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Conspiracy theories

Russian intelligence reportedly created the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, report reveals

The conspiracy theories surrounding the murder of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich are not new. But a Yahoo News investigation published on Tuesday alleges that the theories spread as a result of Russian intelligence agents.

Rich, who was killed while walking home in D.C. in what appears to be a botched robbery in 2016, was the subject of online drivel for quite some time. Some conservative activists pushed the baseless narrative that Rich was on his way to report corrupt dealings by then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI when he was killed by Clinton's hit team. In this falsified tale, it was Rich who leaked the DNC emails that hampered Clinton's campaign.

Since then, it has become clear that it was Russian hackers, not Rich, who were behind the leak. But Yahoo revealed the "previously unreported role" of the SVR — Russia's foreign intelligence service — in fomenting the conspiracy concerning Rich's death, as well. The SVR reportedly circulated a phony "bulletin" disguised to read as a real intelligence report.

Further, the first known instance of Rich's murder being linked to a political conspiracy reportedly occurred on a website that is a "frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda." The original article touting the conspiracy attributed its information to Russian intelligence sources. Russian television networks and internet trolls then continued to push the narrative, per Yahoo.

Deborah Sines, the former prosecutor in charge of the Rich case, spoke about it publicly for the first time to Yahoo. She said that Russia's conspiracy-mongering complicated her work, forcing her to deal with a "blizzard of false allegations." Sines said she briefed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors on her findings after she accessed copies of two SVR intelligence reports on Rich that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials. The Washington Post's Philip Bump disputes Yahoo's timeline, however, instead blaming Wikileaks and InfoWars. Read more at Yahoo News and The Washington Post.