Editor's note: This piece compliments, though it is not necessarily part II of, this post.
The following tale is one of empowerment and intrigue. We highly recommend looking into it for yourself, too, because it is perfectly fascinating.
We will provide a list of relevant links throughout and at the end.
Emails, stonetear, and Evidence Trails
"Hello all," a man called stonetear wrote in 2014 on the subreddit r/exchangeserver. "I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP's (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email that I have both in a live Exchange mailbox, as well as a PST file." Oh, here. Read the post for yourself:
r/exchangeserver is a subreddit for people looking for help with often-niche aspects of Microsoft Exchange Server, which is what many companies use to host their mail, calendar syncing, messaging, etc. There, stonetear was asking for help with something that was simple in principle, but tricky in practice. He needed some way to remove names from the To/From fields on the emails coming into and going out of their Exchange Server. I know it sounds strange. I'll let stonetear explain:
In layman's terms, stonetear wanted to make it so that anybody looking at these emails would see only the content of the messages, not necessarily the person who sent or received what. He was eventually able to do mass system wipes of these files using a program called BleachBit, an open-source cleaner available to anybody who wants it. stonetear was successful in his quest.
These posts from stonetear are dated July 24, 2014. One day before that, on July 23, 2014, the State Department reached an agreement with the committee investigating Hillary's actions in Benghazi about producing any relevant records for them to review. The subpoena wouldn't come until October, but suddenly the existence of her email records were on the table.
Why did I go from talking about one guy posting on Reddit in 2014 to implicating him in Hillary Clinton's most infamous moment in public office? After all, somebody doing something shady with emails on one corner of the internet at the same time Hillary is having to produce hers is, at very best, coincidental.
Or it would be if some dots hadn't been connected.
Let's look at this stonetear character. Start with this download page on a site for a nerdy little game called Krondor:
The important bit is on the bottom. "I am extremely grateful to Paul Combetta for hosting these files," followed by an email address, "email@example.com."
These two names--the real name and the handle--have been linked in several ways, some of which I will list here.
- First, combetta.com is registered to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Etsy profile for stonetear (now extinct) lists a Paul Combetta as its owner.
- This profile on darkseduction.net features photos of a man named "Paul" and a link to putergod.net. Putergod.net is registered to, you guessed it, email@example.com.
- stonetear's Reddit profile (now deleted) lists Rhode Island as his location of interest. On July 22, 2014 (one day before the Congressional request for Clinton's emails, and two days before stonetear's Reddit inquiries), this Paul Combetta purchased a home in Rhode Island for $290,000.
Who is Paul Combetta? He's the specialist hired by Platte River Network to administrate the Clintons' email server. Do you remember when Clinton was in deep weeds for deleting and tampering with official evidence in an ongoing investigation against her? This is the guy who did it for her, and you've just read an abbreviated account of how he did it. You've seen the evidence that he did it with intent, with timestamps to prove that he asked Reddit for help directly after Clinton was informed she would be asked to hand over the emails. This is the trail that proved it wasn't just some rogue IT guy who did something stupid. It may be the biggest smoking gun since Watergate or the Blue Dress.
Hillary found out her emails were going to be scrutinized.
Stonetear, who administrated the server, goes to Reddit to help wipe evidence the very next (out of the goodness of his heart?).
Reddit catches him.
The fun begins.
This is my favorite part of the story so far. All of the connections you see above (and tons more I have omitted for the sake of time... here's a pastebin entry with ongoing evidence supporting Combetta's involvement in this fiasco) were made by, essentially, everyday Joes. They were not professional journalists or investigators, but simply people who know how to dig using the resources at hand. They used public tax records and WhoIs documentation, simple google searches and well-placed phone calls. No hacking or overly special skill sets involved.
The story was originally broken on the self-proclaimed "front page of the internet" and was met with much Reddit enthusiasm. Summaries like this one were uploaded, fact-checked, and edited entirely by the largely anonymous community.
But the story doesn't end here.
When the story broke on Reddit, it was spread around a few boards and was quickly drumming up loads of conversation. But it was largely contained to Reddit. No mainstream media source had picked up the meticulously researched, extensively sourced, already-written piece on active, ongoing, high-level government corruption simply waiting for them to take it.
The first to break it was a woman named Katica, using the Twitter handle @GOPPollAnalyst:
This was on September 18 (yes, one month ago). She and her followers began tweet-blasting it to major news outlets. On September 19, the first story broke about it on a website called The Conservative Treehouse, which you can read here. The site is a little wacky, but the article is well written, succinctly explained, and objectively sourced. Other smaller sites like totalfratforum and LawNewz picked up the story that The Conservative Treehouse ran. The stonetear revelation was gaining viral traction, spreading to various corners of the Web... now several days removed from the story breaking.
On September 20, Fox became the first major news media to report on it in a TV segment entitled "E-Nailed":
Following Fox's segment, most major outlets followed suit. A highly controversial story with beyond-enormous implications that began with a single user on Reddit was now a National story.
Remember: September 20 was the day that the Combetta/stonetear story broke in the National news cycle.
Well, a week before that, on September 13, Paul Combetta was sitting in a Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigation, during which he plead the fifth and refused to answer questions from the men and women asking him about his involvement with Hillary Clinton's email server. A Full House Committee. Our Government.
While the Federal Government was actively investigating Paul Combetta to little avail, Fox was busy defending Trump from Hillary attacks in a "fair and balanced" way, and CNN (which is owned by Time-Warner, Hillary's 7th-biggest campaign supporter) was talking about what a nitwit Trump is, a dude on Reddit got a scoop and the Internet spread it like the Internet does. The story was fact-checked and edited minute-to-minute, downloaded and mirrored and torrented in stages, and summarized and compiled by independent onlookers. People from every side of political ideology came together and found common ground: Truth.
Not even Hillary's flagrant attempts to censor anti-Hillary speech on the Internet could stop this story from developing and breathing and demanding to be heard (for example: Here is a screenshot of the frontpage of r/politics at 7am on September 19 and here it is eleven minutes later, entirely scrubbed of the story).
While our Facebook feeds were stuffed with election polls, there were bankers and teachers and IT specialists and amateur Internet sleuths who were banding together to pull back a sling pointed at the face of a tyrant king: a system that demonizes procuring information they don't want us to have; that calls the ones who expose government agencies caught passing around sexual videos and images collected from spying on their own citizens "traitors"; that actively pursues actions that redistribute wealth from the lower and middle classes to the rich on Wall Street. The ants have found their way not only to the picnic where the food is, but to the closet where the ammunition is stored.
This is power.
This is revolution.
The End of Tyrrany
Back in May, we wrote that "information" better reflects what the Second Amendment calls "arms," since it is the last vestige of resistance that a free people can have against a government that possesses things like nukes and drone strikes. We argued that the point of the Second Amendment was to keep the government in check: to give the people the same power that the government had so that the government couldn't overstep its domain.
In spectacular form, this story has unfolded right before our eyes. Citizens have come together and accomplished something that corporate media and Congress, alike, either could or would not see.
Do not under-appreciate the value of a free and open Internet. When you hear people like Donald Trump say that "parts of the Internet should be closed," you need to be very careful how you tread. His point was that "ISIS recruits through the Internet" (what does this even mean?) and so to cripple them, portions of the Internet may need to be shut down (Editor's note: we're not sure that Donald Trump actually knows what the Internet is). While it is true that immeasurable darkness uses the Internet to spread its tendrils, the Internet, and like it anonymity, does not inherently breed evil. It invites community; community is sometimes bad.
Be watchful and awake; be wary of affiliation for affiliation's sake; ask questions of the stories that you see; find it and curate your information wisely, for it is not illegal to possess information (yet).
When we arm ourselves with the proper weapons, no tyrant can stand against us.
Some interesting stuff:
An article on Hillary's attempts to "correct" Facebook and Reddit comment sections. (This article didn't even touch on Correct the Record.)