photograph

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Eric Lipton's tweet.

Just to make sure, we hover over Eric Lipton's name and see that he is indeed an NYT investigative reporter. And this photo is from late 2016 -- there has never really been a question of where this particular server was.

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Hovering over name

There's some more complex backstory you can read -- the fact is that because of the nature of modern systems, many computers were involved in the hack, and all were imaged and examined. But yes, that's the supposedly missing server, sitting in the DNC basement in a photo published by the New York Times years ago. No secret conspiracy needed.