The End Run

Something Rotten in Iowa? The “Hacktivist Threat” Timeline
January 1, 2012

As reported by The End Run yesterday, it turns out that Clarke Davidson, one of the protesters arrested for blocking the door to Ron Paul’s campaign office in Ankeny, Iowa, is the same guy responsible for uploading a video to YouTube calling on activists to “peacefully shut down” the Iowa caucuses this Tuesday, January 3.

The video, supposedly created by “Anonymous” and anonymously delivered to Davidson, is now being used in conjunction with these on-going “Occupy” protests (which have also targeted candidates like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama) as a pretext to move the vote counting for the Jan 3 primary to a secret location.

Given these facts, it behooves us to look more closely at Davidson, the origins of the “Anonymous” video that he uploaded, how it has being utilized by the media and GOP establishment, and how it may be used moving forward.   We are going to do just that, right now.  Let’s look at this chronologically:

OCT 24: Clarke Davidson, an activist with Occupy Des Moines (aka Occupy DSM), gives a writer from the Des Moines Register a video-recorded tour of the group’s elaborate campsite.  Davidson is an A/V expert and former TV producer.  He displays intimate knowledge of the campsite and its goings-on, and shows off some of its technology, including:

1.  A “Disinformation Station”, to “re-educate the public about a lot of misconceptions they may have about what’s really going on”
2.   An “Audio Recording Studio” with “a bunch of condenser mics and computers” and a plasma TV
3.   A “Broadcast Studio” with two Macs, one of which is set up as a “broadcaster” and is connected to the internet via Verizon 4G LTE, which costs them about $210/month ($7/day)
4.   An unfinished “Communications Center”

Oct 29: CNN reports that Occupy DSM is planning to have “activists from across the nation, and possibly beyond, descend on Iowa” and occupy “every presidential (candidate’s) office, shutting them down until they start talking real turkey about what’s going on in this country”.    The protests are to begin on Dec 27 and run up to the day of the Iowa caucuses, Jan 3.  The activists say they do not plan to disrupt the actual caucuses on the 3rd.

NOV 3: Davidson uploads a video to YouTube, which purports to be a transmission from the “hacktivist” group Anonymous.  Like Occupy DSM, it calls on activists to occupy the offices of presidential candidates on Dec 27.  However, it also calls on them to peacefully “shut down” the Iowa caucuses on Jan 3.

NOV 4: Jessica Mazour of Occupy DSM uploads a video of herself announcing Occupy DSM’s plan to activists in NYC and inviting them to “join us in Iowa”.  She does not advocate a plan to disrupt the caucuses on Jan 3.

NOV 6: The Des Moines Register reports on the “Anonymous” video, which begets a story from the Huffington Post as well.  Davidson is not yet identified as the video’s uploader.  Occupy DSM activists say that Anonymous is separate from their group and that the two do not speak for each other.  They once again emphasized that they do not plan to commit violence or interfere with voting.   At least one Occupy DSM activist denounces the video as inconsistent with the kind of transparent, upfront, truthful, nonviolent action that he advocates.

NOV 7: A reporter with the Des Moines Register identifies Davidson as the uploader of the video and interviews him.  Davidson reportedly says that he didn’t create the video, and that, while he was sleeping, it was set outside of his tent at the Occupy campsite (with a note attached) by several men in mustache and goatee masks, who “bumped the canvas” of his tent to get his attention.  (It’s not clear how he knew who delivered it or what they looked like.  Did he immediately go outside and see these alleged masked men walking away?)  Davidson claims: “I don’t really have any ties or connections with the group Anonymous” and “I don’t know that much about it.”

Despite the fact that “caucus organizers” express skepticism about the video’s authenticity, and say that the “decentralized structure of the caucus vote-reporting process would make it difficult for Internet hackers to disrupt tabulations” anyway, this video’s existence means that “federal authorities” will now be working with state and local “officials” to “ensure the presidential caucuses proceed” (because “federal authorities” LOVE a free and democratic society, let me tell you!).  Specifically:

  • The FBI is “closely monitoring the situation”
  • The “Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center” is also “monitoring” it, and they “continue to share information with local authorities as necessary”
  • The Iowa Republican Party is “crafting a new, more error-proof system for the roughly 800 Republican caucus sites to report their results to party headquarters”
  •  ”Caucus organizers” are “assessing security procedures”

Even the Governor of Iowa makes a statement on the video.

As a side note, I would be remiss not to note this here:

Iowa officials said they, too, are on heightened alert, but said that so far they don’t believe the video or other actions by possible Anonymous members have involved illegal activities.

The video “in and of itself is not illegal,” said Jim Saunders, director of the Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center, citing free-speech rights. (source)

Since when do Fusion Centers and the FBI care about freedom of speech?  Let me see if I can get this straight…

NOV 8: publishes an exclusive interview with Davidson, “A drink with: An Occupier”.  They interviewed him because he is part of Occupy DSM.  The “Anonymous” video is not mentioned.

THE NEXT 5-6 WEEKS OR SO: Approximately jack shit happens. Despite this threat supposedly being important enough that the Governor is commenting on it and the FBI and Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center need to step in to “monitor” things and help “ensure the presidential caucuses proceed”, the major national corporate media — AP, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, FOX NEWS, Reuters, etc — do not, as far as I can see, ever report on this story at all, let alone make it headline news.  I also see no follow up stories in the local media either. The story is basically dead shortly after it is first reported (or is it “on ice” until when and if it becomes useful?)

For perspective: Michele Bachmann can’t even eat a corn dog in Iowa without it being reported on by (for example) Reuters, The Joy Behar Show (HLN/Turner), Anderson Cooper (CNN).

DEC 13: Public Policy Polling (PPP) releases their latest Iowa survey with the headline “Paul closes in on Gingrich”.  They say that Ron Paul “has seen a big increase in his popularity” in the state, and “what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich [is] now all the way down to a single point”.  They also say: “There are a lot of parallels between Paul’s strength in Iowa and Barack Obama’s in 2008 – he’s doing well with new voters, young voters, and non-Republican voters.”

DEC 15: Paul appears on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (video), and raises approximately $3 million in 24 hours during “moneybomb” (and another million over the next two days)

DEC 18:
PPP releases a new Iowa poll with the headline “Paul takes lead as Gingrich collapses in Iowa”.  Another poll from Insider Advantage also finds Paul to be the frontrunner.

DEC 19: The news that Gingrich is collapsing in Iowa and Ron Paul is the new front-runner hits the media (example 1, example 2).  Gingrich-linked propagandists promptly launch recycled, bogus “racist” smear against Paul, which the media will go on to hammer relentlessly as headline news for the next week and a half.

That very same day, the AP suddenly publishes an article headlined, “Iowa GOP worried by hacker threat to caucus”.   Variations of the article are immediately published by major corporate news outlets across the country and it becomes a MAJOR story of the day.  For example:

Iowa GOP worried by hacker threat to caucus MSNBC, Dec 19
Iowa GOP worried by hacker threat to caucus Yahoo, Dec 19
Iowa GOP worried by hacker threat to caucus USA Today, Dec 19
Iowa GOP concerned about hacker threat to caucus New York Daily News, Dec 19
Iowa Caucus Polling System Threatened By Hackers Fox News, Dec 19
Iowa GOP worried by hacker threat to caucus vote The Boston Globe, Dec 19

There was no new “threat” that prompted these articles.  They refer to the EXACT SAME VIDEO that was uploaded by Davidson over 6 WEEKS earlier — the one that (as far as I can tell) none of these news outlets reported at the time, or at any point in the weeks that followed.

The AP article begins:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Taking seriously an apparent threat from a notorious collective of computer hackers, the Iowa Republican Party is boosting the security of the electronic systems it will use in two weeks to count the first votes of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Investigators don’t know if the threat is authentic, but it has nonetheless led the state party to confront a worst-case scenario. Their fear: an Iowa caucus marred by hackers who corrupt the database used to gather votes and crash the website used to inform the public about results that can shape the campaign for the White House.

It isn’t until halfway through the somewhat lengthy article that the story briefly hints that this is a six week old “threat”, or explain where it comes from.  In the 8th paragraph of the article, the AP writer finally says:

A former activist for Occupy Des Moines, Clarke Davidson, has said he posted the two-minute video on YouTube after masked men left it outside his tent near the state Capitol on Nov. 3.  Other members of the protest group have discounted Davidson’s story and say they oppose any efforts to shut down the vote count.

The language of this paragraph conveniently leaves it ambiguous as to when Davidson actually uploaded the video.  The writer seems to be saying that the video was found by Davidson on Nov 3, but does not make it clear that it was uploaded by him that same day.

The article COMPLETELY fails to explain that local, state, and federal GOP “officials” were aware of this video almost immediately after it was uploaded, and that it was even covered in the local news and Huffington Post at the time.

Here is CNN reporting on it on Dec 20:

As you can see they basically report it as breaking news and totally fail to mention that this video has been online for over six weeks.

It’s also interesting that they report that “other members of the protest group have discounted Davidson’s story” without elaborating.  His story does seem a bit dubious, does it not?  I’m not saying that it’s definitely made up (I have no way to know for sure either way at this point), but wouldn’t you think that if multiple members of his own activist group “discounted” his story, and if the media and authorities really thought this was such a big, serious threat, they would be all over Davidson trying to figure out whether or not he was telling the truth about it being dropped off by “masked men”, and if not, where this video really came from?  Wouldn’t they want to explore the possibility that he and/or someone close to him were the actual creators? (Remember that he’s a video producer?  Remember the “recording studio” and other technology at the Occupy DSM campsite?)

By the way, this same day, Dec 19 — the day that the media announces that Ron Paul is the front runner, the day that the “racist” smear begins, and the day that the “hacker” story is suddenly revived and essentially presented as breaking news — Clarke Davidson and several other protesters try to “occupy” the Iowa Democratic Party HQ and get arrested.  The Establishment media makes this headline news.

Which leads into another point.  Remember: Shortly after the video was uploaded Davidson said,“I don’t really have any ties or connections with the group Anonymous” and “I don’t know that much about it.”

If you watch the actual video on Davidson’s account, three captions have been added post-upload, presumably by him, unless someone else has access to his account:

1. “UPDATE: Anon shutdown Obama’s campaign headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Eight Arrested…. 12/19/11.”  Notice that Davidson and the Occupy protesters he was arrested with are referred to as “Anon” (a nickname of Anonymous)

2. “FUCK YOU Punk Cyberkids calling FALSE FLAG Anonymous is a idea and ideas are bullet proof.  OccupyDSM is way more legit then you will ever be.”   The video is supposed to have been created by Anonymous, which is supposed to be separate from Occupy DSM, yet here the two are again conflated.  Also, viewing this as a potential “false flag” of sorts is hardly irrational.

3. “Anonymous does not tamper with election computer systems and results.”  Again, why is he speaking for Anonymous and how does he know what they’re planning if he didn’t create the video, has no connection to Anonymous, and doesn’t even know who anonymously delivered the video to him?  (Anonymous is not a unified entity either, so it’s pretty much impossible to speak for Anonymous even if you are a “member”.)

To be clear, I’m not saying that I think Occupy DSM as a whole is “Anonymous”, or that most of its members know who created this video, approve of it, or have any intention of hacking or otherwise shutting down the Iowa caucuses.  Multiple members have repeatedly said the opposite since the video was first posted.

However, to me, these captions suggest an intent by Davidson and/or whoever else may have added them to conflate “Anonymous” and this supposed “hacker threat” with Occupy DSM.  Or perhaps it just reveals knowledge that “Anonymous” is a faction within Occupy DSM.

DEC 29: Davidson and four other Occupy protesters are arrested protesting outside of Ron Paul’s campaign office in Iowa.  Davidson is holding an “End The Fed” sign, and as he is arrested he claims to be a “Ron Paul precinct captain”.  The same day, the Iowa GOP announces that they are moving the vote counting to a secret location citing Occupy’s activity and supposed concerns about disruptions on caucus day.  (Also reported by The Hill, CNN, The Des Moines Register, and so on)

DEC 31: Twenty Occupy protesters are arrested at the offices of Gingrich, Bachmann, and Santorum (the number arrested was originally reported as 18).   Here is a list of names.  One of them is Clarke Davidson.  The NY Times reports:

Clarke Davidson, 28, taunted the police at the first three stops, dancing and waving a sign that said “End the Fed” at them and then scampering away if they approached. While he stood motionless in front of Mr. Gingrich’s office, two officers grabbed him by the arms and took him away. One of the officers, who had been the victim of one of Mr. Davidson’s taunts earlier, smugly asked “Hey, how are you?” before zip-tying his hands.

At least two of the protesters at these events were wearing the Guy Fawkes masks associated with Anonymous (1 2).


I find it awfully convenient that Davidson is now showing up with an “End The Fed” banner at these protests and claiming to be a “Ron Paul precinct captain” while getting arrested.  As I noted in a previous article, when he was first interviewed by the Des Moines Register about the video on Nov 7, he claimed to have been a Paul voter in 2008, but he said that he is now thinking that it might not be “ethical” for him to vote for Paul this time around.

Davidson, who grew up in Dallas Center, said he doesn’t find the video troubling or threatening. He caucused for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in 2008 but said he is having second thoughts about supporting Paul in the 2012 caucuses.

“I just don’t know if it’s really ethical to participate in those things, like the video says,” Davidson said, noting a section of the video that says voting for either party is unethical.

But the next month he’s claiming to be a “Ron Paul precinct captain”? (while getting arrested for protesting outside of Paul’s Iowa HQ and blocking its door?)

My concern here is that, even though the media has acted conspicuously disinterested in Clarke as the uploader of the “Anonymous” video thus far, if Ron Paul does win, they will suddenly say that the vote was “hacked” or otherwise tampered with, and point to Clarke as evidence that it was done by Paul supporters to steal the election for him.  They will suddenly become very curious about where the video came from, very skeptical of Davidson’s story, and very capable of noticing the dubious details laid out in this article.

The flip side to this is that if someone is planning on trying to “hack” or otherwise rig the vote against Paul, this video Davidson uploaded provides cover for them.  If they succeed, nothing is said – of course the vote wasn’t hacked, and if you think it was you are a lunatic conspiracy theorist who just can’t accept that Paul lost.   If their tampering is detected, it’s “aha, must have been that damn Anonymous.”

I don’t know what Davidson’s story is and whether or not he is totally oblivious to all of this and (in his mind) acting in good faith.  However, it seems to me that — at the very least — he is the perfect “useful idiot” for those who want to stop Ron Paul from winning this election at all costs.  (Note: “Useful idiot” does not mean that he is a stupid person.  It basically means an unwitting pawn.  Click here for more info on the term.)

If ever there was an election that the Establishment would want to steal, it would be this one.  And we know they have stolen elections in the past (less important ones too, in my estimation.)

For what it’s worth, the Iowa GOP paints an optimistic picture of Iowa’s process, calling it “probably the most open and democrat(ic) process you will find anywhere in the country”.  However, we still need to take the potential for voter fraud and/or other dirty tricks, such as a potential “hacked vote false flag” against Ron Paul supporters, DEAD serious on Jan 3.  I hope the Paul campaign is listening.

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