The two-pronged email smear campaign that targeted former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich on the eve of South Carolina’s pivotal “First in the South” presidential primary was a “big, highly-sophisticated” undertaking, according to one of the law enforcement professionals currently investigating the cyber crime.
An internet protocol investigator with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed to FITS on Saturday that the individual(s) responsible for attacking Gingrich masked the true origin of their offending emails by using “multiple IP addresses” – including several addresses located in Europe.
Our source declined to provide specific information regarding those addresses – or comment on the record regarding the status of the investigation. And while some progress has obviously been made in tracing the emails, it’s yet to be determined whether investigators will be able to ascertain the originating point of the attack.
And that’s obviously only the first step in ferreting out the identity (or identities) of the responsible party (or parties).
Internet protocol (or IP) addresses are numerical markers used to identify specific computers within a network – or within a proxy network - providing a record of the point of origination for electronic communications. These addresses can be masked, however, or “bounced” off of other IP addresses in an attempt to disguise the identity of the sender or – in some cases – attempt to implicate another party in a cyber smear.
Depending on the level of sophistication, such efforts can be easily uncoverable – or totally unsolvable.
Less than 24 hours before Palmetto State Republicans were scheduled to go the polls, Gingrich’s campaign was rocked by two fake emails.
The first email took the form of a fake CNN news alert, while the second was a fake “official response” to the news alert ostensibly sent from the Gingrich campaign. The gist of both emails? That Gingrich had been accused of (and later acknowledged) pressuring his second wife Marianne Gingrich into have an abortion.
That allegation is false. In fact, Gingrich’s ex-wife never even made the allegation – although she has alleged that the ex-Speaker asked her if he could have an “open marriage” after revealing a six-year affair with the woman who is now his current wife.
How broad was the reach of the anti-Gingrich smear campaign?
“It went to thousands, if not tens of thousands of (email) recipients,” a source close to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson told FITS.
Along with SLED, Wilson’s office is investigating the cyber crime.
Who are the top suspects?
At this point, most of the Palmetto political operatives are pointing their fingers at Wesley Donehue, a former Romney supporter with close ties to Warren Tompkins – the alleged architect of the infamous 2000 “illegitimate black child” attack against John McCain.
We asked Donehue point-blank whether he had anything to do with the attack on Gingrich.
“The answer is no,” he responded.
“I already got my ass busted once,” Donehue said, referring to an anonymous attack site he launched in 2007 against former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, “I’m not stupid enough to do something like that again.”
Others are speculating that S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s supporters – desperate to deliver a face-saving win for Romney (whose candidacy Haley endorsed) – are behind the attack. Specifically, some have pointed out that the timing of the attack coincides with the arrival in South Carolina of Jon Lerner – Haley’s longtime political advisor.
Lerner – who did not respond to our request for comment regarding the attack – has been seen accompanying Haley and Romney at various stops throughout the Palmetto State over the last few days.