The infamous dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele was apparently right — and wrong — about Russian attempts to hack the Democratic Party leadership in 2016, The New York Times reported.
In a report unsealed in Miami on Thursday, a former FBI cyber expert found evidence suggesting Russian agents used cut-rate Internet service providers operated by entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev to start a hacking operation during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times reported.
But a big difference between the report and the Steele dossier, the Times noted, is the report did not directly link Gubarev or his executives to the 2016 hacking, as was asserted in the Steele dossier.
"I have no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard," the report's author and former FBI agent Anthony Ferrante noted in a deposition, the Times reported.
Gubarev has insisted neither he nor his businesses knowingly took part in the Russian hacking, and filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed, the first news organization to publish the Steele dossier when it became public in January 2017.
The report unsealed Thursday was commissioned by BuzzFeed to fend off Gubarev's suit, the Times reported. The lawsuit was dismissed in December when a court found BuzzFeed's decision to publish was legally protected.
Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev, told the Times hackers using a client's servers is hardly unique for a web-hosting company, or any tech company.
"You could say the same thing about Google's infrastructure and Amazon's infrastructure — and no one is accusing them of hacking anyone just because hackers used their infrastructure," he told the Times.