BuzzFeed has filed suit against the Democratic National Committee, Vanity Fair reported Tuesday, in an effort to get the party organization to disclose information on the hack of its email system, which BuzzFeed believes could help it defend itself in a libel suit stemming from its publication of the Steele dossier on then-candidate Trump’s connections with Russia. Russian tech executive Aleksej Gubarev sued BuzzFeed last year after the site published the memo written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which accused Gubarev and his Florida-based company Webzilla, of involvement in the hack of the DNC, which led to the release of thousands of emails via WikiLeaks in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign. BuzzFeed has since redacted Gubarev’s name and apologized for including it in the memo’s release.
From Vanity Fair:
BuzzFeed’s motion asserts that the D.N.C., citing privacy concerns, has been unwilling to comply with a subpoena for that information. As BuzzFeed’s lawyers argue: “The material requested from the D.N.C.—which amounts only to the digital remnants left by the Russian state operatives who hacked their systems—is highly relevant to Defendants’ ability to establish the truth of the allegedly defamatory claims about them in the Dossier. And the D.N.C. has identified neither privilege nor burden that would prevent them from complying with the Subpoena.” In legal papers, the D.N.C. has argued that disclosing the digital signatures, supposedly left by the Russia-directed hacking organizations known as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, would inevitably expose details of the D.N.C.’s information systems, possibly making them more vulnerable to another hack.
BuzzFeed is actively trying to verify portions of the dossier to undercut Gubarev’s libel claim and, Foreign Policy reported yesterday, deployed a team of intelligence professionals six months ago to try to track down evidence relating to the allegations against Gubarev, who lives in Cyprus and operates his tech company out of Luxembourg.