In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers from at least 16 states have flocked to Phoenix for a first-hand look at a controversial, partisan “audit” of the 2020 vote in Arizona’s largest county.
The visits look to be a harbinger for similar exercises yet-to-come in those other states – and a potential revenue stream for, among others, the Arizona effort’s main contractor: Cyber Ninjas.
Never heard of Cyber Ninjas before the Arizona audit began two months ago? You are not alone.
Though the Florida-based cybersecurity firm has existed in some form since at least 2014, before last November’s election, it hadn’t done election auditing, nor been in the public eye.
But then, there hasn’t been much of it to be in the public eye. Cyber Ninjas exists mostly in virtual reality, with its chief executive, Doug Logan, also serving as, well, pretty much everything.
On recent calls to the company’s automated answer line, pressing “3” for sales led to the answering message for Logan. So did pressing “4” for human resources. And pressing “5” for purchasing. And “6” for the general mailbox. Go to the address for Cyber Ninjas’ Legal Department, listed on its audit contract with the Arizona Senate, and you’ll wind up at a rented mailbox in a UPS Store in Sarasota, Florida. The company’s business address registered with Florida’s Secretary of State, also in Sarasota, was sold last December, and now sits empty.
Logan himself has strenuously avoided speaking to reporters since taking part in an April 22 press conference just before the audit began. At that conference, he refused to answer questions about how he’d repeated and amplified various debunked election-fraud conspiracy theories on social media, such as this retweet unearthed by the Arizona Mirror, for example: “I’m tired of hearing people say there was no fraud. It happened, it’s real, and people better get wise fast.” He’d also provided, in a Michigan election lawsuit, an affidavit alleging vulnerabilities in one county’s system for tallying votes; state and county officials disagreed, identified a slew of problems with the analysis. And Logan repeated disproven claims in a paper he wrote for Republican US senators objecting to Congress’s Jan. 6 certification of President Joe Biden’s election win.
But Logan, and the Arizona Senate’s audit liaison, Ken Bennett, argued at that press conference that Logan’s own opinions don’t matter, and that people should trust in the integrity of the audit process he’s overseeing.
Logan declined interview requests from CNN. An emailed statement from his spokesman, Rod Thomson, stated that “Mr. Logan recognizes President Biden’s results were certified and accepted in accordance with the Constitution. Mr. Logan remains committed to restoring integrity and trust into our election system, which he is demonstrating through the work he is performing here in Maricopa County.”
But that’s a tough sell, even to Logan’s friends.
“It’s hard to say anything bad about the guy. He’s a lovely person. He’s just nuts now,” said Tony Summerlin, who has been friends with Logan for 15 years, and said he helped him win a cybersecurity contract with the Federal Communications Commission five years ago. “It’s scary; because if someone like him can turn into this, who can’t turn into this?”
Summerlin said that in all the years he’d known Logan, before the Arizona audit, “we never, never had a single political conversation; that’s what stunned me about this… He said, ‘there’s definitely something there.’ I said, ‘based on what?’ He said, ‘it’ll come.’ I said, ‘you sound like the My Pillow guy.’”
Another friend of Logan, who asked not to be named because she works with both Republicans and Democrats in Washington, DC, and feared blowback from being linked to him, described him as very smart, very competent in cybersecurity, and politically naïve. “Doug may not have thought it all the way through,” she said.
Logan, 41, graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., in 2002, and quickly became involved in cybersecurity work. Summerlin said he first met Logan in 2005 or 2006. “He was in DC trying to get business with the government for his firm, which at that point was him. He seemed like a smart guy.”
In 2010, in New York, Logan competed in the first US Cyber Challenge, a national program to identify and develop cybersecurity talent. He went on to become a Cyber Challenge instructor, and helped develop a workshop for the curriculum, according to a person familiar with his work at the program.
In March 2014, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Sarasota County’s Economic Development Corporation was helping Logan relocate his company, Cyber Ninjas, to the city, “with plans to eventually add eight to 10 employees.” The paper said Logan was moving there from Bloomington, Indiana, where he’d also worked for the software security company Cigital.
Logan and his company have a trail of positive reviews posted on his LinkedIn page for cybersecurity consulting work in the private sector. He and Cyber Ninjas also received a three-year, $101,000 federal cybersecurity contract with the Federal Communications Commission in 2016, and subsequently, Summerlin said, worked for the Universal Services Administrative Company, a private-public partnership under the FCC that provides broadband services to underserved communities and schools, among other work. None of that previous consulting appears to have any ties to election-related matters.
In April 2020, Cyber Ninjas received a Covid assistance loan for $98,322, saying in its application it then had five employees.
Logan, in materials for a cybersecurity conference in Chicago last November, described himself as a father of 11 children and a “Follower of Jesus Christ.” But also in November, within days of Trump’s election loss, Logan was messaging Ron Watkins. The recent HBO documentary “Q: Into the Storm,” pointed to Watkins as either being “Q” or at least a key promulgator of the QAnon conspiracy theories that helped animate many of those who stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
Watkins is the former administrator of the internet message-board website 8chan, now 8kun, effectively QAnon’s home base.
In a series of archived tweets from a now-deleted account between Nov. 12 and December, first reported by The Daily Beast, Logan messaged Watkins, “I’d love to chat if you have a chance;” asked Watkins for links to “original source documents;” and tagged Watkins on his exchanges with attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who filed numerous lawsuits challenging Biden’s victory and baselessly claiming electoral fraud.
Wood also told a reporter for Talking Points Memo that Logan had visited his home in South Carolina to meet with others “working on the investigation into election fraud.”
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who hired Cyber Ninjas, dismissed concerns about Logan’s tweets and other indications he might be biased as “tiny little things.”
Some others don’t see them as quite so tiny.
Douglas Cobb, owner of Paper Forensics, a Savannah, Georgia-based document examination firm, shared emails with CNN showing he was approached in April by another Cyber Ninjas subcontractor, Haystack Investigations, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to join the Arizona “audit.” The emails were first reported by the Arizona Republic.
Cobb said he was asked to provide up to 20 people for 14 days to examine the ballot paper, at a rate of $600 a day plus expenses per person and $800 a day for himself. That total, just over $179,000 plus expenses, is more than the Arizona Senate contracted to pay Cyber Ninjas for the audit as a whole: $150,000. As CNN has reported, private partisan sources heavily invested in casting doubt on Biden’s election victory claim to have funneled more than $1.6 million to the audit.
Neither Fann, nor the Senate, nor Logan, have said how much in private funding Cyber Ninjas has received or spent. At the April 22 press conference, Logan said he didn’t know how much his company was being paid, and didn’t want to know, because “I don’t want to be influenced.”
Cobb had planned to work on the audit – until his son looked online into the people he’d be working for.
“I withdrew once I found out a little more about who was involved, Cyber Ninjas and Logan and his conspiracy theories,” Cobb said.
Logan didn’t answer questions from CNN about who is accounting for funds received and spent for the audit; about whether he’s been approached by legislators from other states to do similar work; about whether his company has an actual office or any full-time employees; about how he and his company came to Fann’s attention; or about whether he still believes the conspiracies he touted months ago to GOP US senators, such as debunked allegations of fraud in counties in Georgia and Pennsylvania, or debunked claims that Dominion Voting System’s core software originates from intellectual property of Smartmatic, and is linked through Smartmatic to Venezuela’s long-dead former president Hugo Chavez, among others.
Questions about Logan’s beliefs continue to surface. On June 3, when conspiracy theorist and Overstock founder Patrick Byrne released a trailer for a film about the Arizona audit, claiming the election was stolen from Trump, several Arizona reporters immediately pointed to an anonymous speaker, identified only as an “ANON, Application Security Analyst,” as sounding exactly like Doug Logan. Summerlin, too, said he recognized Logan’s voice.
On the trailer, the speaker says, “if we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy.” Shortly after several reporters tweeted about Logan and the trailer, a re-edited version of the trailer was substituted on YouTube with the voice for that speaker digitally altered. Logan didn’t respond to queries about whether that was his voice on the trailer, which has now been removed for violating YouTube’s community guidelines.
The last time he spoke publicly about the audit, on April 22, Logan told reporters, “I know you guys want to paint me like some bad guy in here. I’m involved in this and putting everything on the line with my company because I care about our country. … Otherwise, who would be stupid enough to walk into this? Every individual that walks into any election integrity thing gets butchered by everybody.”
Summerlin said Logan recently contacted him to ask for his help, saying that the Universal Service Administrative Company had terminated Cyber Ninjas’ contract. Neither Logan nor the USAC responded to questions from CNN about the alleged contract termination.
“He said, ‘it’s wrong they’re terminating me,’” Summerlin said. “I said, ‘don’t be an idiot, of course they’re terminating your ass, you work at will.’ I said, ‘if you get a government contract any time after this, I’ll be amazed.”