Infamous ‘Hoax’ Artist Behind Trumpworld’s New Voter Fraud Claim
He tricked the Bush administration into thinking he could detect terrorist signals in al Jazeera broadcasts. Now Dennis Montgomery has a new set of believers.
As Donald Trump refuses to concede the election, some of his most loyal allies have become obsessed with a bizarre new conspiracy theory about the race, insisting that Trump only lost the election because a deep-state supercomputer named “Hammer” and a computer program named “Scorecard” were used to change the ballot count.
The head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has called the claim about supercomputer election fraud “nonsense,” and urged Americans not to promote it.
But the mythical supercomputer claim has been embraced by prominent Trump backers, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik, former Trump 2016 campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, right-wing pundit John Cardillo, and Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson.
The election fraud claims center on Dennis Montgomery, a former intelligence contractor and self-proclaimed whistleblower who claims to have created the “Hammer” supercomputer and the “Scorecard” software some Trump fans believe was used to change the votes.
“He’s a genius, and he loves America,” Thomas McInerney, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and one-time leader in the birther movement, said of Montgomery on Tuesday on Bannon’s podcast, as Bannon praised an article on Montgomery’s claims. “He’s the programmer that made all this happen, and he’s on our side.”
Montgomery’s lawyer, Larry Klayman—a favorite attorney for fringe right-wing figures—didn’t respond to a request for comment. Klayman himself was temporarily suspended from practicing law in June.
What Trump allies tend to leave out, however, is that Montgomery has a long history of making outlandish claims that fail to come true. As an intelligence contractor at the height of the War on Terror, Montgomery was behind what’s been called “one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history,” churning out allegedly fictitious data that once prompted the Bush administration to consider shooting down airplanes.
And now, Trump allies want voters to believe Montgomery’s claims about the election.
“I think there are any number of things they need to investigate, including the likelihood that 3 percent of the vote total was changed in the pre-election voting ballots that were collected digitally by using the Hammer program and the software program called Scorecard,” Sidney Powell, the attorney for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, said Friday in an appearance on Fox Business. “That would have amounted to a massive change in the vote.”
“That’s called intervention in our elections,” host Lou Dobbs said.
“This is Coup 5.0, Lou,” Powell said.
Powell repeated her computer voter fraud claim Sunday on Fox News, with no pushback from host Maria Bartiromo.
After the 9/11 terror attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies flush with money began pumping defense contractors with cash in the hopes of averting another terror attack.
One of the recipients of that windfall was Dennis Montgomery, a Reno, Nevada, software designer and frequent gambler who claimed to have come with software that would help the CIA penetrate deep inside al Qaeda’s systems.
At various times, Montgomery insisted his programs could identify terrorists’ faces and weapons through drone footage, or spot submarines deep underwater, receiving millions in contracts from the Air Force and the military’s Special Operations Command. But the jewel of Montgomery’s company was a program he claimed could detect messages to al Qaeda sleeper cells hidden in broadcasts from Qatar’s al Jazeera network.
CIA employees intrigued by the supposed Al Jazeera decoding technology moved into Montgomery’s Nevada office, and Montgomery’s companies received at least $20 million from the U.S. government for what was then considered “the most important, most sensitive” technology in the agency’s repertoire, the New York Times reported in 2011.
“They began to believe, in this kind of war fever, that you could find Al Qaeda messages hidden in al Jazeera broadcasts,” New York Times reporter James Risen, who wrote a book about Montgomery’s business, said in 2014.
Montgomery’s supposed insights on al Qaeda reached the highest levels of the U.S. government, with insight that Montgomery provided prompting the George W. Bush administration to raise the terror threat level to “orange,” its second-highest rating.
In Dec. 2003, according to a Playboy report, Montgomery claimed he had discovered information in a TV broadcast proving that al Qaeda hijackers were set to hijack planes flying to the United States from Europe and Mexico.
President Bush himself blocked the flights, ordering them to turn around or stay on the ground. The administration even considered shooting down the planes based on Montgomery’s information, according to the Times.
But according to reports and former employees, Montgomery’s supposed technology was all a hoax. One employee quoted in the Playboy report claimed Montgomery had ordered him to fake a test for U.S. military officials, tricking the officials into believing Montgomery’s software could detect weapons in drone footage.
French intelligence officials, furious that Montgomery’s data had been used to ground French planes, debunked the “technology” and reportedly convinced CIA officials to drop Montgomery, according to the Times.
“We got played,” an ex-intelligence official told the Times in 2011.
Even as he rose in intelligence circles, Montgomery reportedly developed a mammoth blackjack habit, losing $442,000 in one day at casinos, according to Playboy.
“He was, in the parlance of the gambling hall, a ‘whale,’” Playboy wrote of Montgomery.
As of 2011, Montgomery was fighting Nevada charges for writing bad checks worth $1.8 million at casinos. The Daily Beast was unable to determine the ultimate disposition of those charges.
As the government soured on his claims about al Qaeda, Montgomery was on increasingly on the outs with his business partner, a former top trader for convicted junk bond king Michael Milken. Montgomery allegedly split from the company he had founded with his partner, taking highly secret confidential government files, according to an FBI search warrant affidavit.
The FBI raided Montgomery’s home and storage units in an attempt to recover the missing data. But Montgomery was never charged over the government contracts, with a federal judge throwing out evidence gleaned in the FBI raids.
The federal government scrambled to block evidence related to the software from being revealed in court in a civil fight between Montgomery and his former business partner, in what the Times reported was an effort to avoid embarrassing the CIA and other agencies that had paid Montgomery millions of dollars.
Despite avoiding federal charges of the contracts, Montgomery wasn’t done making incredible claims about his software.
Montgomery resurfaced in 2013, as a “confidential informant” for controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio was embroiled in a federal case over his department’s treatment of Latino drivers, and furious at the federal judge who had ruled against him. According to reports and court testimony, Montgomery convinced Arpaio that he had a software called “Hammer” that could prove that the federal judge was colluding against Arpaio with the Justice Department and then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
Arpaio bought into Montgomery’s claims, even as Arpaio’s lawyers and detectives fumed that the “proof” Montgomery was providing about the judge was fake.
At one point, Arpaio reportedly exploded at his subordinates after they complained that he was wasting money on Montgomery and pointing out the controversy over Montgomery’s al Jazeera software. Still, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office paid Montgomery $120,000 for the data he provided Arpaio in his fight with the judge.
By 2017, with Trump supporters furious at the intelligence community and former FBI Director James Comey over the investigation into the Trump’s campaigns, Montgomery reinvented himself as an aggrieved intelligence whistleblower.
In June 2017, Klayman and Montgomery sued Comey and other top Obama-era officials—including Obama himself. In a lengthy complaint, the pair laid out a complicated story claiming that Montgomery had taken 47 hard drives full of evidence of an illegal surveillance program from an Army base, alleged that Comey somehow misused the hard drives, and that intelligence officials had hacked both Klayman and Montgomery.
Montgomery’s claims were trumpeted by reporter John Solomon, whose reporting on Ukraine would later be rebuked by officials and Fox News’s research department during the Trump impeachment hearings.
“This is way larger than Snowden,” Solomon declared of Montgomery’s allegations in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.
Montgomery’s lawsuit was quickly dismissed, with a federal judge calling them a “a veritable anthology of conspiracy theorists' complaints.”
Montgomery found new fame on the right in the final days of the election. On Oct. 31, an obscure conspiracy theory website called The American Report published a story claiming that "Biden Using SCORECARD and THE HAMMER to Steal Another U.S. Presidential Election," illustrated with a picture of Biden next to Josef Stalin.
The American Report has claimed that Montgomery invented “SCORECARD” and “HAMMER” for intelligence purposes, an apparent reference to his controversial programs that purported to track al Qaeda. In this telling, the Obama administration hijacked Montgomery’s software to steal elections.
The murky reporting was embraced a few days later by Bannon and McInerney, with Bannon calling news “very disturbing” and praising the site for “incredible reporting.” Montgomery himself appears to have publicly stayed silent, even as he’s quoted as proof that the government stole the presidential election for Biden.
Fueled by Bannon’s podcast and Powell’s Fox appearances, the “Hammer and Scorecard” conspiracy has found a home with Trump’s grassroots. In calls to baffled C-SPAN and talk radio hosts, Trump supporters have insisted that dire consequences are ahead for any involved in the nonexistent “Hammer and Scorecard” saga. Tweets referencing “Hammer and Scorecard” posted every few seconds on the site even as Twitter tries to hinder the spread of the disinformation.
“Twitter’s Trust & Safety team will take action on Tweets that are in violation of our Civic Integrity policy, including in instances these terms are used in a way to undermine the legitimacy of the election process,” Twitter said in a statement.
According to Twitter, posts about the Hammer and Scorecard conspiracy theory could be labeled as disinformation or deleted from the site entirely.
Still, Montgomery’s conspiracy theory about the supercomputer has exploded on the right. On Sunday, Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard tweeted a story from a fringe outlet that promised a “Hammer and Scorecard smoking gun.”
“Anyone using HAMMER SCORECARD to alter voting in our America election should be prosecuted,” former football player and Republican convention speaker Herschel Walker tweeted on Sunday.