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Judge Orders Government to Turn Over Any Information on Seth Rich’s Laptop

    On Thursday, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the U.S. government to turn over any and all information pertaining to the laptop of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington in 2016.

    Judge Amos L. Mazzant ordered that “the Government shall produce the information it possess related to Seth Rich’s laptop and responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA requests within 14 days of this Order,” the ruling read.

    The report spurred sarcastic remarks on social media that the FOIA documents are likely to come back as a series of black lines.

    As narrated by the Washington Post, Seth Rich’s death had fueled Internet rumors that it might have something to do with an email hack.

    “We know that Seth’s personal email and his personal computer were both inspected by detectives early in the investigation and that the inspection revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks,” Rich’s parents told The Post.

    News reports had circulated that Rich’s “emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.” A major outlet published an unsubstantiated report that a “federal investigator” said that Rich had “made contact with WikiLeaks.”

    “WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange had persistently fed rumors of a connection with Rich without providing evidence,” the Post noted. He had also offered a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s killer.

    Seth Rich’s death had spurred rampant speculation in part due to the political context: The Democratic National Committee had reported that the Russians had “hacked” its computers, but nonetheless would not allow the FBI to substantiate the claim. The DNC would later issue a statement based on its contractor Crowdstrike that propagated the Russian hacking claim. The DNC lied and stated that the FBI never asked for access to the servers to inspect them for signs of hacking.

    In January 2019, the DNC had claimed again that a hacking attempt had taken place, and was still stubbornly putting forth the baseless conspiracy theory that Donald Trump was partly behind the hack.

    “The documents, filed in federal court in New York, were part of an amended complaint in a lawsuit filed in April that claimed the committee was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian intelligence agents, President Trump’s 2016 campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run,” the Times reported.

    “The new court filings say the time stamps and contents of the spearphishing emails received in November were consistent with separate cyberattacks around the same time tied to the Russian hacking group known as Cozy Bear, one of the two Russian groups suspected of breaching D.N.C. computers in 2016,” the report added.

    “Security researchers believe the hacking attempt against the D.N.C. in November was part of a broader campaign that used decoy emails that appeared to come from the State Department,” the report noted.

    In 2020, a federal judge in California ordered Twitter reveal the identity of an anonymous user who “allegedly fabricated an FBI document to spread a conspiracy theory about the killing of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who died in 2016,” NPR reported.

    “The ruling could lead to the identification of the person behind the Twitter name @whyspertech,” the report continued. “Through that account, the user allegedly provided forged FBI materials to Fox News. The documents falsely linked Rich’s killing to the WikiLeaks hack of Democratic Party emails in the lead-up to the 2016 election.”

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    OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.