This is strange. And possibly a hoax. But worth a further look.

Remember Seth Rich? The DNC staffer who was murdered in what for now is apparently viewed by DC Police as a botched robbery attempt? Although the details surrounding the shooting death are a little strange. But then again, getting shot a couple of hours after midnight in a somewhat shaky neighborhood of a large city does not necessarily require men in black helicopters or gunmen hiding behind grassy knolls. Some violent criminal or crazy could just decide to shoot you. Because. And yes, ‘Vince Foster rerun by conspiracy-mongers’ could certainly be used as a rhetorical battering ram to squash the credibility of anyone who wonders about the staffer’s murder.

There’s the new angle in a story in The Daily Beast by Kevin Poulsen that goes deep into the history of John Mark Dougan, an ex-policeman who used to work in Palm Beach in Florida, until local law enforcement corruption caused him to quit around 2008/2009 and to begin an online campaign against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw that has lasted years and in which the Sheriff’s Office in Palm Beach has counter-punched with its own dirty tricks and smear campaign. It’s curious and ugly, and The Daily Beast goes into interminable detail on the history of the Palm Beach cyber-confrontations between Dougan and Bradshaw.

But deep into his story Poulsen – in a curiously dismissive way – reveals the real shocker. Mark Dougan claims that he was given the DNC hacks on a thumb drive by someone he later realized was none other than Seth Rich. This supposedly happened around February or March of 2016, when Dougan – after an FBI raid on his home and computer – drove to Washington DC from Florida and back again in a single day so the FBI wouldn’t notice he had left his home. And that day is when Dougan claims that he met Rich (who had contacted him earlier in February) outside a high school basketball court and was given a thumb drive. This was after the informant/whistleblower had contacted Dougan, presumably over Dougan’s own fame as a leaker/hacker/whistleblower.

This is because Dougan, in his war with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, had been releasing confidential property records of Florida government employees, especially cops. A sort of mass outing as revenge on what he saw as a corrupt local police force. Thousands of addresses in fact.

Hence the FBI raid in March. Hence Dougan’s desperate drive to Washington DC.

But it gets stranger. After the FBI raid, Dougan decided that if he was arrested for the leaks, he wouldn’t survive jail. Here’s how Poulsen, writing in the Daily Beast, puts it:

Dougan’s cockiness faded after the FBI search. He could easily see being arrested now, and if he was thrown in Palm Beach County Jail he doubted he’d ever make it to trial. He could imagined how it could unfold, a sheriff’s officer holding a hushed conversation with an inmate: “Hey dude, we’ll drop your charges if you kill this guy.”

He began making arrangements for his escape immediately. In early April he borrowed a car from a friend and a wig from his mother Leaving behind his ex-wife and their two children, he started the long drive north to the Canadian border. He was soon at the Toronto airport, boarding one final flight to Moscow.

Why Moscow? He had a Russian girlfriend by then and had been making regular trips to the city for the past few years before this all happened in 2016. Once there, he apparently hooked up for lunch with Pavel Borodin, someone in Yeltsin’s administration who helped Putin in his rise to power in the mid-late 90’s. But then again, if you’re looking to start over and make connections with the powerful in Moscow in the 2010’s, you’re guaranteed to have to meet someone who is close to Putin.

Dougan is a strange, angry, obsessed and flawed character by all appearances. But that does not mean that he is necessarily lying about his supposed meeting with Seth Rich. If he is telling at least part of the truth, he is an important witness in a possible case of a political assassination. Of course, Dougan is a free man (meaning not in jail or indicted) thanks to Putin. This a hall of mirrors, and one has to be careful about anything anyone says.

And Dougan has a book out. As part of his cyber warfare against the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office, he adopted a fake persona – a supposed Russian hacker called BadVolf – that the FBI even believed existed when it raided his home in March of 2016. So naturally Dougan’s book is called BadVolf. You can laugh at him or wonder who the hell he really is.

But this begs further investigation. Let’s see what a little digging might turn up.This is strange. And possibly a hoax. But worth a further look.

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