Jordan says hack led to posting of 'false news' that Saudi funds Clinton

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Jordan said a hacker posted untrue quotes from Mohammed bin Salman claiming Riyadh funds Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

Hillary Clinton speaks with former Saudi Foreign Minister Saoud Al-Faysal (AFP)
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Tuesday 14 June 2016 11:47 UTC
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This story was corrected on Tuesday 14 June to reflect a statement from the Petra News Agency that said it did not delete a posting on its website that quoted Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as having said Saudi Arabia has been a major funder of Hillary Clinton.

Jordan's official news agency said on Tuesday that it was hacked when, over the weekend, a story briefly appeared on its website that said Saudi Arabia is a major funder of Hillary Clinton's campaign to become the next president of the United States. 

On Sunday a report appeared on the Petra News Agency website that included what were described as exclusive comments from Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The comments included a claim that Riyadh has provided 20 percent of the total funding to the prospective Democratic candidate's campaign.

The report did not remain on the website for long, although the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs later re-published an Arabic version of it, which quoted Prince Mohammed as having said Saudi Arabia had provided with “full enthusiasm” an undisclosed amount of money to Clinton.

“Saudi Arabia always has sponsored both Republican and Democratic Party of America and in America current election also provide with full enthusiasm 20 percent of the cost of Hillary Clinton’s election even though some events in the country don’t have a positive look to support the king of a woman (sic) for presidency,” the report quoted Prince Mohammed as having said.

On Monday a spokesperson for American public relations firm the Podesta Group contacted MEE to say that they work with the Saudi Royal Court and to request a correction to our earlier story that said the Jordanian news agency had deleted the quotes from Prince Mohammed.

Senior global communications specialist Will Bohlen - who, prior to joining Podesta, was chief researcher for a best-selling history of Bill Clinton's presidency - sent a link to a clarification issued by the Petra News Agency which said it was "totally false and untrue" that they had published then deleted the quotes from Prince Mohammed about funding the Clinton campaign.

"A technical failure on Petra ’s website occurred for a few minutes on Sunday evening, 12 June 2016," the Jordanian news agency said. "Protection systems at the agency as well as the technical department noticed that and therefore, they suspended the transmission system and the electronic site and moved to the alternative website.

"Later, it became clear that the technical failure that occurred was an attempt to hack the agency’s transmission system and its website. The agency was surprised to see some media outlets as well as the social media publishing false news that were attributed to Petra. They said that Petra transmitted a news item related to the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia and later deleted this news item. This is totally false and untrue."

It is illegal in the United States for foreign countries to try and influence the outcome of elections by funding candidates.

Bohlen said he could confirm that Saudi Arabia has provided no funding to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Links between Saudi Arabia and the Clinton family are well reported.

The Podesta Group was initially contracted last year by the Centre for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court to be paid $200,000 a month to provide “public relations services” to Riyadh.

The Podesta Group was founded in 1988 by brothers John and Tony Podesta. John Podesta is the chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the next US president.

Saudi Arabia has donated millions to the Clinton family charity. In 2008, it was revealed that the Gulf kingdom had donated between $10m and $25m to the Clinton Foundation, a charity set up by Hillary’s husband and former US President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. 

The alleged hacking of the Petra News Agency website took place on the eve of Prince Mohammed making an official visit to the United States.

The Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday that the senior royal was due to fly to Washington where he will meet officials to discuss US-Saudi ties.

He will remain in the American capital until 16 June, when he will travel to New York for meetings with financial companies, the Saudi Gazette reported.

Prince Mohammed is to discuss regional issues with American officials, and he will hold talks with the financial companies about his vision for diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil dependency.