Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

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Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon May 07, 2018 11:02 am

Ronan Farrow

Operatives from the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube used false identities to track & dig up dirt—even sexual blackmail material—on Obama officials behind the Iran deal. Pages of docs & sources close to the effort show how

Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies

The film executive hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists.


In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.
In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein’s lawyers, including David Boies, a celebrated attorney who represented Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential-election dispute and argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein’s abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.
Boies confirmed that his firm contracted with and paid two of the agencies and that investigators from one of them sent him reports, which were then passed on to Weinstein. He said that he did not select the firms or direct the investigators’ work. He also denied that the work regarding the Times story represented a conflict of interest. Boies said that his firm’s involvement with the investigators was a mistake. “We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,” he told me. “At the time, it seemed a reasonable accommodation for a client, but it was not thought through, and that was my mistake. It was a mistake at the time.”
Techniques like the ones used by the agencies on Weinstein’s behalf are almost always kept secret, and, because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court. The documents and sources reveal the tools and tactics available to powerful individuals to suppress negative stories and, in some cases, forestall criminal investigations.
In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”
In May, 2017, McGowan received an e-mail from a literary agency introducing her to a woman who identified herself as Diana Filip, the deputy head of sustainable and responsible investments at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Filip told McGowan that she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace, and asked McGowan, a vocal women’s-rights advocate, to speak at a gala kickoff event later that year. Filip offered McGowan a fee of sixty thousand dollars. “I understand that we have a lot in common,” Filip wrote to McGowan before their first meeting, in May, at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Filip had a U.K. cell-phone number, and she spoke with what McGowan took to be a German accent. Over the following months, the two women met at least three more times at hotel bars in Los Angeles and New York and other locations. “I took her to the Venice boardwalk and we had ice cream while we strolled,” McGowan told me, adding that Filip was “very kind.” The two talked at length about issues relating to women’s empowerment. Filip also repeatedly told McGowan that she wanted to make a significant investment in McGowan’s production company.
Filip was persistent. In one e-mail, she suggested meeting in Los Angeles and then, when McGowan said she would be in New York, Filip said she could meet there just as easily. She also began pressing McGowan for information. In a conversation in July, McGowan revealed to Filip that she had spoken to me as part of my reporting on Weinstein. A week later, I received an e-mail from Filip asking for a meeting and suggesting that I join her campaign to end professional discrimination against women. “I am very impressed with your work as a male advocate for gender equality, and believe that you would make an invaluable addition to our activities,” she wrote, using her wealth-management firm’s e-mail address. Unsure of who she was, I did not respond.
Filip continued to meet with McGowan. In one meeting in September, Filip was joined by another Black Cube operative, who used the name Paul and claimed to be a colleague at Reuben Capital Partners. The goal, according to two sources with knowledge of the effort, was to pass McGowan to another operative to extract more information. On October 10th, the day The New Yorker published my story about Weinstein, Filip reached out to McGowan in an e-mail. “Hi Love,” she wrote. “How are you feeling? . . . Just wanted to tell you how brave I think you are.” She signed off with an “xx.” Filip e-mailed McGowan as recently as October 23rd.
In fact, “Diana Filip” was an alias for a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces who originally hailed from Eastern Europe and was working for Black Cube, according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation. When I sent McGowan photos of the Black Cube agent, she recognized her instantly. “Oh my God,” she wrote back. “Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.”
Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York who was pursuing a story on Weinstein, said that the same woman met with him twice last fall. She identified herself only as Anna and suggested that she had an allegation against Weinstein. When I presented Wallace with the same photographs of Black Cube’s undercover operative, Wallace recalled her vividly. “That’s her,” he said. Like McGowan, Wallace said that the woman had what he assumed to be a German accent, as well as a U.K. cell-phone number. Wallace told me that Anna first contacted him on October 28, 2016, when he had been working on the Weinstein story for about a month and a half. Anna declined to disclose who had given her Wallace’s information. Over the course of the two meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives. Anna seemed to be pushing him for information, he recalled, “about the status and scope of my inquiry, and about who I might be talking to, without giving me any meaningful help or information.” During their second meeting, Anna requested that they sit close together, leading Wallace to suspect that she might be recording the exchange. When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, Wallace said, “it seemed like soap-opera acting.” Wallace wasn’t the only journalist the woman contacted. In addition to her e-mails to me, Filip also e-mailed Jodi Kantor, of the Times, according to sources involved in the effort.
The U.K. cell-phone numbers that Filip provided to Wallace and McGowan have been disconnected. Calls to Reuben Capital Partners’ number in London went unanswered. As recently as Friday, the firm had a bare-bones Web site, with stock photos and generic text passages about asset management and an initiative called Women in Focus. The site, which has now been taken down, listed an address near Piccadilly Circus, operated by a company specializing in shared office space. That company said that it had never heard of Reuben Capital Partners. Two sources with knowledge of Weinstein’s work with Black Cube said that the firm creates fictional companies to provide cover for its operatives, and that Filip’s firm was one of them.
Black Cube declined to comment on the specifics of any work it did for Weinstein. The agency said in a statement, “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work. Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the US, gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. . . . It should be highlighted that Black Cube applies high moral standards to its work, and operates in full compliance with the law of any jurisdiction in which it operates—strictly following the guidance and legal opinions provided by leading law firms from around the world.” The contract with the firm also specified that all of its work would be obtained “by legal means and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Last fall, Weinstein began mentioning Black Cube by name in conversations with his associates and attorneys. The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S. that led to successful legal judgments against business rivals. But the firm has also faced legal questions about its employees’ use of fake identities and other tactics. Last year, two of its investigators were arrested in Romania on hacking charges. In the end, the company reached an agreement with the Romanian authorities, under which the operatives admitted to hacking and were released. Two sources familiar with the agency defended its decision to work for Weinstein, saying that they originally believed that the assignment focussed on his business rivals. But even the earliest lists of names that Weinstein provided to Black Cube included actresses and journalists.
On October 28, 2016, Boies’s law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, wired to Black Cube the first hundred thousand dollars, toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice. (The documents do not make clear how much of the invoice was paid.) The law firm and Black Cube signed a contract that month and several others later. One, dated July 11, 2017, and bearing Boies’s signature, states that the project’s “primary objectives” are to “provide intelligence which will help the Client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client,” who is identified as Weinstein in multiple documents. (In one e-mail, a Black Cube executive asks lawyers retained by the agency to refer to Weinstein as “the end client” or “Mr. X,” noting that referring to him by name “will make him extremely angry.”) The article mentioned in the contract was, according to three sources, the story that ultimately ran in the Times on October 5th. The book was “Brave,” a memoir by McGowan, scheduled for publication by HarperCollins in January. The documents show that, in the end, the agency delivered to Weinstein more than a hundred pages of transcripts and descriptions of the book, based on tens of hours of recorded conversations between McGowan and the female private investigator.
Weinstein’s spokesperson, Hofmeister, called “the assertion that Mr. Weinstein secured any portion of a book . . . false and among the many inaccuracies and wild conspiracy theories promoted in this article.”
The July agreement included several “success fees” if Black Cube met its goals. The firm would receive an additional three hundred thousand dollars if the agency “provides intelligence which will directly contribute to the efforts to completely stop the Article from being published at all in any shape or form.” Black Cube would also be paid fifty thousand dollars if it secured “the other half” of McGowan’s book “in readable book and legally admissible format.”
The contracts also show some of the techniques that Black Cube employs. The agency promised “a dedicated team of expert intelligence officers that will operate in the USA and any other necessary country,” including a project manager, intelligence analysts, linguists, and “Avatar Operators” specifically hired to create fake identities on social media, as well as “operations experts with extensive experience in social engineering.” The agency also said that it would provide “a full time agent by the name of ‘Anna’ (hereinafter ‘the Agent’), who will be based in New York and Los Angeles as per the Client’s instructions and who will be available full time to assist the Client and his attorneys for the next four months.” Four sources with knowledge of Weinstein’s work with Black Cube confirmed that this was the same woman who met with McGowan and Wallace.
Black Cube also agreed to hire “an investigative journalist, as per the Client request,” who would be required to conduct ten interviews a month for four months and be paid forty thousand dollars. Black Cube agreed to “promptly report to the Client the results of such interviews by the Journalist.”
In January, 2017, a freelance journalist called McGowan and had a lengthy conversation with her that he recorded without telling her; he subsequently communicated with Black Cube about the interviews, though he denied he was reporting back to them in a formal capacity. He contacted at least two other women with allegations against Weinstein, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who later went public in The New Yorker with a rape allegation against Weinstein. Sciorra, whom he called in August, said that she found the conversation suspicious and got off the phone as quickly as possible. “It struck me as B.S.,” she told me. “And it scared me that Harvey was testing to see if I would talk.” The freelancer also placed calls to Wallace, the New York reporter, and to me.
Two sources close to the effort and several documents show that the same freelancer received contact information for actresses, journalists, and business rivals of Weinstein from Black Cube, and that the agency ultimately passed summaries of those interviews to Weinstein’s lawyers. When contacted about his role, the freelancer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had been working on his own story about Weinstein, using contact information fed to him by Black Cube. The freelancer said that he reached out to other reporters, one of whom used material from his interviews, in the hopes of helping to expose Weinstein. He denied that he was paid by Black Cube or Weinstein.

Greta Gerwig in “Yeast”

Weinstein also enlisted other journalists to uncover information that he could use to undermine women with allegations. A December, 2016, e-mail exchange between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, shows that Howard shared with Weinstein material obtained by one of his reporters, as part of an effort to help Weinstein disprove McGowan’s allegation of rape. In one e-mail, Howard sent Weinstein a list of contacts. “Let’s discuss next steps on each,” he wrote. After Weinstein thanked him, Howard described a call that one of his reporters made to Elizabeth Avellan, the ex-wife of the director Robert Rodriguez, whom Rodriguez left to have a relationship with McGowan.
Avellan told me that she remembered the interview. Howard’s reporter “kept calling and calling and calling,” she said, and also contacted others close to her. Avellan finally called back, because “I was afraid people might start calling my kids.” In a long phone call, the reporter pressed her for unflattering statements about McGowan. She insisted that the call be off the record, and the reporter agreed. The reporter recorded the call, and subsequently passed the audio to Howard.
In subsequent e-mails to Weinstein, Howard said, “I have something AMAZING . . . eventually she laid into Rose pretty hard.” Weinstein replied, “This is the killer. Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.” Howard then reassured Weinstein, “They are not. And the conversation . . . is RECORDED.” The next day, Howard added, in another e-mail, “Audio file to follow.” (Howard denied sending the audio to Weinstein.) Avellan told me that she would not have agreed to coöperate in efforts to discredit McGowan. “I don’t want to shame people,” she said. “I wasn’t interested. Women should stand together.”
In a statement, Howard said that, in addition to his role as the chief content officer at American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s publisher, he oversaw a television-production agreement with Weinstein, which has since been terminated. He said that, at the time of the e-mails, “absent a corporate decision to terminate the agreement with The Weinstein Company, I had an obligation to protect AMI’s interests by seeking out—but not publishing—truthful information about people who Mr. Weinstein insisted were making false claims against him. To the extent I provided ‘off the record’ information to Mr. Weinstein about one of his accusers—at a time when Mr. Weinstein was denying any harassment of any woman—it was information which I would never have allowed AMI to publish on the internet or in its magazines.” Although at least one of Howard’s reporters made calls related to Weinstein’s investigations, Howard insisted that he strictly divided his work with Weinstein from his work as a journalist. “I always separated those two roles carefully and completely—and resisted Mr. Weinstein’s repeated efforts to have AMI titles publish favorable stories about him or negative articles about his accusers,” Howard said. An A.M.I. representative noted that, at the time, Weinstein insisted that the encounter was consensual, and that the allegations were untrue.
Hofmeister, Weinstein’s spokesperson, added, “In regard to Mr. Howard, he has served as the point person for American Media’s long-standing business relationship with The Weinstein Company. Earlier this year, Mr. Weinstein gave Mr. Howard a news tip that Mr. Howard agreed might make a good story. Mr. Howard pursued the tip and followed up with Mr. Weinstein as a courtesy, but declined to publish any story.”
Weinstein’s relationship with Kroll, one of the other agencies he contracted with, dates back years. After Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian model, accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, in 2015, she reached a settlement with Weinstein that required her to surrender all her personal devices to Kroll, so that they could be wiped of evidence of a conversation in which Weinstein admitted to groping her. A recording of that exchange, captured during a police sting operation, was released by The New Yorker last month.
During the more recent effort to shut down emerging stories, Kroll again played a central role. E-mails show that Dan Karson, the chairman of Kroll Americas’ Investigations and Disputes practice, contacted Weinstein at his personal e-mail address with information about women with allegations. In one October, 2016, e-mail, Karson sent Weinstein eleven photographs of McGowan and Weinstein together at different events in the years after he allegedly assaulted her. Three hours later, Weinstein forwarded Karson’s e-mail to Boies and Weinstein’s criminal-defense attorney, Blair Berk, and told them to “scroll thru the extra ones.” The next morning, Berk replied that one photo, which showed McGowan warmly talking with Weinstein, “is the money shot.”
Berk defended her actions. “Any criminal defense lawyer worth her salt would investigate unproven allegations to determine if they are credible,” she said. “And it would be dereliction of duty not to conduct a public-records search for photographs of the accuser embracing the accused taken after the time of the alleged assault.”
Another firm, the Los Angeles-based PSOPS, and its lead private investigator, Jack Palladino, as well as another one of its investigators, Sara Ness, produced detailed profiles of various individuals in the saga, sometimes of a personal nature, which included information that could be used to undermine their credibility. One report on McGowan that Ness sent to Weinstein last December ran for more than a hundred pages and featured McGowan’s address and other personal information, along with sections labelled “Lies/Exaggerations/Contradictions,” “Hypocrisy,” and “Potential Negative Character Wits,” an apparent abbreviation of “witnesses.” One subhead read “Past Lovers.” The section included details of acrimonious breakups, mentioning Avellan, and discussed Facebook posts expressing negative sentiments about McGowan. (Palladino and Ness did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Other firms were also involved in assembling such profiles, including ones that focussed on factors that, in theory, might make women likely to speak out against sexual abuse. One of the other firm’s profiles was of Rosanna Arquette, an actress who later, in The New Yorker, accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. The file mentions Arquette’s friendship with McGowan, social-media posts about sexual abuse, and the fact that a family member had gone public with an allegation that she had been molested as a child.
All of the security firms that Weinstein hired were also involved in trying to ferret out reporters’ sources and probe their backgrounds. Wallace, the reporter for New York, said that he was suspicious when he received the call from the Black Cube operative using the pseudonym Anna, because Weinstein had already requested a meeting with Wallace; Adam Moss, the editor-in-chief of New York; David Boies; and a representative from Kroll. The intention, Wallace assumed, was to “come in with dossiers slagging various women and me.” Moss declined the meeting.
In a series of e-mails sent in the weeks before Wallace received the call from Anna, Dan Karson, of Kroll, sent Weinstein preliminary background information on Wallace and Moss. “No adverse information about Adam Moss so far (no libel/defamation cases, no court records or judgments/liens/UCC, etc.),” Karson wrote in one e-mail. Two months later, Palladino, the PSOPS investigator, sent Weinstein a detailed profile of Moss. It stated, “Our research did not yield any promising avenues for the personal impeachment of Moss.”
Similar e-mail exchanges occurred regarding Wallace. Kroll sent Weinstein a list of public criticisms of Wallace’s previous reporting and a detailed description of a U.K. libel suit filed in response to a book he wrote, in 2008, about the rare-wine market. PSOPS also profiled Wallace’s ex-wife, noting that she “might prove relevant to considerations of our response strategy when Wallace’s article on our client is finally published.”
In January, 2017, Wallace, Moss, and other editors at New York decided to shelve the story. Wallace had assembled a detailed list of women with allegations, but he lacked on-the-record statements from any victims. Wallace said that the decision not to run a story was made for legitimate journalistic reasons. Nevertheless, he said, “There was much more static and distraction than I’ve encountered on any other story.”
Other reporters were investigated as well. In April, 2017, Ness, of PSOPS, sent Weinstein an assessment of my own interactions with “persons of interest”—a list largely consisting of women with allegations, or those connected to them. Later, PSOPS submitted a detailed report focussing jointly on me and Jodi Kantor, of the Times. Some of the observations in the report are mundane. “Kantor is NOT following Ronan Farrow,” it notes, referring to relationships on Twitter. At other times, the report reflects a detailed effort to uncover sources. One individual I interviewed, and another whom Kantor spoke to in her separate endeavor, were listed as having reported the details of the conversations back to Weinstein.
For years, Weinstein had used private security agencies to investigate reporters. In the early aughts, as the journalist David Carr, who died in 2015, worked on a report on Weinstein for New York, Weinstein assigned Kroll to dig up unflattering information about him, according to a source close to the matter. Carr’s widow, Jill Rooney Carr, told me that her husband believed that he was being surveilled, though he didn’t know by whom. “He thought he was being followed,” she recalled. In one document, Weinstein’s investigators wrote that Carr had learned of McGowan’s allegation in the course of his reporting. Carr “wrote a number of critical/unflattering articles about HW over the years,” the document says, “none of which touched on the topic of women (due to fear of HW’s retaliation, according to HW).”
Weinstein’s relationships with the private investigators were often routed through law firms that represented him. This is designed to place investigative materials under the aegis of attorney-client privilege, which can prevent the disclosure of communications, even in court.
David Boies, who was involved in the relationships with Black Cube and PSOPS, was initially reluctant to speak with The New Yorker, out of concern that he might be “misinterpreted either as trying to deny or minimize mistakes that were made, or as agreeing with criticisms that I don’t agree are valid.”
But Boies did feel the need to respond to what he considered “fair and important” questions about his hiring of investigators. He said that he did not consider the contractual provisions directing Black Cube to stop the publication of the Times story to be a conflict of interest, because his firm was also representing the newspaper in a libel suit. From the beginning, he said, he advised Weinstein “that the story could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.” Boies told me he never pressured any news outlet. “If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest.”
He conceded, however, that any efforts to profile and undermine reporters, at the Times and elsewhere, were problematic. “In general, I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to pressure reporters,” he said. “If that did happen here, it would not have been appropriate.”
Although the agencies paid by his firm focussed on many women with allegations, Boies said that he had only been aware of their work related to McGowan, whose allegations Weinstein denied. “Given what was known at the time, I thought it was entirely appropriate to investigate precisely what he was accused of doing, and to investigate whether there were facts that would rebut those accusations,” he said.
Of his representation of Weinstein in general, he said, “I don’t believe former lawyers should criticize former clients.” But he expressed regrets. “Although he vigorously denies using physical force, Mr. Weinstein has himself recognized that his contact with women was indefensible and incredibly hurtful,” Boies told me. “In retrospect, I knew enough in 2015 that I believe I should have been on notice of a problem, and done something about it. I don’t know what, if anything, happened after 2015, but to the extent it did, I think I have some responsibility. I also think that if people had taken action earlier it would have been better for Mr. Weinstein.”
Weinstein also drafted individuals around him into his efforts—willingly and not. In December, 2016, Weinstein asked the actress Asia Argento, who ultimately went public in The New Yorker with her allegation of rape against Weinstein, to meet in Italy with his private investigators to give testimony on his behalf. Argento, who felt pressure to say yes, declined after her partner, the chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain, advised her to avoid the meeting. Another actress, who declined to be named in this story, said that Weinstein asked her to meet with reporters to extract information about other sources.
Weinstein also enlisted two former employees, Denise Doyle Chambers and Pamela Lubell, in what turned out to be an effort to identify and call people who might speak to the press about their own, or others’, allegations. Weinstein secretly shared the lists they compiled with Black Cube.
Hofmeister, speaking on Weinstein’s behalf, said, “Any ‘lists’ that were prepared included names of former employees and others who were relevant to the research and preparation of a book about Miramax. Former employees conducting interviews for the book reported receiving unwanted contacts from the media.”
Doyle Chambers declined an interview request. But Lubell, a producer who worked for Weinstein at Miramax decades ago, told me that she was manipulated into participating. In July, 2017, Lubell visited Weinstein’s offices to pitch him on an app that she was developing. In the middle of the meeting, Weinstein asked Lubell if they could have a private conversation in his office. Lubell told me that a lawyer working with Weinstein was already there, along with Doyle Chambers. Weinstein asked if Lubell and Doyle Chambers could write a “fun book on the old times, the heyday, of Miramax.” “Pam,” she recalled him saying, “write down all the employees that you know, and can you get in touch with them?”
A few weeks later, in August, after they had made the list, Weinstein “called us back into the office,” Lubell recalled. “And he said, ‘You know what, we’re going to put a hold on the book.’ ” He asked Doyle Chambers and Lubell to “call some of your friends from the list and see if they got calls from the press.” In early September, Weinstein summoned Lubell and Doyle Chambers to his office and asked them to start making calls to people connected to several actresses. “It got kind of intense,” Lubell recalled. “We didn’t know these people, and all of a sudden this was something very different from what we signed up for.” Several of the targeted women said that they felt the calls they received from Lubell and Doyle Chambers, and from Weinstein himself, were frightening.
Lubell told me that hours before the first Times story broke, on October 5th, Weinstein summoned her, Doyle Chambers, and others on his team, including the attorney Lisa Bloom, who has since resigned, to his office. “He was in a panic,” Lubell recalled. “He starts screaming, ‘Get so-and-so on the phone.’ ” After the story was published, the team scrambled to respond to it. Bloom and others pored over pictures that, like the ones featured in the Kroll e-mails, showed ongoing contact between Weinstein and women who made allegations. “He was screaming at us, ‘Send these to the board members,’ ” Lubell recalled. She e-mailed the photographs to the board ahead of the crisis meeting at which Weinstein’s position at his company began unravelling.
Since the allegations against Weinstein became public, Lubell hasn’t slept well. She told me that, although she knew that Weinstein “was a bully and a cheater,” she “never thought he was a predator.” Lubell has wondered if she should have known more, sooner.
After a year of concerted effort, Weinstein’s campaign to track and silence his accusers crumbled. Several of the women targeted, however, said that Weinstein’s use of private security agencies deepened the challenge of speaking out. “It scared me,” Sciorra said, “because I knew what it meant to be threatened by Harvey. I was in fear of him finding me.” McGowan said that the agencies and law firms enabled Weinstein’s behavior. As she was targeted, she felt a growing sense of paranoia. “It was like the movie ‘Gaslight,’ ” she told me. “Everyone lied to me all the time.” For the past year, she said, “I’ve lived inside a mirrored fun house.”
Ronan Farrow, a television and print reporter, is the author of the upcoming book “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.” ... y-of-spies

stillrobertpaulsen » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:44 pm wrote:Larisa Alexandrovna is describing this as BCCI 2.0. From her Facebook page:

Looks like I am right: Wiley just said in his hearing that (via Prof David Carroll's wording:

"Cambridge Analytica is a shell corp majority owned by Robert Mercer created to hide foreign actors and optics to obscure SCL Group, a military contractor with a tainted past. He came forward because military grade psychological operations have no place in democracies" h/t to Prof David Carroll (who is suing CA on behalf of the US public).


So if we piece this together, we are starting to see something familiar. Let's call it BCCI 2.0.

If you are unfamiliar with BCCI, then none of this will make sense and you have a lot of homework. Try here:,1 ... 29,00.html

I have finally had an aha moment on what CA actually is and what it actually does.

Cambridge Analytica seems to sell coups via being a shell company for other front companies which use spies, technology, etc. It acts as the front office for companies like Black Cube (Israeli intelligence) and AIQ and likely the Russian FSB who work as "private contractors"

Now it makes sense why they would outsource a product claimed as their own or deploy 15 operatives to the Cruz campaign for no apparent reason.

And several billionaires are the ones using this to create their ideal world in which they are kings. Mercer being just one. I am sure there are more involved.

Or as I like to call the Russian scandal = a post-national criminal syndicate (PNCS).

Laura Rozen

Thread. Sounds like MO used by Black Cube as documented in Ronan Farrow Weinstein exposeLaura Rozen added,
Colin Kahl

Last year, my wife was serving on the fundraising committee of my daughter's public charter school in DC. One day, out of the blue, she received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK. 2/10

Confirmed with @ColinKahl same fake firm name used to approach his wife that Black Cube used to try to suppress Harvey Weinstein stories

Fake firm that approached @ColinKahl wife (left). same fake firm per @RonanFarrow that went after weinstein accusers ... y-of-spies

Odds that Reuben Cap’ls (alias) “Adriana Gavrilo”= (aliases) “Diana Filip”/“Ana” =Stella Penn Pechanac? ... -1.5464301 … @ColinKahl
Image ... 0284057602

Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal

Julian Borger
Last modified on Sat 5 May 2018 17.11 EDT

Israeli agency told to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated deal with Tehran

Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”

One former high-ranking British diplomat with wide experience of negotiating international peace agreements, requesting anonymity, said: “It’s bloody outrageous to do this. The whole point of negotiations is to not play dirty tricks like this.”

Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president. Trump promised Netanyahu that Iran would never have nuclear weapons and suggested that the Iranians thought they could “do what they want” since negotiating the nuclear deal in 2015. A source with details of the “dirty tricks campaign” said: “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.”

Benjamin Netanyahu on Israeli television, describing how Iran has continued with its plans to make nuclear weapons.
Benjamin Netanyahu on Israeli television, describing how Iran has continued with its plans to make nuclear weapons. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA
According to incendiary documents seen by the Observer, investigators contracted by the private intelligence agency were told to dig into the personal lives and political careers of Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Kahl, a national security adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden. Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal.

Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence. They are believed to have looked at comments made by Rhodes in a 2016 New York Times profile in which he admitted relying on inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion to secure the deal. It is also understood that the smear campaign wanted to establish if Rhodes was among those who backed a request by Susan Rice, Obama’s final national security adviser, to unmask the identities of Trump transition officials caught up in the surveillance of foreign targets.

Although sources have confirmed that contact and an initial plan of attack was provided to private investigators by representatives of Trump, it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.

Neither is it known if the black ops constituted only a strand of a wider Trump-Netanyahu collaboration to undermine the deal or if investigators targeted other individuals such as John Kerry, the lead American signatory to the deal. Both Rhodes and Kahl said they had no idea of the campaign against them. Rhodes said: “I was not aware, though sadly am not surprised. I would say that digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do.”

A spokesman for the White House’s national security council offered “no comment” when approached. However, the revelations are not the first time that claims of “dirty tricks” have been aimed at the Trump camp. Special counsel Robert Mueller is leading an investigation into apparent attempts by Trump’s inner-circle to dig up damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Of particular interest is a meeting involving the US president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who had promised damaging information about Clinton.

Trump has repeatedly signalled his intention to scrap the Iran deal, denouncing it as “the worst deal ever.” In a January speech the US president accused his predecessor of having “curried favour with the Iranian regime in order to push through the disastrously flawed Iran nuclear deal.”

Last Monday, Netanyahu, accused Iran of continuing to hide and expand its nuclear weapons know-how after the 2015 deal, presenting what he claimed was “new and conclusive proof” of violations.

However, European powers including Britain responded by saying the Israeli prime minister’s claims reinforced the need to keep the deal.

On Thursday the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres urged Trump not to walk away from the deal, warning that there was a real risk of war if the 2015 agreement was not preserved. The following day details emerged of some unusual shadow diplomacy by Kerry, meeting a top-ranking Iranian official in New York to discuss how to preserve the deal.

It was the second time in around two months that Kerry had met foreign minister Javad Zarif to apparently strategise over rescuing a pact they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration. Straw, who was foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, said: “The campaign against the JCPOA has been characterised by abuse and misinformation. It is the best chance of ensuring Iran never develops a nuclear weapons programme, and it is insane to suggest abandoning the deal could do anything but endanger international security.” ... CMP=twt_gu

If Trump was willing to contract a foreign intelligence service to undermine U.S. policy as president, do you really think he wouldn't be willing to work with a foreign government to undermine his opponent as a presidential candidate?


So, Trump literally tore a page from the Putin Propaganda PlaybSo, Trump literally tore a page from the Putin Propaganda Playbook in a scheme (w. a foreign country) to deliberately lie to the American people and undermine the Iran deal. If that's not violating your oath and blatant corruption, please, tell me what is.

Norm Eisen

There’s a reason this has not happened since Nixon. It exposes the Trump aides to criminal and civil liability, depending on the nature of the “dirty ops,” see eg 18 USC 242, 50 USC 1809, 42 USC 1983. Team Trump is out of control. Expect an investigation.

Colin Kahl

<THREAD> According to this story, in May of last year, Team Trump asked an Israeli intel firm to dig up dirt on me as part of an effort to discredit the Iran deal.

Tonight, as my wife read this story, that date triggered a very creepy memory.

Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal

Julian BorgerLast modified on Sat 5 May 2018 20.04 EDT
Israeli agency told to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated deal with Tehran

Last year, my wife was serving on the fundraising committee of my daughter's public charter school in DC. One day, out of the blue, she received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK. 2/10

This "UK person" said "she" was flying to DC soon and wanted to have coffee with my wife to discuss the possibility of including my daughter's school in their educational fund network. 3/10

This was not a generic "Nigerian prince" scam. This person had all sorts of specific information on my wife's volunteer duties at an obscure DC elementary school. 4/10

There was a website for the firm (which no longer exists, by the way), but it had no depth to it, and there was no detailed information about the "UK person" who reached out to my wife. 5/10

My wife shared the email with me and a few people we know in both the finance and education fields. All agreed that the entire scenario seemed implausible and seemed like an approach by a foreign intelligence entity. 6/10

To test the implausibility, my wife kept trying to encourage the "UK person" over email to meet with other school fundraising officers & leadership while "she" was in DC, providing relevant contact info. But the "UK person" kept insisting that "she" had to meet with my wife. 7/10

At that point, my wife stopped corresponding.

This all happened in late May and early June of last year. 8/10

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this obvious scam targeting my family had all the hallmarks of an intel op and coincided with Team Trump's reported efforts to "dig up dirt" on me. 9/10

But the fact that I even have to think about the possibility that my family was targeted by people working for the President is yet another sign of the fundamental degradation of our country that Trump has produced. 10/10

Laura Rozen

Thread. Sounds like MO used by Black Cube as documented in Ronan Farrow Weinstein exposeLaura Rozen added,
Colin Kahl

Last year, my wife was serving on the fundraising committee of my daughter's public charter school in DC. One day, out of the blue, she received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK. 2/10

Confirmed with @ColinKahl same fake firm name used to approach his wife that Black Cube used to try to suppress Harvey Weinstein stories

Fake firm that approached @ColinKahl wife (left). same fake firm per @RonanFarrow that went after weinstein accusers ... y-of-spies

Odds that Reuben Cap’ls (alias) “Adriana Gavrilo”= (aliases) “Diana Filip”/“Ana” =Stella Penn Pechanac? ... -1.5464301 … @ColinKahl
Image ... 0284057602

Amichai Stein

Verified account

Follow Follow @AmichaiStein1
#BREAKING: Full Black Cube comment on the reports they were the company hired by Trump admin officials to spy & dig dirt on @brhodes & @ColinKahl: "Our policy is never discuss, confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s



Israeli Spy Firm Black Cube Denies Trump Aides Hired It to Discredit ex-Obama Officials

The private intelligence company, however, does not deny or confirm that it was hired by Harvey Weinstein in a separate case

Amir Tibon (Washington) May 06, 2018 8:37 PM

WASHINGTON — Israeli private intelligence company Black Cube strongly denied Sunday that it was hired by aides to U.S. President Donald Trump to spy on former Obama administration officials.

The denial comes a day after The Observer reported that an Israeli intelligence firm had been hired by Trump’s aides to spy on former Obama administration officials who helped craft the Iranian nuclear deal.

“Black Cube had nothing to do with this,” a spokesman for the company told Haaretz, adding that any claims to the contrary were “false.”

On Sunday, a potential connection to Black Cube was offered by American journalist Laura Rozen.

Writing on Twitter, the Washington-based reporter said a fake company that was allegedly used by Black Cube to spy on complainants against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was also used to contact the wife of Colin Kahl, a former national security official in the Obama administration.

Kahl, who was national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on Twitter Saturday that his wife was contacted last year by a woman supposedly representing a British financial firm in order to discuss possible contributions to his children’s school.

The woman contacted his wife around the time the Israeli intelligence firm was allegedly hired by the Trump aides to “get dirt” on former Obama administration officials, including Kahl.

According to Kahl, the woman tried to arrange a meeting with his wife but gave up after Kahl’s wife insisted that she contact other people at the school besides her.

Rozen tweeted that she had confirmed with Kahl that the woman who contacted his wife presented herself as an employee of Reuben Capital Partners, a financial firm based in London.

The name Reuben Capital Partners was first mentioned in a New Yorker story last year detailing Weinstein’s attempts to spy on women accusing him of sexual assault. The New Yorker report, which won a Pulitzer Prize, described Reuben Capital Partners as a fake company used by Black Cube, which was hired by Weinstein to spy on his victims and stop them from complaining about his conduct.

While Black Cube denied any connection to the Trump-Obama-Iran issue, the company did not deny or confirm that it was hired by Weinstein, nor did it deny or confirm The New Yorker’s claim about using a Reuben Capital Partners as a front company. ... -1.6060707

Vincent Tchenguiz settles Black Cube legal dispute

Simon BowersMon 22 Apr 2013 10.02 EDT
Hearing to determine claims and counterclaims halted after tycoon settles fraud wrangle with Israeli intelligence experts

Mayfair investment tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz has settled a dispute with a band of former Israeli intelligence operatives who had been at the heart of his activities.

The intelligence experts, trading as Black Cube, became important figures in Tchenguiz's inner circle as he pursued international legal claims after the failure of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing in 2008, an event that threatened much of his business empire.

It emerged last week that Tchenguiz, a Conservative party donor, had thrown Black Cube staff out of his Park Lane office and nearby £15m home in February, accusing them of "a wholesale fraud … for a prolonged period". They, in turn, claimed he had breached a contract and left £330,000 in bills unpaid.

Last week the Guardian revealed his employees had secretly recorded private discussions between senior Black Cube executives, attempting to build evidence of alleged fraud.

Tchenguiz had filed a legal claim in Israel against them; meanwhile, Black Cube lodged a claim in the British courts against him.

A hearing to determine where the claims and counterclaims should be heard had been due to take place in London on Monday morning, but was called off at the last minute when a settlement was reach at the weekend and the lawsuits dropped.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed but include an undertaking not to discuss further details with the media.

Lawyers for Tchenguiz said in court filings that £820,000 had been paid to Black Cube over 13 months, suggesting this sum was provided for "open source intelligence".

Black Cube describes itself as providing creative intelligence, and operates out of London and Tel Aviv.

Vincent and his brother, Robert Tchenguiz, had been among the biggest borrowers from Kaupthing and, with the help of Black Cube, they fought a series of disputes over what loan collateral they should surrender to the bank's administrators.

At issue had been interests in Vincent Tchenguiz's £2bn UK residential property ground rent portfolio and the company once behind Peverel property management operations. Stakes Robert Tchenguiz had built in J Sainsbury and Mitchells & Butlers, as well as proceeds from the £1.56bn sale of Somerfield supermarkets, had also been claimed as loan security by Kaupthing administrators.

Black Cube also helped successfully demonstrate that a Serious Fraud Office corruption case – examining the brothers' relationship with former senior Kaupthing bankers – was flawed and that grounds for suspecting Vincent Tchenguiz were entirely misunderstood and baseless.

The investigation into the brothers, as well as former Kaupthing bankers, was dropped last year and Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz are seeking £300m in damages from UK taxpayers. ... ays-910777


Interestingly, around the same time the Israeli firm was hired, senior White House aides began complaining to Fox News about a “Ben Rhodes-Colin Kahl Nexus” that was supposedly organizing opposition to the administration. ... bb44a72ec6

About a month after the Israeli firm was allegedly hired, anonymous White House officials reached out to the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing tabloid, to smear Ben & me with baseless & false accusations. Notice the Israel angle to this piece. ... perations/

As the summer wore on, senior White House aides pushed a narrative that Ben and I were solely responsible for turmoil across the Middle East. ... ors-2017-7


And, in July, when Trump became frustrated that he didn’t have more options to ditch the Iran nuclear deal, he turned to the same White House aides obsessed with Ben & me for alternatives. ... epartment/ … 8/10

So here’s the SECOND thing we know: Some senior aides to the President were obsessed with Ben and me, and were seeking to smear us, around the same time the Israeli firm was tasked by someone to dig up dirt on us and our families.

Did these same Trump aides—or outside people they contacted—have any connections to Black Cube?

It’s unclear. Maybe it is all a coincidence. But it’s a creepy one…and one worth further investigation.

PS: The connection between the allegations in the Guardian piece and Black Cube was originally noted by @lrozen in this thread.
Laura Rozen

On Reuben Capital Partners, cover firm used in op to suppress negative Harvey Weinstein stories, per New Yorker, &in email to Kahl’s wife

Mueller Has All the Trump Campaign’s Texts and Documents, Former Aide Michael Caputo Says

By Josh Keefe On 5/4/18 at 10:32 AM
Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo said Thursday special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has all the text messages from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, as well as all the campaign's documents.

“They have all the documents that were produced,” Caputo told Fox News Thursday. “They’ve got further documentation from people who worked outside the campaign — their emails, their texts. They have the entire campaign’s texts.”

Caputo, a longtime political consultant, was interviewed on Wednesday by Mueller’s team, which is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Caputo resigned from the campaign in June 2016 after celebrating the firing of then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in a tweet. He told The Buffalo News at the time the tweet was an “unforced error” and by resigning he was “falling on his sword.”

Despite saying Mueller’s team had all the documents and texts produced by the campaign, Caputo told Fox News that “it doesn't sound like" the team has found proof of collusion.

Caputo has been an outspoken critic of the Russia investigation. On Tuesday, he told a panel of Senate investigators, “You’re the swamp,” and called for “an investigation of the investigators,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Caputo has said he expects to pay at least $125,000 in legal fees as part of the Russian investigation. On Tuesday, he took his anger about those mounting legal fees out on the Senate intelligence committee.

Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now

“Forget about all the death threats against my family. I want to know who cost us so much money, who crushed our kids, who forced us out of our home, all because you lost an election,” Caputo said. “I want to know because God damn you to hell."

Caputo knows Russia well. In the 1990s, he advised then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin on election law and opened a public relations firm in Russia to help Western companies transition there. In the early 2000s, he did work for Gazprom Media, which supported President Vladimir Putin.

“I returned to the United States after Putin ascended in 2000,” he told the National Review.

In 2004, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed about the murder of his friend American journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow.

“Russia hasn't changed in the past decade and at this trajectory it won't be truly civilized for generations,” Caputo wrote. “Those who killed Klebnikov are killing today, plan to kill tomorrow, and know they'll roam free to kill for years to come.” ... ays-910777
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Mon May 07, 2018 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon May 07, 2018 11:04 am

Dr. Dena Grayson

Evidence mounts that Donald Trump hired #BlackCube, an Israeli "security" company run by former Mossad agents, to **SPY on former Obama officials** involved with the #Iran deal

If Trump authorized this, WHO PAID FOR THIS

Three Explanatory Essays Giving Context and Analysis to Submitted Evidence Part 1: Cambridge Analytica,  and Trump's 'Big Lie'
the Artificial Enemy
By Emma L. Briant, University of Essex
Last week, whistleblowers, including former Cambridge Analytica research director
Chris Wylie, exposed much of the hidden workings behind the Cambridge Analytica
digital strategy funded by the Mercers which empowered the US far right and their
Republican apologists, and revealed CA’s involvement in the “Brexit” campaign in the
UK. Amid Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix’s gaslighting and deflection after
Trump’s election victory, few questions about this powerful company have been
As a propaganda scholar, I have spent a decade researching SCL Group, a
conglomerate of companies including Cambridge Analytica who did work for the Trump
campaign. Following the US election, I used the substantial contacts I had developed to
research an upcoming book. What I discovered was alarming. In this and two other
linked explanatory essays, I discuss my findings concerning the involvement of these
parties in Brexit (See Part 2) and Cambridge Analytica’s grossly unethical conduct
enacted for profit (See Part 3). I draw on my exclusive interviews conducted for my
upcoming book What’s Wrong with the Democrats? Media Bias, Inequality and the rise
of Donald Trump (co-authored with George Washington University professor Robert M.
Entman) and academic publications on the EU referendum, and my counter-terrorism
Due to my expertise on this topic, I was compelled by the UK Electoral Commission,
Information Commissioners Office and the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Committee's Fake News Inquiry Damian Collins MP to submit information and research
relating to campaigns by SCL, Cambridge Analytica and other actors. Statements from
my research interviews with staff at Cambridge Analytica (CA), SCL personnel or
otherwise related to their campaigns were submitted in evidence to the Inquiry. It is
essential therefore that I comment on and contextualize what are academic research
interviews. I discuss the evidence I submitted here in three accessible explanatory texts.
The interviews submitted in evidence address key questions and illustrate the unethical
nature of this company’s practices. Cambridge Analytica promotes itself as a “data-
driven” company and there has been much debate over how data was obtained and
used in the US election, including use of personality tests and ‘psychographic targeting’.
Regarding this, the Director of Business Development Brittany Kaiser said, “
What they used certain campaigns and what they didn't, it's hard to say, but all of our data, you
know, that [...] was used for everything, whether or not we actually did psychographic groupings or not, it doesn't change the fact that we undertook to those quant surveys and that was put into our data set. And then some of those, some of those, uh, variables were used in our models. So in general you would say everything was used in everything but [...] not to the extent that I think some people had prophesized.”
not just dividing up an audience along the lines of gender or what you’ve bought, but along the lines of
the disposition – the psychological profile of those audiences.”
(Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018). We now know from Chris Wylie that data
they used was harvested in unethical ways and hoarded to analyse, ‘microtarget’, and
change audience behaviour, all enabled by Facebook’s business model. CA Chief data
officer Alex Tayler has explained that psychological analysis is used for “
Regulation is failing to
keep up with the rapid progression of coordinated data-driven propaganda powered by
AI and augmented with insights from neuroscience and psychology, this should raise
alarm for us all.
Use of Data and Psychological Tests
CEO Alexander Nix first claimed CA deployed personality-driven 'psychographic'
techniques for Trump, but later denied this saying the methods were used only for Ted
Cruz and foreign and commercial campaigns. I asked Vice President of Global Media at
CA Molly Schweikert about this and she denied they used OCEAN tests for the US
election, reported elsewhere (
an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism) (Interview: Schweikert/Briant, 17th November
2017). Data scientist Alexander Kogan worked with Cambridge Analytica and pulled data on Facebook users using personality tests.
When I asked how they research
people's values, Kaiser told me their psychological research on US citizens goes
beyond OCEAN which has been discussed widely elsewhere. She said they deploy “a
combination of different tests that, that were designed by a psychologist. So obviously
the ocean [...] tests, which I'm, you know, plenty about, but there were different surveys
that we were undertaking in order to understand like emotionality attachments and
values and all of this stuff where, you know, instead of, instead of just asking, um, you
know, ocean survey based questions, you know, they'd be things like, you get along
well with children to believe in the importance of art. Do you see yourself as a leader in
the community? So you'd like to, you know, give back to charity, like stuff like that
where you can start to probe different psychological traits that aren't just personality.”
(Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
analysed ‘the dark triad’:
psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism. In the 2016 election, Cambridge
Analytica produced messages engineered to maximise emotional and psychological
Some of these tests
impact, utilizing divisive rhetoric and lies where they could be most electorally effective.
Kaiser told me the company emerged at the right time to provide a new service for the
Republican Party:
“when I first went [...] with Alexander to the US. [...] The Republicans, almost everyone I went to see had never seen technology like this. If they did, they had bought like a basic license of I360 or had used some Datatrust data, which was great, but they never had like this full, like N10 integrated solution. They had never used data to inform the creative. [...] They would use it segment people and then they would decide themselves what those segments wanted to hear. So... it was never. It never used models that informed what the message should be, which is the whole point of having psychographic models, understanding what different groups of people want to hear. Otherwise, they were using models to be like, OK, well if somebody is, you know, young and cares about the environment, then they must obviously like this type of messaging or if they're older and they care about gun rights and they've never voted before, then maybe this is good for them. But it's guesswork. It's not science.” (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
There has been comparatively less revealed so far of other related companies and the
parent company, SCL Group Ltd. The CEO and founder of SCL, Nigel Oakes, set up
SCL Elections and CA with, and to be led by, his close SCL business partner Alexander
Nix (Wendy Siegelman and Ann Marlowe have illustrated the company structures here).
Oakes is an ‘old school’ PR man and a bit dismissive of the new big data techniques
that Nix’s side of the business sells for political campaigns. He sees them as ‘very
powerful’ but still in their 'infancy' and for him the real value comes from a social science
framework that underpins the work of all the companies. In defence and politics alike,
SCL Group sought to put a pseudo-academic spin on their work as they expanded in a
highly competitive industry a facade that obscured dirty tactics.
Having ‘the balls’ to Target the Innocent
The Channel 4 expose reveals Cambridge Analytica derived their power from a
willingness to abuse it, targeting the vulnerable, hacking, and entrapping opponents. In
the US election Oakes told me, with a tone of admiration, that they recognized the
power in Trump’s message
, “...when we explain in the two-minute lift pitch what happened with Trump... you can forget all the micro-targeting and micro-data whatever
and come back to some very very simple things which is: Trump had the balls, really the balls to say what people wanted to hear.” (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
CA’s political campaigns hinged on lies, and Oakes recognized this and understood it was not without victims. Indeed Oakes knew the kind of false messaging they were deploying has had victims before. He told me,
“sometimes to attack the 'other' group, and know that you're gonna lose them, is going to reinforce or resonate your group, which is why, Hitler... I've got to be very careful about saying so... you must never say this... off the record, but... of course, Hitler attacked the Jews because... he didn't have a problem with the Jews at all. But the people didn't like the Jews... so if the people thought... [...] He could just use them to say... so he just leveraged an artificial enemy, well it's exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim- I mean, you know, it's... it was a real enemy... ISIS or whatever... but how big a threat is ISIS really to America? I mean, really? I mean, we're still talking about 9-11, well 9-11 is a long time ago.' (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017 Original Emphasis - this interview excerpt has been published in parliamentary evidence).
While, of course, ISIS and their terrorism posed a very real threat within Iraq and Syria and have been responsible for a massive humanitarian crisis, a report by the US Government Accountability Office shows that from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016, there were 85 deadly attacks by homegrown violent extremists of which 62 were by far right extremists.
Rhetoric of a ‘Muslim threat’ to Western countries has been used repeatedly by politicians to argue for immigration controls, increased defense spending for counter- terrorism abroad, and for domestic programs deployed to ‘counter’ oft-exaggerated threats. Oakes
NO: '[Trump] also said ridiculous things like, we're going to ban Muslims from coming into the country because I'm sick of people taking machine guns and pointing them at schools... and our children... and our children are the most important thing... Well there's never been a Muslim, ever that's put a gun on an American school, but it seems to-'
EB: it's the perception
NO: '-yeh, that's terrorism, and they must be Muslims, and there've been a lot of shootings... They're all Americans doing the shootings! And people go 'Yeah, fuck, it's our children! [...] And so you've got Hillary Clinton going 'We're going to increase the fiduciary financial spending and four percent growth in our area.....' and people go 'well, you know, good luck with that... I wanna build a wall...'' (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
joked about Trump manipulating and reinforcing Americans' false belief
that Muslim migrants are a threat to their country, a myth propagated extensively on the
right of American politics:
While, according to Oakes, “all the micro-targeting and micro-data whatever” helped the messaging reach the right people, he also shows cynical awareness that what CA was disseminating, Trump’s statements about Muslims, were calculated and harmful lies. In Oakes' statements, truth is for those who don’t have ‘the balls’ to lie in order to win — citizens are reduced to levers and tools, and value is placed only in fetishizing the levers of power. The most extreme manipulations are admired for their Machiavellian ruthlessness with no empathy for the victims.
Prior to establishing SCL, Oakes was quoted in a 1992 interview about marketing saying that, ‘We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler’ in appealing to emotions. Oakes’ belief that Hitler “didn’t have a problem with the Jews” and his shocking enthusiasm for what he considers comparable techniques in Trump’s deployment of a propaganda strategy built on religious persecution against another group he recognizes as innocent, offers insight into both his character and this approach to political campaigns.
Oakes evokes in his comments, Hitler's ”big lie” conspiracy theory from Mein Kampf; Hitler’s lie presented Germany as “innocent, besieged” and under attack by the artificial enemy he created — an international Jewish conspiracy, an idea then repeated in Nazi propaganda as they carried out the holocaust (Herf, 2005). Oakes understands the significance of comparing the messaging CA put out for Trump to Hitler's disinformation. He told me that Trump secured political control by manipulating an artificial fear of an innocent “other” — his messaging then propagated by CA and supposedly ‘independent’ but coordinated groups. Their methods may seem extreme, but the propaganda themes only resonated because they echoed false beliefs and simplistic explanations for inequality and global insecurity that have been widely disseminated, especially by Republicans, in US politics and ideological media.
The “othering” Oakes refers to has not suddenly emerged since 9/11. Islamophobic sentiment has increased as a byproduct of political and media rhetoric emphasising “threat” to justify the intractable “war on terror,” the politically unpopular Iraq War, domestic mass surveillance, and countless other incursions on civil liberties and human rights deployed in the name of “security.”
A sustained, politically motivated campaign of media coverage in both the U.S. and Britain has blamed refugee victims of these wars for the violence inflicted upon their citizens by terrorists. It portrays them as a threat, as criminal and as economically
Propaganda, fear mongering and dog whistles to racism are not new in American
motivated and deceitful (see my co-authored book Bad News for Refugees for example).
The ‘War on Terror’ conflicts which fueled public fears and fed this “othering” rhetoric also provided crucial early contracts on which Oakes built SCL’s business. Oakes set up the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, a research facility which both SCL and CA would later draw on (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017) to help develop their influence techniques. I discuss SCL and BDI's “War on Terrorism” role more fully in my last book, Propaganda and Counter-terrorism.
CA’s violations of ethical conduct and use of potentially illegal activities (revealed by award-winning journalist Carole Cadwalladr, with The Guardian and Channel 4) to bring Trump to power represent an onslaught on democracy and against ordinary Americans’ civil rights. This “othering” strategy deployed against artificial enemies and often targeting people’s deepest fears, was accompanied by a surge in anti-Muslim attacks recorded by the FBI, activist groups, and journalism organizations during Trump's campaign.
African Americans and Mexicans were also easy targets for Trump. Oakes, mocked the simplicity of the message compared to the Democrats’ dry miscommunications:
‘We all thought it was a joke every time he said it. He says that we’re going to put up a wall... for the Mexicans... and we were all ‘you can’t say that!’ you know, that’s loony!’ And then we’re gonna get the Mexicans to pay for it, and the Mexican President’s going ‘I’m not bloody paying for any of it!’ But it didn’t matter because in the Rust States the guys were saying ‘look, I’ve got people, the Mexicans coming across illegally, not paying any tax [...] And [...] he didn’t say ‘we’re going to redress the...’ he said ‘we’re gonna build a wall and keep these fuckers out!’ (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017 original emphasis).
There is little to enforce ethical conduct on digital propaganda strategies now emerging.
Hacking and Propaganda
Accompanying prolific lying and the explosion of “computational propaganda” used by the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica, they also aimed to exploit the series of exposed emails from the DNC (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was hacked on March 19, 2016) and the ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email
Using CA’s media strategy, Trump’s false racist and Islamophobic comments,
resentment and fear were deployed where they would be most effective — mobilizing
swing state audiences, using voters’ personal data to monitor them, and using
psychological profiling to manipulate their emotional responses en masse.
server. While the DNC hack was attributed by US intelligence agencies to Russia, which the Russian Government denied (US National Intelligence Council, 2017). Importantly, Brittany Kaiser was involved in establishing CA’s relationships with Black Cube hackers who hacked emails for the Nigerian elections, a campaign which also used content where people were being dismembered and apparently murdered to terrify and intimidate voters.
CA sought cooperation with Wikileaks to aid distribution of the leaked DNC emails. Nix publicly stated they approached Assange in early June 2016 but recently insisted at the UK Fake News Inquiry for which I submit this evidence that he has “never spoken to them.” This is unlikely as Nigel Oakes, told me that, "Alexander, if he got the release... of the Hillary Clinton emails it would have dramatically pushed her down in the polls. But there’s nothing wrong with that... that’s perfectly legitimate, Julian Assange was releasing things every day and Alexander rang up and said, you know, ‘Any chance we can help you release the Hillary Clinton things?’” (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
Testimony by Glenn Simpson to the House Intelligence Committee indicated Nigel Farage may have provided Assange with the original USB stick. In his testimony Simpson claims WikiLeaks was part of a "somewhat unacknowledged relationship" between the Trump team and the "UKIP people." The FBI investigation has been scrutinizing CA’s interactions with Wikileaks, Russian ties, and whether CA knew more.
Assange tweeted in 2017 confirming
When asked about the wisdom in attempting to help Assange given the leaks may have come from
Russian sources, Oakes said “At the time, at the time, you didn’t know there was an- ... that anyone’s ever going to mention the Russians.” He continued defending the decision to approach Assange saying the Russians weren’t yet in the media, “In hindsight ... remember, this is 18 months before ... and it was a year before the election. No-one had been in the press.” (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
Oakes’ claims their contact with Assange may have been 12 –18 months before the November 2016 election, far earlier than Nix stated and before they were working on the campaign, raises questions of a longer term relationship with Assange. The dates he claims would mean that CA was in contact before Assange released the archive in March 2016. Now indicted by the FBI, Gen. Flynn, who formerly held an advisory role at Cambridge Analytica, also may have tried to facilitate this.
“an approach by Cambridge Analytica [prior to
November last year] and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks.”
Nigel Oakes told me how SCL began working with Flynn, the connection made by “The chief executive of SCL group US [...] a guy called Josh Veseche. He’s actually Sri Lankan. He worked for six years for Flynn and [...] we’ve done a lot of work with Flynn, with JIEDDO’ a Pentagon programme started in 2006 to tackle the problem of IEDs.” He continued, “We presented to, uh, the head of the strategic — he was called up in the Pentagon. He was the right hand man to their chief of staff and [...] this guy said you need to meet Flynn, and I was prepped to get onto the aeroplane that night to fly to the Bagram air base and actually to let JEIDDO back in, and so I said can I come back tomorrow, and the guy said, I’ve already briefed Flynn. Your contract starts tomorrow with JIEDDO, and we didn’t even meet--the first contract with Flynn we didn’t even meet to do.” (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
Recent discussions of fake news have focused on content and spread — and solutions
to manage it include censorship, blacklists, countering the content with government
propaganda, and a confusing multiplicity of fact checking sites. Some of these proposed
solutions challenge free speech and media freedom, complicating the issue for the
Media responses largely ignore the powerful elites responsible for turning media flows
into an unsettling slurry of propaganda and making a mockery of democracy, as a
problem that’s too hard to address. And it is not just foreign elites’ propaganda that
threaten elections, it can be uncomfortable to interrogate power at home. It may not
surprise us to learn today that unethical campaigns were deployed by unethical people,
but the reporting on dark innards of the Trump-Mercer Republican machine has been
the most vital journalism we have seen since the start of this fetid campaign —
accountability matters.
Didn’t Obama do this too?
Nix claims at the Fake News Inquiry that “big data and predictive analytics in political
campaigns was something that was really championed by Obama’s campaign in 2008”
and “in 2012, the Democrats pioneered the use of addressable advertising technology
in order to improve the way that they use this data to target people as individuals”
justify CA's actions. While true, Nix also emphasised CA’s advancements and now
can't have it both ways. He may be drawing false equivalence.
Chris Wylie worked on the Obama campaign, a campaign known for transforming data-
driven targeting that also laid the groundwork for manipulative techniques with which
campaign contractors are now experimenting. Yet Brittany Kaiser, CA's director of
business development who worked on data for the 2008 Obama campaign is friends
with the data scientists who worked for Clinton and told me their campaign data
operations were very basic by comparison. Indeed, this is what attracted her to take the
She emphasised the extent of their use of data compared to the Democratic campaigns throughout the interview,
including the scale of their surveys of ”millions of people in the United States” and “Instead of considering, you know, thousands and thousands of data points and buying in licensing, commercial and lifestyle data from every source and even having people go down to getting like, you know, church group lists and everything for extra data points. I mean what we were doing was as far as you could possibly go... on their [Democrat] side [...] they were really relying upon, [...] past voting history [...] people's election data, more than other things. At least that's what they say. So I don't know if they would say that if it wasn't true, that'd be really strange.” (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
It doesn't really make any sense when the reason why Trump won was because of the first time voters and disaffected voters, people who had not voted in a long time that were moved to come out. So if you're
spending all your time on people that have voted before and judging what they're going to do based on their past political engagement then that's just not right. It doesn't make any sense.” (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
post at CA (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
Kaiser explained that the parties used data differently, and Democrats did not exploit
personality and values to the same degree. “
Such methods and algorithms as CA deployed are ”black-boxed” and difficult to prove.
The CA press officer claimed the company ran a “traditional” campaign comparable to
the Democrats — CA has been backpedaling publicly, but Kaiser recently stressed to
me that the types and extent of data that CA uses are quite different.
Extensive evidence on unethically sourced data was presented by Wylie to the
Guardian, and even some skeptics about the uniqueness of CA's technology, Jay Pinho
for example, recognize the powerful significance of CA's use of misleading and
manipulative, grossly unethical tactics as setting them apart from Obama's campaign.
Fetishizing their specific technology will only promote its power. The point is how they
abused data (and people) for profit, the political impact of their campaign, and the
implications of rapid development in this area for the future for all our democracies.
CA played a fundamental role and helped the Trump campaign win the presidential
election, lift far-right views to heightened prominence, and give those views legitimacy.
Trump was aided by the Republican Party, and the blindness and complacency of elite
Democrats too distant to see the urgent need to address deepening inequality and
mount an effective response to mounting tensions. Democrats must recognize the need
to propose real solutions for inequality (Hacker & Pierson, 2016; Frank, 2016) — not
race for this new tech themselves.
Americans must strengthen regulatory and oversight systems from this experience to
ensure that their upcoming elections are transparent and ethically and democratically
deployed. We must prepare for a very different future and investigate further the
potential threat of commercial and political exploitation of our communication
environment and the emotions we reveal within it poses. Our data can reveal more
about us than we wish to think about; the potentials for harm in some capabilities cannot
be understated — machine learning can successfully identify markers of depression
from our Instagram photos for instance (Reece and Danforth, 2017) — as many declare
#metoo, post-Weinstein, it is not unlikely that future campaigns could seek to combine
these and similar data to exploit psychological wounds and trigger emotional responses.
We've mostly heard about Trump and Cruz, but CA also did work for John Bolton and Ben Carson, and
The extent of CA's work in US
politics is unclear but I asked Brittany Kaiser:
EB: How many did you work on in total then, with the small races?
BK: Oh my God, I can't - It's hard to even say, to be honest because, I mean I must have pitched ...hundreds of campaigns. The amount that we actually ended up working on is kind of hard to tell because sometimes when we would work for like a, a super pac or a state GOP, where technically our data and our work was going into like, you know, all of the campaigns in the state, but we weren't actually individually working for all those campaigns. You're just supporting them with our data, our models our creative strategy. So it's kind of difficult to measure individual clients versus the actual races that we were supporting in that kind of way. (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
CAs research then informed the Trump campaign: “We basically built and experimented on so many different things because we had [...] the, the caucuses and state by state primaries [...] allowed us to really zone in on, [...] all of these different states and undertake very state specific research... and really have a good understanding of the different audiences and every state for those primaries. So I think it prepared us really well for him hitting the ground running in the Trump campaign.” (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
In December 2017 A
Sam Patten told me he worked for CA on three races in Oregon, part
of a ‘trial run’ they did of several other campaigns before working for Cruz and Trump
(Interview: Patten/Briant, 23rd July 2017). He said matter-of-factly, “I’ve worked for
Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and our system, isn’t very
different” (Interview: Patten/Briant, 23rd July 2017).
lexander Nix stated that CA was moving away from US politics.
Yet, Molly Schweikert, global head of digital at CA, told me shortly before the
statements that CA still had current US political campaigns, it is unlikely they would
abandon existing commitments: “We have some engagements that we’re currently
working with, they’re current so I can’t speak directly to them...” (Interview:
Schweikert/Briant 17th November 2017).
The US and other democracies must urgently demand stronger protections for how data
is used. Modern data-driven propaganda is evolving rapidly and poses a real threat in
the hands of those who aim to exploit the vulnerable or crush their voices, while they
climb to power and wealth by deeply unethical means.
Briant, Emma L (2015) Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Hacker, J & Pierson, P (2016) American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper. Simon and Schuster.
Frank, Thomas. (2016) Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the
People? Metropolitan Books.
Part 2: Cambridge Analytica: Backbone of Brexit
By Emma L. Briant, University of Essex
See also my previous essay Cambridge Analytica, the Artificial Enemy and Trump's 'Big Lie' that exposes the cynical deployment of a racist and Islamophobic strategy by then Candidate Donald Trump and Cambridge Analytica (CA), the Mercer-funded digital operation, and how it helped manipulate fear through smearing innocent people in order to seize his presidency.
This essay focuses on Cambridge Analytica’s relationship to Brexit, specifically Leave.EU. My findings reveal that Leave.EU deployed its cynical and calculating strategies using borrowed methods of Cambridge Analytica (CA), to win at all costs despite violence unfolding before their eyes. Leave.EU sought to create an impression of ‘democracy’ and a campaign channeling public will, while creating deliberately ‘provocative’ communications to subvert it and win by channelling hateful propaganda.
I conducted interviews with key leaders and employees of CA and Leave.EU in 2017 and 2018 as part of my primary research as an academic with specialism in research on migration and media narratives (See my co-authored book Bad News for Refugees). Findings of my interviews confirm that work was performed by CA for Leave.EU, and while the interviews were inconsistent on how far CA was involved in Leave.EU, they are illuminating in the light of questions raised by ongoing investigations of both.
2. Did CA work on any of the Leave.EU campaign data and were CA methods used
(even if this was prior to the campaign)? 3.
Cambridge Analytica’s level of Involvement:
I interviewed Gerry Gunster, an American strategist who worked for Leave.EU, and questioned him on CA’s involvement and role with Leave.EU as follows:
GG: 'And then Cambridge Analytica, although they were involved early on, they they sort of gave a bit of a backbone on how to do behavioral targeting and micro-targeting... um, they didn’t actually do the execution, though, that was done...'
EB: So they didn’t do this like psychographic stuff that keeps being claimed?
Some of the key questions regarding CA’s relationship with Leave.EU that I explored in
my research interviews included:
What was CA's level of involvement in the Leave.EU campaign?
What data was used in the Leave.EU campaign and how?
4. What parallels or cooperation existed with the Trump Campaign?
5. What methods were deployed in the Leave.EU campaign, how and by whom?

GG: 'No. They did not, no. I mean, they provided some backbone for how to do it and then a lot of it was just kind of handed over to the campaign staff.' (Interview: Gunster/Briant, 4th October 2017).
EB: You know, um, who was coming up with the actual messaging? Was that Cambridge Analytica?
GG: 'That was all of us.'
EB: That was all of you all together.
GG: 'That was us. That was me working with Aaron [Banks] and Andy [Wigmore] and everybody coming up with the messaging. I mean, Cambridge Analytica - They're nothing more than analytics. They're not messaging people... They're not campaign managers.'
EB: Yeah. Okay. I guess so. I guess so. So they just figure out the response. What did you call it?
GG: 'Yeh...behavioral targeting. And the optimization.'
(Interview: Gunster/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Gunster’s interview suggests that CA may have provided Leave.EU modelling or strategies they used to deploy the algorithms but did not participate in developing the messages used in the Leave.EU campaign. Gunster directed me to talk to Andy Wigmore the Communications Director for Leave.EU. and/or Arron Banks co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign.
I interviewed Andy Wigmore with Leave.EU in October 2017, and he shared, 'they [Cambridge Analytica] didn’t give us a little box of toys and say, there you are, have a go. They just said look, if-- you gotta prepare for this because if we come in, this is what we need and what we want -- we want to do it' (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Gunster confirms that CA provided Leave.EU with a 'backbone' and if this involved
communicating ‘how to do it’ as Gunster says, CA gave instruction on behavioural
targeting and micro-targeting, but he did not firmly say how Leave.EU actually used the
methods, and could not comment on whether this guided their messaging. Gunster,
later hints at the kinds of activities CA may have provided including analytics,
behavioural targeting and optimization:
Wigmore’s statements regarding CA have been inconsistent in public and within in his
interview with me. At times, he claimed their product wasn't very good, played down its
significance to Leave.EU (they 'weren't necessary, almost') and
yet praised them
had an incredibly clever product') but he said that their methods for targeting were
useful to Leave.EU. On two different occasions Wigmore stressed that they copied CA:
'if we got designated then yes they would have been but what we - they did tell us they were going to do was, probably yes - it probably was useful because we copied it. We didn't use them because we couldn’t and they didn’t - believe me they’re commercial. They wouldn’t do nothing for nothing, it would’ve cost us about six million quid if we was to hire them...' (Interview: Wigmore, 4th October 2017).
Wigmore also explains how they [Leave.EU] used CA’s method and how it was put into play by Arron Banks’ company, Eldon Insurance, actuaries directing the crucial CA inspired targeting for the campaign:
‘“So, some of the things they [Cambridge Analytica] did tell us, which were-- which were-- we did copy. And no question about that, is about, you know, these small clusters, this you need to find out in the - where these people are and what matters to them. And what we were able to deduce from that, and remember, um, ah, and as an insurance company you have actuaries that work for you. Actuaries are brilliant, they’re mathematicians. So if you give them a problem and you say right we want to look, here’s, here’s some stuff. What do you think of the probabilities. They will-- came up with the probabilities of the areas that were most concerned about the EU and we got that from our own actuaries. We had - we have four actuaries which we said right, tell us what this looks like from our data and they’re the ones that pinpointed the twelve areas in the United Kingdom that we needed to send Nigel Farage to.’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
CA’s contribution to data use and campaign methods used by Leave.EU
Brittany Kaiser did the pitch for Leave.EU; in an American example, she told me the process for pitching involved examining data, telling them where they need to focus and that it included producing a plan:
‘it would be more like working with the heads of the Superpac to understand what data they had access to, what they wanted to achieve, what, what states [...] they thought they were going to concentrate on and if they didn't know, then we could look at our data and tell them where they needed to concentrate, know where, where their funding sources coming in and they're like, what was the budget that we would be able to- to use for digital, tv or whatever it was going to be. Then you could say, you know, based off of your internal capacity and the funding sources that you have in the data you already have access to, these are how many, you know, members of my team, you're going to need [...] this is how much you're going to spend on analytics on digital on television based on the budget you have. It's kind of like building out the plan so that you can write the proposal and contract and get a job.' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018 -
emphasis added). She said, ' I mean I was involved in that for, for almost everything we did besides Cruz' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
Kaiser expressed to me that CA promotes itself as a “data-driven” company using data that they collect to understand, model and change the behaviour of an audience; they certainly do ‘do messaging.’ In discussing the U.S., Brittany Kaiser told me 'the whole point of all of our research was to really seek to produce sets of models that could inform what you needed to say to people' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
When a company demonstrates these kinds of campaign tools work and how effective their
campaign would be, they have to do this by actually analysing data and building models. T
es states that while they did not get paid to work on the Leave.EU campaign, CA demonstrated their
method for them, and he shared that they 'had to do the work' and were 'fully engaged' before Leave.EU lost the official designation:
NO: There were two campaigns... there were four campaigns, two for the ‘for’... and two for ‘against’... and they had to fight internally to see who gets the money. And they were given equal money to try and make it as fair as possible. We were with the campaign that lost - that’s all it was. So we were fully engaged. And if we were going to work on it we would’ve worked on it and been paid by that campaign and that was all lined up and whatever but the truth was we lost. And we were not on the winning bid. So there was no contract and no money...
EB: Yeh, but there was also preparatory work I think... NO: But that’s not work...
EB: I was told that you guys did analytics...
Though Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU continued to deny they worked together,
Kaiser has now publicly spoken out saying that their claims of no work being done are
not true.
The Leave.EU 'backbone' on how to target may have come from proof of method work
they did for the Leave.EU team before they lost the official designation bid.
hey would need to use data from that country - otherwise it may work in
another country with a very different population but be entirely culturally inappropriate
and ineffective for the new audience. Methods cannot be proven any other way.
I interviewed Nigel Oakes, the CEO of SCL Group (CA is part of the SCL Group, a
conglomerate of companies), and asked about CA’s role in Brexit. In particular, I
explored this question of preparatory work done involving Leave.EU's data while CA
was competing for the contract. In the exchange detailed below Oak
NO: What we did was we had to prove to the team, our bidding team... and we had to do the work so that our bidding team could present and to show that the quality of what they then had got.
EB: You had to prove your method...
NO: Yes. But there was no work that was done... so when Alexander Nix says we did not work on the campaign it’s absolutely the truth. There was no work we done on the cam- because none of this group [Vote Leave] used anything from the lost bid work...They didn’t say can we take all the work that you’ve done...and use it themselves because they hated each other. So... the press twist these things round into the most extraordinary machinations. (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
Here Oakes completely avoids the question of whether Leave.EU used the lost bid work,
'Importantly, CA have a relationship to the Canadian company who assisted Vote Leave, Aggregate IQ, coordination between the campaigns is prohibited. Andy Wigmore, interestingly referred to AIQ in interview as ‘SCL Canada’, a nod to that link (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 4th October 2017). Work conducted on the data, even if before the campaign, might conflict with campaign funding restrictions in the UK, and should have been declared. It might also be problematic if the work were funded by foreign donor, such as the Mercers who fund Cambridge Analytica. Also, given that they had done the proof of method for Leave.EU, it would be interesting to confirm whether they used their analytics and what data was worked on to give the campaign its 'backbone' as per Gunster's comments.
Recently, Wigmore has openly admitted that Cambridge Analytica offered to break the law for them “...they said look, you give us a million pounds and we'll get this campaign going and it will generate you six million pounds. So that was the scenario they suggested...they were convinced you could do it. But it was clearly illegal. Not only our lawyers said it but when the rules came out you could see you couldn't accept foreign donations. So we dismissed it.” In the same interview “Wigmore” gives contrasting explanations for why “Leave.EU” chose to send Nigel Farage where they did, and he doesn’t admit they copied CA. When J. J. Patrick asked him about the parallels between the Leave.EU approach and the CA methods, he sought to present himself as ‘naive’ - something he is not, having met him - ‘I pointed out this is exactly the same method Nix employs. “It is. But we found out by accident," Wigmore said.
CA's algorithms and modelling, for their media campaign. He corrects himself
mid-sentence and specifies that the campaign who got the official designation, Vote
Leave, hated and so did not use CA's modelling, but does not say if
used it which would be more logical if the models were developed for them.
Following The Trump Doctrine
It is clear that Leave.EU and the Trump campaigns deployed parallel strategies; with centrality of Facebook for Leave.EU and Twitter for Trump and obvious ideological parallels. Trump channelled resentment and fear on immigrant scapegoats as 'Drug dealers, criminals, rapists' and leveraged a Muslim ‘artificial enemy’ (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017 - this interview excerpt has been published in parliamentary evidence) in a manner that SCL CEO Nigel Oakes compared coldly to Hitler's propaganda against Jews. Interestingly, Leave.EU's Communications Director Andy Wigmore also mentioned the Nazis, and how Goebbels' propaganda strategy has value in a ‘pure marketing sense’ - if you can forget about the horrible killing they did:
‘You’d’ve studied this, you know, the propaganda machine of the the Nazis for instance, if you take away all the hideous horror, all that kind of stuff, it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did. In its pure marketing sense you -oh ok! You can see the logic of how they presented things and the imagery, everything from that and think oh ok! And that is propaganda - ISIS... interestingly... uhhhh... (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017)
Wigmore continues, drawing a parallel to the Brexit campaign:
‘I know- and well you know this of course you do- but looking at that in hindsight now having been at the sharp end of this campaign you think Crikey, this is not new. And it’s using the tools you have at the time... I think 2016 was unique, I don’t think you could ever repeat it. And I don’t think you could repeat the techniques you used in 2016, it was of its time. Twitter and Facebook...’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
he only way we were going to get - make a noise, was to follow the Trump Doctrine which was, the more outrageous we are, the more attention we get and the more attention we get, the more outrageous we’ll be. And that’s exactly what we did. So our tiles were provocative and they were designed to be provocative and they got the attention. The amount of bollockings that we got.
EB: So you were copying Trump campaign?
AW: Completely, completely, completely. (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Although Trump’s campaign concluded after the Brexit vote, Andy Wigmore told me that
as the Leave.UK campaign progressed they were copying the Trump campaign’s
strategy to drive publicity by being provocative, a strategy that emerged in the U.S. as
the ‘Trump Doctrine.’ :
Andy Wigmore explained that the Leave.EU team could see their strategy was having a negative impact and 'created a wave of hatred and um, racism and all this right movement, empowering all those things', then Jo Cox MP was stabbed by a Britain First terrorist. He saw it as paralleled by the spread of emboldened racism in the US:
AW: So [Nigel Farage] said, Right, if we keep immigration at the top of the debate, his “instinct said we would win. And the reason why we polled so much because we were so unsure constantly if we were doing the right thing, particularly when you have horrific incidents like Jo Cox. And you think wahhh that’s too much. And then the blame from the media: immigration, you’ve created a ... wave of hatred and um, racism and all this right movement, empowering -- all those things, which, you know, Trump’s experienced as well. We were very wahhh, maybe we have gone too far. (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017)
However, this question did not, for them, become a question of ethics and morality, personal responsibility, or indeed national security:
AW: 'The only thing we can do to test that is take a look how, what the reaction... The London here is a very different country to the rest of the country. So, out there in the places where, where, you know, people were- had different ...reasons to the London - the Jo Cox thing was sad, dreadful, but it didn’t change their views. There was no shift on the dial as they call it. [...] So everything was going well up to that point. Even Nigel thought that was it, we’ve lost. And, um. The breaking point poster which remember we cooked up, he put up. Again, everything we did was tested.' (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Wigmore’s response echoes Oakes’ focus on levers of power, having ‘the balls’ to do what would win at all costs. The impact in this case was evaluated only on whether it was affecting their popularity with their supporters and whether the message was ‘working’ with the audience they were seeking to sway . If it 'worked' in exciting supporters then they would continue, regardless of believing they were having a negative impact on the country's domestic security by emboldening racists and the far right and stirring up tensions. Importantly, the engineers and strategists who created both the Trump and Brexit campaign propaganda had designed the propaganda to engage very specific emotions, with the most provocative content and manipulative methods they could harness. They have then, an interest in making the emotions they created seem spontaneous and pre-existing in the population. An interest in deflecting away from the actions they took to create and excite those emotions to a level where suppressed racism and implicit bias turned into explicit and expressed racism and even violent actions. In this narrative which arose several times in interviews, the will of the people existed already, public desire was simply channelled... the brexiteers, and
indeed Trump just gave voters what they already wanted. This framing allows them to create and reinforce despite their manipulative methods, the illusion of consent, and a fairly won campaign embodying democratic will.
Part 3: Cashing in on Dirty Tricks: Leave.EU, and SCL Group
By Emma L. Briant, University of Essex
See also my previous two essays. The first, Cambridge Analytica, the Artificial Enemy and Trump's 'Big Lie' exposes the cynical deployment of a racist and Islamophobic strategy by then Candidate Donald Trump and the Mercer-funded digital operation by Cambridge Analytica who helped to knowingly smear innocent people in order to seize his presidency at all costs; and the second, Cambridge Analytica: Backbone of Brexit, focuses on Cambridge Analytica’s relationship to Leave.EU during the ‘brexit’ campaign.
In this third essay I examine findings revealing the relationship between the companies,
examine business tactics for boosting profits across the linked SCL Group businesses,
illuminating a network of companies who promoted their campaigns in the West, while
hiding the unethical business deals in the developing world that this reputation helped
secure, all to drive up profits across the SCL Group. I also look at how Leave.EU, who
borrowed from Cambridge Analytica’s methodology then exploited the ‘Brexit’ campaign
Artificial Intelligence methods for profit in the Insurance Industry. I then look at the future
of influence and behavioural change; a propaganda industry few knew existed which is
flourishing and profiting from conflicts and corruption worldwide.
From Brexit there was money to be made, directly and indirectly. The Leave.EU
campaign was bankrolled by wealthy investors who tried to profit from Britain's post-
Referendum decline and instability. Among these Arron Banks shot onto the Rich-List
in 2017, with estimated £250M net worth thanks to his company Eldon Insurance
recording £16.7million underlying profits in the first six months of 2017. What Banks
used to propel himself there was the Artificial Intelligence techniques they developed
during the Brexit propaganda campaign. Importantly, Andy Wigmore
stated if they had won the designation, ‘we
would’ve been given data, not by Cambridge Analytica, by the Government, electoral
roll data which you can then use [...] Because Cambridge Analytica artificial intelligence
requires data - if you don’t have it, you can’t do it. So if we’d won the designation we
would have absolutely used them. But because um... we didn’t, we didn’t.’ - this implied
that they couldn’t do CA’s artificial intelligence because they didn’t have enough data
(Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017). Applied to insurance risk Banks has said
AI developed during the Leave.EU campaign meant they could 'profile the people we
want, and also the people we don't want.'
, former
Communications Director of Leave.EU,
Wigmore, having said they couldn’t do CA’s AI method as they didn’t have the data, excitedly explained to me how they developed
AI and used it for profit.
In Part 2 I explained that Leave.EU had Eldon Insurance employees deploy what they
learned from Cambridge Analytica (CA), four actuaries, two marketers and a graphics
team running (and learning from) the campaign all out of the same address, Lysander
House in Bristol, Leave.EU audited everything to then learn from it (Interview:
Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017). I was given evidence that revealed how little effort
was made to distinguish Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU. T
using Leave.EU’s data to illustrate how their insurance can profit
from the racially charged digital communication strategy of the Leave.EU campaign.
Another document shows how they used Leave.EU’s outputs for Eldon’s own purposes;
even the branding is identical (see second document).
‘profitability overview’
October 2017)
It raises the question of how they were able to apply the algorithms from their Leave.EU data --
which Wigmore claimed was quite limited (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017) -- and apply this to their insurance data. It begs the question of whether they used the Eldon Insurance data for Leave.EU?
his document shows a
Wigmore told me ‘the referendum’s just finished. What we discovered, we were actually
quite bloody good at artificial intelligence. And we’ve applied what we learned in the
referendum to our business model for insurance. [...] So we’ve started an operation in
Ole Miss University in Mississippi which is the centre for artificial intelligence in the
world’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017). Eldon’s AI methods apparently
were developed from what they did on the Leave.EU campaign but it is hard to imagine
how they would do this without using the same data (
He explained, ‘So you have a lot of data when you’re an insurer. And
that data is, it’s, there’s layers and layers and layers. You know, you have, [...] lifestyle
data, of course you do. You have, um, credit check data which of course you do. All
that data you put that together, the way you can actually then make risk against an
individual is incredibly strong.’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th
Wigmore shared that he had been working on this new venture for some time with a
data scientist in Mississippi, and eagerly told how powerful and lucrative it was: ‘So that
in artificial intelligence terms is the holy grail in insurance. So that was a byproduct of
what we discovered, brilliantly. And that’s all about data. That is all about data. So um,
that was - that was the upshot. So we’ve set this up in Mississippi. It’s been going for
nine months, we’ve been testing for twelve months now, testing all the insurance
against it and it’s extraordinary.’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October 2017).
Wigmore shared that the profits from applying the AI modelling drawn from their EU
Referendum experimentation was huge ‘Massive. Massive. Our loss ratios have
dropped by about 13 - 14%. And in - in insurance terms that’s millions of pounds.
Millions. Because what happens, for every pound of insurance you give someone, you
have to put two pounds into like an escrow account to cover just in case that person
ever makes a claim. It’s called solvency. Very dull, very boring. But, so if you imagine
now actually I only need to put a pound in against two pounds because we’re confident
that person isn’t going to make a claim...’ (Interview: Wigmore/Briant, 4th October
2017). Use of data and the relationship to UKIP, Eldon’s involvement in Banks'
investments in the campaign and 'dark money', possibly from Russia are all under
investigation by the Electoral Commission.
As I detailed in Part 2 “Cambridge Analytica: Backbone of Brexit”, these campaign methodologies were at least influenced in their targeting by what Leave.EU learned from Cambridge Analytica before the campaign began. If, as they claim, they weren't paid for their work, what did Cambridge Analytica and SCL themselves get out of what seems a generous gift to the campaign? Often with groups of companies they absorb costs and losses from one company which will overall benefit the group. Brexit generated heightened brand recognition which was lucrative for CA and SCL Group overall. This was aided by the reputational boost by media attention which often focused on the tools and their effectiveness rather than the ethics and abuses of power. While they did do the preparatory work, and apparently Leave.EU did borrow or learn from this, Alexander Nix then exaggerated CA’s role in Brexit to drive up notoriety that helped drive business. Profits shot up between 2015 and 2016 for related companies invested in Cambridge Analytica. As Nigel Oakes stated 'Alexander Nix has one down side, which I don’t agree with [...] He believes that all press is good press. And if he can keep the journalists saying ‘did they, didn’t they?’' - the company remains in the news boosting their global status. He recognised this wasn't a safe strategy, 'Yeh, and instead of saying ‘we did not do brexit, we were on the losing side’ he goes ‘well you know we were flirting with them and...’ and then everybody gets more interested... And then of course, you then have the Trump card at the end, cause it goes... of course we didn’t work with them... but he’s got 6 months of press out of it. And this is what has encouraged people to still come to us. (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017 - this interview excerpt is now published as parliamentary evidence). According to Wigmore and Gunster’s accounts in Essay 2 of my series, Leave.EU staff actually use some of what they had been shown by CA. The
Driving Unethical Business Deals
Trump's campaign in June 2016 shortly before the UK referendum went to Leave. Nix
Mercers pulled CA in to work on
claimed recently at the Fake News Inquiry that “we don't involve ourselves in the UK as
a rule of thumb.” but Alex Tayler, CA’s Chief Data Officer and now acting CEO was
happy to confirm to me they were working in the UK, particularly in Commercial and had
plans to expand in Political (Interview: Alex Tayler/Briant, 3rd November 2018).
Who was Nix trying to attract with what seems like very negative press about their role
in Brexit? SCL Group, in which he is invested, have diversified their business with
many contracts under their defence, commercial and political arms, internationally. I
asked Oakes if the money had meant the company he started had been rebalanced
away from its roots in defence and towards commercial and political work and his
response confirmed '
But we shouldn't worry of course because Nix assures the Inquiry that 'we only
work in free and fair democracies'. This I found surprising, since Oakes mentioned to
me in one breath the advantages for defence, then next for political:
Yes, it has...' (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November
NO: ‘I’ve got a Swedish contingent, business unit coming on Tuesday. They’re bringing 37 representatives to come and talk to us about... well we just wouldn’t be on the radar if we hadn’t been in the thing.... And you can imagine on the politics side, when people say ‘oh well these guys they got some pretty unethical ways of achieving their result’, well for the average President, they go ‘well that’s what we need! We’re going to lose another election’. So, you know, we have to play a very delicate line as well. About - You know, people are coming to us are not ethical... they are not saying we want to do this in the most - you know, Kenyatta and whatever... he’s saying that - I mean frequently people come to us and say ‘we’ve got so many dirty tricks against us, we need to know the dirty tricks to go back. Or we need to know how to counter the dirty tricks. And you guys seem to know how to do it!’
EB: Well what’s being talked about will sell...
NO: Well exactly, I mean, no company’s whiter than white but...’ (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017 - this interview excerpt is now published as parliamentary evidence).
This shows how clearly the SCL/CA businesses, arrogantly risked deeper investigation to the feed each others' profits and expansion. Exag
statements about what they did were Nix's deliberate strategy to use CA to drive up
geration and inconsistent
revenue for CA and other apparently 'unrelated' companies across the SCL Group.
Brittany Kaiser claims to be committed to humanitarian concerns yet played a key role
in many of SCL’s unethical international political campaigns, she said 'I had been paying
attention very much to what they were building for the Cruz campaign. And I had to
learn about all of that data, all of that because it was part of when I would be presenting
to international clients that wanted us to work in, you know, Lithuania or Nigeria or
wherever it was' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018). Oakes' acknowledgement
that their campaign was deployed unethically in Kenya is of note considering Cambridge
Analytica have been accused of exploiting divisions in a sensitive election that was
marred by violence.
It is important to note Oakes' frequent and repeated use of ‘we’ to discuss apparently
separate people and SCL Group companies he and Nix are connected to including CA.
that high-profile political work does... us a lot of good in terms of generating commercial interests, so it all feeds into each other' (Interview: Taylor/Briant, 3rd November 2018). Tayler
‘Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change’ and I continue to write on this topic. Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI) is a research center of the SCL Group, Oakes serves as its Chairman and described its work as providing 'the magic'. BDI methods developed through work with academics and with DARPA, particularly during the Arab Spring 'we’ve been working with DARPA for some time because they like all of this fronted experimental stuff' and all SCL companies including CA draw on BDI for their methods (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017). Oakes told me that 'The BD methodology is now being taught right away across NATO. In fact, we’ve got a huge contract with what’s going on in Holland. [...] they’re literally setting up [...] commands to understand strategic communication and staffing them with people who understand social media and persuasion because in their view, this is going to be the new way of warfare [...] the Dutch and the Singaporeans are way ahead of everyone else on this' (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 3rd November 2018).
SCL were engaged in training for Britain’s 15th PSYOPS Group, and I submitted evidence also that prompts questions of whether work may have been done for JTRIG, Britain’s so-called digital ‘deception unit’.
Lee Rowland's specialism is the scientific advances in that area of influence, and on future directions he said that in, "20, 30 and 50 years’ time there's a lot we will be able to do ... this is where you should be looking, 2020 and 2030. Because some of the technology that's coming along is going to be incredible. You're going to be able to remotely derive and implement influence and behavioural campaigns... now I don't ethically approve of this, I just want to sketch out the possibilities... but... while I don't ethically approve of it... it IS going to happen... and we have seen some evidence of that with the recent Edward Snowden NSA case... What I'm writing about at the moment is the technological advances that are going to massively change the way that people are... influenced and the data we collect about people, often covertly." He clarified that he meant, "That you would be able to remotely... You must've heard of
Tayler said '
-- who also features in the Channel 4 expose film which led to
Nix stepping down -- has just stepped into Nix’s shoes as acting CEO.
I first interviewed Nigel Oakes and his colleagues about SCL’s defence work for my
Lee Rowland at the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI) in 2013 about counter-
For another upcoming publication I interviewed
brain imaging and ... fMRI and those kinds of technologies? Well they're developing new technologies now that mean you won't have to put people in huge scanners ... in order to measure changes in their brain. Now that's a long way off before they can do that with any degree of sophistication... or spatial or temporal resolution but it's not far off before they will be able to notice changes in people's brains remotely... It's very science fiction, but it's really happening. They are developing the technology to do this, and even if they're not developing the technology... for bad means... there's no bad or good technology per se, it's the way it could be used" (Interview: Lee Rowland/Briant, 5th July 2013). Rowland’s account illuminates developments he anticipates, with concern, in the rapidly developing field of influence, which have alarming potential for abuse in the wrong hands.
In the light of all of this there should be a transparent investigation to determine that SCL’s taxpayer funded defence work does not raise similar concerns to its international political work.
Relationship between SCL and Cambridge Analytica
In May 2017 journalists began to raise questions about whether CA might be deploying their experience and techniques that were developed through SCL’s work in military information operations in conflict zones within election campaigns. Carole Cadwalladr cited a former employee who discussed them using “‘the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.” That article was subject to legal challenges and Cambridge Analytica began to emphasise the ‘separateness’ of SCL as a company but CA’s website (CA, 2018) still states ‘The CA advantage’ that ‘We are the global leader in data-driven campaigning with over 25 years of experience, supporting more than 100 campaigns across five continents’. SCL Elections and CA, were both just established recently since 2013. Prior to that SCL was a military contractor only. Cambridge Analytica stresses that 25 years of experience (of SCL who worked on conflict propaganda during this time) is also CA’s experiential advantage. Kaiser commented that 'just because we've undertaken psychographic research and we created psychographic models in some of those models are variables in some of our other models. That doesn't mean that we're using weapons grade technology, we're just using really advanced science in order to understand how to talk to people.' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018).
CA draw on the same BDI methodological base and insights although their methods are
adapted to be effective in the context in which they are deployed, as in any campaign,
and CA adapted the methods more for social media to capitalise within a U.S. political
market, and then SCL sold them back to the world.
Oakes spoke of Nix like a close business partner, Oakes leads on the defence work, Nix
on elections, despite stressing separateness there is much discussion, as between any
business partners. SCL have worked as a contractor both for the U.K. and U.S.
Governments including counter-terrorism work, which they are currently doing for the
State Department (Briant, 2015; Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
British and American taxpayers have helped make SCL rich, our political representatives should, be aware how deeply unethical this company is, how they are seeking out shady business building their reputation for ‘dirty tricks’.
Asked about his
relationship to CA, Oakes said he had worked on elections 'in the past. I set up the
company [Cambridge Analytica] but now, I'm totally defence and I've gotta be totally
defence'. He said, 'the defence people can't be seen to be getting involved in politics,
and the State Department, they get very upset-' so Oakes stated that they imposed
'strong lines' between the companies (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November
2017). Certainly there is 'siloing' where some staff within the companies seem genuinely
unaware of what other parts of the company, or group, are doing. It is a large network
and they are sometimes just focused on fulfilling their own role within it.
Brittany Kaiser's account of her work at CA however, conveyed ease of drift between
working in international politics and defence then U.S. politics. As a Democrat, Kaiser
initially was reluctant to get involved in Republican politics but told Nix, '
as she liked in the African business deals probably due to all the shady practises
exposed by Channel 4 on 19th March 2018, including Nix securing the deal by offering
Yet Kaiser was unable to go as far
to supply prostitutes for blackmail. She
I'd love to work
between your international elections and defense.'
started 'working on, you know, elections in Africa and Eastern Europe and working on winning that business and helping manage
that business' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018) and apparently this has included bringing in hackers to supply personal emails. After six months Kaiser asked Nix if she could move into working on US Republican campaigns, and cited limitations on how involved she could be in the African deals: as a '26 year old like young American girl. I'm going in and pitching like African billionaires [...] there's only so far that I'm going to get without having to call you [Nix] to fly in [to] close the deal or something because they're going to need to see older man in some of these countries.' (Interview: Kaiser/Briant, 4th March 2018). It makes sense that knowledge of the most unethical or controversial practises would be on a need-to-know basis, it is unclear how much she knew.
Some of the people they hire do not seem to care about ethics or legality, this isn't even contemplated in the following example where Sam Patten told me in 2017 about a recent opportunity working for SCL:
SP: ‘when they contacted me they said they had a short fuse sort of thing in
Kosovo, and they didn’t really get into details and they said could you be ready
one day if this happens? I said yes without even... I assumed it was the dirty
bad guys, the mafia guys? You know, the gangsters?’
EB: ‘Yeh’
SP: ‘Well the Clinton’s have had those for years. Kosovo is the last country on
earth that still believes it owes its existence to the Clintons. Therefore, as
everyone gets tired of all these [unclear] and CGI people and Noone’s hiring
them anymore... at least the gangsters in Kosovo will still continue to. Because
they have a statue of the guy. They believe that the Clintons created their
EB: ‘Wow.’
SP: ‘Anyway, the irony was... because it was SCL I assumed it was the bad
guys, but it wasn’t! It was the old liberal professors who were the clients. So... it
was an interesting, yeah, one of these three week campaigns.’ (Interview: Sam
Patten/Briant, 23rd July 2017).
Behavioural Integration and the U.S. Election
So how close are SCL and Cambridge Analytica? Oakes also told me that 'the two companies [Cambridge Analytica and SCL] at one stage sort of literally went apart...'
EB: And they came back together?
NO: ‘Yes, exactly. It was a sort of personality clash, not necessarily of personality but of corporate personalities.’
EB: The method as well? Could you tell me a bit about that.
NO: ‘Yes, it’s it’s that... it’s very simple. It’s that, Alexander Nix said the future of behavioral changes is going to be in big data. So big data is going to be used to predict things and whatever. And I said No, the future of behavioral change is going to be in basically Humint.'
Oakes told me how the U.S. election 'is the way the companies came back together again because it does have to be both. You have to have the human element and you have to have the big data element. You got to merge them so this is what we now have. We now have behavioral integration. So we’ve got the big data, so we got 5,000 data points on every American or whatever, which is very very cold and [that includes data like] how old they are, how many children they have, not very impressive data, but once you start adding in the profiles, the behavioral stuff, the models of what these people are likely to do if you segment them in this way, you now start getting into something that’s very very powerful and this is now what we’re doing so so I think Alexander Nix is right. It is big data, but we were also right. It is Humint, so we don’t-- it’s not like we have to fight about it anymore.' (Interview: Oakes/Briant, 4th March 2018). It is interesting he refers to 'Humint' Human Intelligence, a defence and
intelligence term, he’s using in relation to political campaigns. Oakes and Nix are close business partners, Oakes stressed his closeness to Nix and importance in the intellectual work on which CA rely:
NO: ‘where Alexander Nix has been very clever. [...] He’s turned it into a very successful commercial entity... Whereas he would say exactly the same about me... he’d say I’m too academic ... and the analogy in a tiny, tiny, lot more arrogant scale is that... if he’s the Steve Jobs, I’m the Steve Wozniak. I’m sort of the guy who wants to get the engineering right and he’s the guy who wants to sell the flashy box. And he’s very good at it. And I admire him enormously for doing it. But I’m the guy who say, yeh, but without this you couldn’t do any of that!' (Interview: Nigel Oakes/Briant, 24th November 2017).
The Future of Influence?
It seems the ‘flashy box’ that Nix is selling, is fashioned from the exploitation of vulnerable Eastern European prostitutes (see the explosive Channel 4 reporting, the smearing of a Muslim ‘Artificial Enemy’ in Part 1, invasive psychological profiling of US citizens, and Brexit’s plunder of British democracy in Part 2). If we lose the EU, Britain may become more dependent on other markets. CA and SCL Group are one high profile case but this exposes what seems to be an industry flourishing off the spoils of conflicts and corruption worldwide . As Britain’s outrage is rightly ignited, we make calls for our political representatives to act to protect our democracies. But we must recall also these industries’ most vulnerable victims. It is Britain’s shame that these industries have been allowed to grow fat off ‘approved’ Western conflicts tearing the developing world apart, then still fatter off feeding Western addiction to consumerist distractions, and again still fatter off Western political elites’ artificial enemies – so as we seek our own protections we must not ignore the deeply unethical and deeply unequal impacts of the global propaganda industry’s expansion. When we sure up our domestic systems, an inquiry must properly consider how to stop them returning to gorging themselves on the spoils of human suffering abroad, Nix and others like him cannot be permitted to continue selling their 'flashy' pandora's box in which human rights abusers can hide their own, and British, and America’s shame.
Sadly, new GDPR ‘transparency’ and data protection legislation provides no
reassurance - CA’s Chief Data Officer Alex Tayler said Facebook was the last big
opportunity, next it was GDPR legislation being rolled out to ‘protect’ us: '15 years ago,
who would’ve thought that Facebook was going to be such a powerful tool for
advertising and communicating with such incredibly personalized way? [...] coming up--
the big opportunities that we see [...] the first is [...] what we’d call, data portability or
data sovereignty. I don’t know if you’re familiar with GDPR?' (Interview: Alex
Tayler/Briant, 3rd November 2018). He told me 'it's a huge opportunity' CA are looking
forward to taking advantage of GDPR which they see as making things easier for them
to deploy their method in Europe where legally access to data is currently more limited
than the US (Interview: Tayler/Briant, 3rd November 2017).
GDPR will allow companies to take advantage of ordinary people's data naiveté. It places responsibility at the consumer level of choice, allowing companies like CA to financially incentivise consent for sharing and use of data - which explains their expansion into crypto-currencies and blockchain (Interview: Tayler/Briant, 3rd November 2017). It is not only CA. Others will do the same. A likely consequence we must act now to prevent is the spiralling competition between companies’ efforts to ‘out- do’ each other’s manipulative methods and find loopholes to exploit our data, which are becoming more accessible and vulnerable, as the battle for our minds becomes more desperate. Just as for governments 'every act of transparency is actually an act of concealment meant to obscure' mass accumulation and concealment of information, private companies learn to hide behind the belief in greater transparency and privacy while seeking to profit from extensive hoarding of data and people's ignorance of what is being given up. Anyone worried about their Facebook data can check out this useful article from the Guardian on how to secure themselves. The investigations that are ongoing, by for example the Electoral Commission and ICO, each respond to specific questions that fall within those specific bodies' remit, they are under-resourced and better coordination is needed to come close to grappling with the subterranean corruption of the brexit campaign. Given the complexity, international dimensions, and far reaching implications for the future of Britain, a proper investigation requires resources and reach - the British public must demand an official Inquiry into Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s use of data as well as what appears to be grossly unethical, corrupt and apparently illegal practises during the EU Referendum, which appear to have severely compromised British democracy and could be repeated if we do not act now.
Briant, Emma L (2015) Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change, Manchester: Manchester University Press. ... Essays.pdf
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon May 07, 2018 2:51 pm

Sarah Sanders does not deny a White House role in hiring Black Cube to snoop into Obama administration officials involved in the Iran deal: "I'm not aware of anything on that front. If something comes up we'll let you guys know."

A disgusting Trump-Harvey Weinstein connection just surged into the national spotlight (UPDATED)

By Grant Stern May 6, 2018

President Trump’s malicious sneak attack on high-ranking former public servants in the Obama Administration just got linked to the same Israeli private intelligence company that Harvey Weinstein used to suppress the stories of his female victims. UPDATE: A new report has emerged that both top former Obama Administration officials wives were targeted by private Israeli intelligence operatives.

Donald Trump apparently hired Black Cube, a private intelligence company founded by former officers in Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, to go after former Obama deputy assistant Colin Kahl – who also served as National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

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Last night, Kahl penned an indignant tweetstorm (see below) about Trump’s evil attempt to incriminate him by having spies email his wife using a false identity in order to seek an in-person meeting.

In a sloppy piece of tradecraft, Black Cube apparently re-used the same London-based front company named Reuben Capital Partners to contact Kahl’s wife seeking compromising information, which they also used to target Harvey Weinstein’s victims. The Al-Monitor‘s Laura Rozen reports:

Black Cube denied being involved in Trump’s clandestine operations against the former Obama officials, but Colin Kahl – who just published a major Washington Post op-ed about the Iran deal – is not buying the denials.

Harvey Weinstein hired Black Cube in a desperate attempt to stop publication of Ronan Farrow’s stories in the New Yorker and the New York Times – which obviously, failed – leading to the rise of the #MeToo movement and Pulitzer prizes for the aforementioned newsrooms.

Shockingly, Weinstein’s spies from the firm continued to contact one of his victims, prominent actress Rose McGowan, even after the story of her harassment came to light.

Eventually, even the intelligence company found a guilty conscience over taking a job supporting a serial sex predator and issued a (likely rare) public apology.

Ben Rhodes was President Obama’s speechwriter from the time he was still the junior Senator from Illinois until he left the White House last year.

Now, Ronan Farrow has just reported for the New Yorker that Rhodes’ wife was also targeted by Black Cube:

In June, 2017, Ann Norris, a former State Department official, received an e-mail containing an unusual proposal. Norris is married to Ben Rhodes, a former foreign-policy adviser to President Obama and a prominent advocate of the Iran nuclear deal.

In the e-mail, a woman who introduced herself as Eva Novak and claimed to work for a London-based film company called Shell Productions asked Norris to consult on a movie that she described as “ ‘All the President’s’ Men meets ‘The West Wing’ ”: it would follow the personal lives of “government officials in the positions that determine war and Peace” during times of geopolitical crisis, including “nuclear negotiations with a hostile nation.” Recalling the exchange, Ann Norris said that she found Eva Novak’s request “bizarre,” and that she “never responded.”

Rightfully, Ben Rhodes was infuriated by Trump’s unforgivable attack on him for being a public servant and spoke out on Twitter today.

If all of that wasn’t troubling enough, Black Cube has also been linked to Trump’s former election data firm, Cambridge Analytica, which is crumbling under a pile of trans-Atlantic investigations and potential criminal charges.

Whistleblower data scientist Chris Wylie told the UK’s Parliament that Black Cube was hired by the GOP megadonor and Trump backing Mercer family’s firm to hack into computers used by Nigeria’s President to sway an election.

We already know that Trump’s data firm Cambridge Analytica ignored legitimate legal advice to prevent the illegal use of foreign workers in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

President Trump has no business hiring foreign companies to fight American political battles, and if he’s using political money from his 2020 campaign account, then hiring Black Cube would also violate federal election law.

But Trump’s willingness to hire a company that would seek clandestine personal contact with Colin Kahl’s wife just to pump her for compromising information on her husband represents a new low bar that even the President might not be able to limbo underneath in the future.

There is literally no circumstance under which it is acceptable for an American president to hire a shady foreign intelligence company to discredit high-ranking officials in his predecessor’s administration.

Read Colin Kahl’s complete thread about Trump’s sneak attack on his wife here: ... spotlight/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon May 07, 2018 6:20 pm

Reports: Intel Firm Was Hired To Discredit Former Obama Iran Deal Negotiators

May 7, 20185:07 PM ET

An Israeli intelligence firm was reportedly hired last year to compile background dossiers on several former Obama administration officials, including Colin Kahl, seen here in 2012.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
An Israeli intelligence firm was hired last year to do "dirty ops" research on former Obama administration officials who worked on the Iran nuclear deal, according to reports in the U.K.'s Observer and The New Yorker.

The firm is Black Cube, according to The New Yorker: the same company reportedly hired by Harvey Weinstein in 2016 to investigate the women and journalists he thought might come forward with allegations against him. Black Cube touts that the company is run by "a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units."

Report: Weinstein Hired Agents To Investigate And Suppress Accusations Against Him

Report: Weinstein Hired Agents To Investigate And Suppress Accusations Against Him
The reports differ on who hired Black Cube.

The Observer reports that an Israeli intelligence firm was hired by aides to President Trump, "who contacted private investigators in May last year to 'get dirt' on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama's top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal."

Sources told the Observer that Trump's team had contacted the firm just days after he visited Israel last May. "The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it," a source told the newspaper.

A Black Cube spokesman told NPR that the firm was never hired by anyone within the Trump administration and said Black Cube's clients have business rather than political interests. But the company would neither confirm nor deny that a business client had hired the firm to do the work described in the New Yorker and Observer reports.

The White House did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

In the New Yorker, Ronan Farrow writes that a source told him "it was, in fact, part of Black Cube's work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran."

The documents he reviewed, Farrow says,

"show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars. Black Cube agents were instructed to try to find damaging information about them, including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked closely with Iran lobbyists and were personally enriched through their policy work on Iran (they denied those claims); rumors that Rhodes was one of the Obama staffers responsible for "unmasking" Trump transition officials who were named in intelligence documents (Rhodes denied the claim); and an allegation that one of the individuals targeted by the campaign had an affair.
The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall. One of Weinstein's attorneys, David Boies, hired Black Cube to halt the publication of sexual-misconduct allegations against Weinstein. Black Cube operatives used false identities to track women with allegations, and also reporters seeking to expose the story."
Kahl tells NPR that he first heard he had been a target of the firm's smear campaign about a week ago, "when reporters who were working on the story for The Observer and Guardian just sent me an email out of the blue, saying that in the course of their previous investigation on Cambridge Analytica, they had uncovered information suggesting that Ben Rhodes and I had been targeted by some firm. ... They asked if I had any information about it or ever heard about it, and I hadn't."

After reading the Observer story on Saturday, Kahl's wife remembered suspicious emails she had received in late May or early June last year, from someone who claimed to be with a finance company in the U.K. and wanted information about the Washington, D.C., school their daughter attended.

After a conversation with Farrow on Sunday, "it became clear that the fake company that had reached out to my wife was actually the same fake company that this Israeli firm, Black Cube, had used to try to discredit some of the accusers of Harvey Weinstein," Kahl says.

Farrow tells NPR that when he was reporting on the allegations against Weinstein, agents using false identities reached out to him, too, at Weinstein's behest — "in some cases using the same front companies used in the Iran operation."

Kahl, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, called the targeting "outrageous."

"There's the outrage that anybody would target former government officials and try to dig up dirt on them in their personal capacity to try to discredit the policy positions they had in government — that's just that just awful, period. It's especially awful that they not only went after me, but that they went after my family," he says. "So it's just creepy on a bunch of levels. And then you know even the mere possibility that it might somehow be tied to the current administration, of course, takes it to a stratospheric level of authoritarian creepiness."

Kahl says he doesn't know who hired Black Cube or why he and Rhodes were its targets. But he notes that during the same period when the firm was reportedly hired, he and Rhodes were repeatedly the subject of attacks by senior Trump aides.

Last May, former White House aide Sebastian Gorka referred on Fox News to "the Ben Rhodes/Colin Kahl nexus." A month later, a senior Trump official told The Washington Free Beacon that Rhodes and Kahl "provide marching orders to a broader group of people that are associated with the broader [Democratic Party] Podesta-Clinton network."

And Kahl notes one thing that makes him an odd target for spies: He is no longer working in government.

"I mean it happens in the intel world," he says. "Intelligence communities spy on foreign officials. It's, I think, rarer for them to spy on former government officials. And so one of the weird things about this is not that there would be intelligence collected on officials of the Obama administration, but why that intelligence would be collected on them after we left the Obama administration." ... egotiators

Colin Kahl

Who hired the Israeli black ops firm to dig up dirt on me and @brhodes (via our families) to discredit the Iran nuclear deal?
@julianborger says it was the Trump camp ... clear-deal
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Tue May 08, 2018 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon May 07, 2018 9:25 pm

Caroline O.

The Israeli intel firm that the Trump admin. hired to "dig up dirt" on Obama admin. officials to undermine the Iran nuclear deal is called Black Cube.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower @chrisinsilico testified that CA hired Black Cube to hack Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari.


Black Cube denies that it engaged in any work in Nigeria.

But: In 2016, Black Cube's website had Nigeria highlighted as one of the countries where they had "operated successfully." ( ... e-studies/ …)

It's not highlighted on the current version of the website.

A reminder that former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was caught on video talking about contracting former spies and operating through shell companies & fake websites to hide their work. So hiring a company like Black Cube is right up their alley.Caroline O. added,

Holy hell. Channel4News documentary catches Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix offering to “set up fake ID's and websites” or pose as students doing research to hide their role in election campaigns. Also suggests subcontracting work to ex-spies.

While Israeli operatives reportedly dug up dirt on Obama officials, Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka smeared them in the media
Blog ››› 5 hours 33 min ago ››› LIS POWER

Two reports over the weekend revealed that Israeli operatives were hired to collect information on two former officials of President Barack Obama’s administration in order to discredit them, allegedly at the behest of the Trump administration. Simultaneously, Sebastian Gorka, who at the time was deputy assistant to the president, was repeatedly going on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to smear the same officials.

According to reports in The Observer and The New Yorker, “people in the Trump camp” hired Israeli operatives “to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated” the Iran deal. The two aides targeted were Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser to Obama, and Colin Kahl, who was deputy assistant to Obama. The New Yorker reported that in May and June of 2017, Rhodes’ and Kahl’s wives began receiving suspicious emails that now appear “to be part of an undercover campaign by an Israeli private-intelligence firm to discredit Obama officials.”

At the time the Israeli operatives were allegedly trying to dig up dirt on the two officials, Gorka, then deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, was running his own smear campaign against the two with Hannity's help. Gorka repeatedly appeared on his show to vilify Rhodes and Kahl by linking them to “the deep state” and accusing them of being a danger to and jeopardizing national security.

On May 10, 2017, Gorka claimed the “real danger” to this country is political appointees like “the Ben Rhodes of the world, the Colin Kahls.” Several days later, Gorka once again called out Rhodes and Kahl, asking, “When is it going to stop? When is the conspiracy theory insanity of the resist movement, of the Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl nexus going to say, look, we’re not going to endanger national security anymore?” In June, Gorka once again went after the two officials, saying, “It’s people like [former United Nations Ambassador Susan] Rice, Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl who are covering their tracks for the disastrous policies of the last eight years.”

Gorka made similar comments on Mark Levin’s radio show in April 2017 as well as on Breitbart radio in August 2017 after he left the White House. ... red/220134
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed May 09, 2018 6:24 pm

Black Cube Keeps Getting Into Trouble. No Wonder Its Reputation Is In The Tank.

In a secretive industry, the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube has had three very public screwups in recent years.

Mitch Prothero
May 9, 2018, at 2:22 p.m.

Black Cube, the Israeli intelligence company linked to efforts to gather dirt on Harvey Weinstein’s victims and former officials of the Obama administration, has a reputation for poor tradecraft and a willingness to push the bounds of legality, according to executives of its competitors.

In an industry where firms typically shun the spotlight, and nondisclosure agreements are common, Black Cube has found its actions under uncommon public scrutiny in recent months — first, as the firm Weinstein’s lawyer hired to investigate victims and journalists probing allegations of sexual misconduct, and then, this week, as the firm that allegedly attempted to collect damaging information on former Obama officials who’d worked on the Iranian nuclear deal.

An earlier bust of its operatives in Romania in 2015 adds to a series of public screwups that are rare in so secretive an industry.

Black Cube’s reputation already was questionable, according to the executives. They note that Black Cube committed obvious errors in tradecraft by using the same fake company names in approaching the families of the former Obama officials that it had used in its investigation on behalf of Weinstein, the disgraced former Miramax executive.

The use of the same front companies in both operations left an easy breadcrumb trail for opposing lawyers, investigators, and journalists to follow.

“It’s a typical move for these guys,” said the CEO of one private security and investigation firm based in the Middle East and London that frequently comes across Black Cube and its subcontractors. Due to the nature of the industry and threat of litigation, none of the four industry executives interviewed for this story would allow their name to be attached to comments about Black Cube.

“They were lazy and sloppy in setting up fake companies they planned to use for wildly irresponsible approaches of targets, who if they didn’t already know any better than the approach seemed weird, certainly have access to Google to check,” the CEO said. “Let alone the wives and family of national security professionals.”

Another CEO of a business intelligence firm based in Dubai said that the link to Israel’s intelligence services helps Black Cube persuade clients that their operatives are more capable of aggressive action, particularly on litigation support, than other firms.

“I’ve employed people who have been part of their pitch to clients and frankly it’s unsettling,” the Dubai CEO said. “It’s all this bullshit that North American clients always fall for, like, ‘our guys are Israeli superspies and can’t be beat!’ But then they go out and conduct these wild and elaborate operations that usually don’t work and can really get you sued.”

The director of an Israeli private security firm agreed with that assessment.

“We recruit from the same talent pool as they do and would not be comfortable with the ethics or qualifications of many of their people,” he said in a brief statement to BuzzFeed News. “Everyone trades off the relationship to the security services here, and why not? Israel intelligence produces excellent specialists. But these guys don’t attract the best and some of their practices could certainly be described as questionable in terms of professionalism and effectiveness.”

In 2015, three Israeli citizens believed to be working for Black Cube were investigated for hacking and espionage in Romania. Two of those, Ron Weiner and David Geclowicz, pleaded guilty to the charge of “high espionage” and were each sentenced to nearly three years of supervised probation for hacking and harassing a top anti-corruption prosecutor on behalf of a corporate client. The third escaped and was not tried.

“These guys sure get caught fast,” said the Dubai CEO about the case.

This reputation, said a number of Black Cube’s peers, somewhat limits the clients Black Cube can attract because of corporate compliance and ethical requirements for most publicly traded companies.

“Explaining to shareholders why the guys you hired ended up arrested in Romania, or getting caught in the New Yorker pulling dirty tricks on rape victims isn’t exactly the conversation most publicly traded company executives want to have with their board,” said a security firm CEO. “That limits your client base to nasty rich men who think money can fix anything.” ... .neZeJbxpZ
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri May 11, 2018 8:24 am

Wendy Siegelman

There's a very interesting item in this story by @nathanvardi about Columbus Nova, the firm that paid Michael Cohen $500K, and whose CEO Andrew Intrater is cousins with Viktor Vekselberg - short thread/1

For years, one Columbus Nova had a controlling stake in CIFC, a public firm that managed credit investments. Intrater and Lipari were on CIFC’s board with Paolo Amato, an executive at Vekselberg’s Renova, and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak /2 ... 5ce98a6d49


Per a November 2017 Haaretz article - former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak is the person who "unwittingly" introduced Harvey Weinstein to Black Cube /3 ... -1.5463816

The recent @Guardian story revealed that Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal and @RonanFarrow confirmed in his New Yorker story the firm was Black Cube /4 ... clear-deal

There's been speculation about who hired Black Cube to discredit Obama officials connected to Iran deal - it's interesting that Michael Cohen was paid $500K by Intrater's company Columbus Nova & Intrater had a business tie with Ehud Barak who referred Black Cube to Weinstein /END
5:31 PM - 10 May 2018
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat May 26, 2018 7:18 am

Israeli security firm allegedly targeted U.S. officials

As Rebecca Kahl remembers it, something felt odd about the initial email. It came in May 2017 from a woman named Adriana Gavrilo, who claimed to work for a London-based private equity firm. She was writing to Kahl with an offer: Her firm wanted to support the Washington public school where Kahl sends her daughter and helps lead a fundraising committee.

"I'm not sure how this woman found me," Kahl said in a recent interview with NBC News. "I wasn’t employed by the school. I was not on the school's website."

Kahl responded by connecting Gavrilo with school administrators. But Gavrilo’s reply made it clear that she wanted to meet only with Kahl.

Rebecca and Colin Kahn
Rebecca and Colin KahlNBC News
At that point Kahl mentioned the exchange to her husband, Colin, who had been an assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. They agreed that it smelled fishy, and Rebecca stopped responding. The exchange died.

A year later, it turns out that the Kahls were right: Something was amiss. Gavrilo was a fake identity, one of several assumed by an operative working for Black Cube, a shadowy Israeli private security firm.

Internal Black Cube documents obtained by NBC News and interviews of sources with direct knowledge of Black Cube’s operations reveal a business intelligence company with governmental contracts and a special department for politically motivated work.

A source familiar with Black Cube’s outreach to the Kahls told NBC News that it was part of an effort to discredit Obama administration officials who had worked on the Iran nuclear deal – and, by extension, the deal itself. Black Cube sought evidence of nefarious behavior, such as financial or sexual impropriety, by the deal's architects, including Colin Kahl. Operatives hoped to obtain such evidence by befriending their targets or their targets’ associates.

Ben Rhodes
Ben Rhodes was a deputy national security adviser in the Obama White House.Carolyn Kaster / AP file
Also targeted was Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Obama, whose wife, Ann Norris, was approached by a Black Cube operative about consulting on a political drama for TV. Norris had previously worked at the State Department.

The undercover campaign to discredit the Iran deal was first reported by the British newspaper The Observer and by The New Yorker.

In a statement to NBC News, Black Cube said it has no relationship to the Iran nuclear deal.

"Anyone who claims otherwise or anyone suggesting Black Cube is targeting U.S. officials is misleading their readers and viewers," the statement said.

"Luckily," it continued, "the Mossad and the CIA are capable to deal with the Iran nuclear deal and other issues of national security without relying on the expertise of Black Cube."

The firm added that it "always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work."

In the end, Black Cube's Iran-deal spying yielded no compromising information, and in early May, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the nuclear deal. But the use of the shadowy firm continues to draw scrutiny. On Friday, Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee wrote to the founders of Black Cube requesting documentation related to its Iran work.

Marketing its links to Israeli intel

Black Cube made headlines last fall after revelations that it had been hired to intimidate and disparage accusers of Harvey Weinstein, as well as reporters investigating the Hollywood producer.

The firm was founded by former Israeli military officers in 2011. It retains close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and many of its recruits are former Mossad agents.

Those links are part of its pitch to clients.

"The insinuation is that 'we’re so powerful, we have these links, and we can call on them,'" said the source, who asked not to be identified, fearing reprisal from Black Cube. "They want that veneer of 'we're still the state, but we’re not really the state.'"

The firm has two divisions: one catering to corporate clients and one to governments and political actors.

Its website advertises its corporate work, such as performing due diligence on clients' competitors or acquisition targets. "We help our clients identify their adversaries’ sensitive points or vulnerabilities, or evidence of their misconduct," its website reads. It boasts of its ability to provide "otherwise unobtainable information."

Its government work has occasionally landed Black Cube at the center of sensitive political disputes across the globe, while raising serious ethical and legal questions. For example, in Romania, two Black Cube operatives were arrested on suspicion of spying on the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor in 2016.

"When the Romania affair came out in the news, several people on the corporate side left," said another source — a former Black Cube insider — who spoke on the condition of anonymity since he also feared reprisals. "It created a rift in the company and several people quit almost immediately."

The campaign to discredit the Iran deal is the first public case of the firm’s apparent meddling in U.S. politics.

Black Cube’s political work frequently intersects with Israel’s foreign policy priorities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, has campaigned vociferously against the Iran deal.

“They would never work against Israeli interests,” said the source who was familiar with Black Cube's Iran work. He likened the firm to an “almost privatized wing of Mossad.”

He also suggested there was little chance that the Israeli government or its intelligence agencies were unaware of Black Cube’s work to discredit the Iran deal.

The same source said the Iran operation was launched just days after President Donald Trump visited Israel in May 2017. The source said he was told that the work was being carried out “for Trump,” but there is no evidence that the Trump administration had anything to do with the operation, which may have been commissioned by an outside group or agency with no connection to the administration. The identity of Black Cube’s client on the Iran work remains a mystery.

"You’ll never find their name on a contract,” the source said. “I can’t prove that it was the administration other than what I was told.”

But, he added, "Why spend time and money to make the whole the deal look rotten, unless you’re obsessed with destroying Obama’s legacy?"

The Black Cube statement said the company "has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

A 'nasty, nasty business'

In their first joint interview about the undercover operation, the Kahls expressed dismay at Black Cube’s tactics. Colin called it a “nasty, nasty business.” To come after him through his wife and daughter “crosses so many lines,” he said.

NBC News obtained Black Cube’s research file on the Kahls, which contained their address, the names of their relatives and other personal details. But it also had mistakes, such as the make of their car and their daughter’s birth year.

“It's creepy to know that someone was trying to dig up your profile and the names of your in-laws and your kids and your wife and where you live,” said Colin, when presented with the file. “That's pretty sleazy.”

The idea that the couple could be the target of a foreign intelligence operation had occurred to the Kahls, but it seemed unlikely with Colin out of government. “We're also just not that important of people,” Rebecca joked.

When asked why Black Cube didn't target others more senior in the Obama administration, the source familiar with the firm's Iran work explained that Kahl and Rhodes were more accessible targets. “It’s easier to get to people lower down.”

Kahl said it wasn’t entirely surprising that he and Rhodes were targeted despite the fact that others higher in the Obama administration had helped craft the Iran deal.

The two had become something of a “fixation” for members of the Trump administration, Kahl believes, thanks to their active social media presence and willingness to be quoted in the press criticizing the president.

“There was this kind of fever dream that emerged among a number of senior aides to President Trump,” said Kahl, “which was that Ben and I were actually responsible for being the puppet masters behind the deep-state conspiracy to undermine the president and leak things.”

Indeed, Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka decried the “Ben Rhodes-Colin Kahl nexus” in an interview on Fox News in May 2017. Then in June, the conservative Washington Free Beacon quoted an anonymous Trump Administration official singling out Kahl and Rhodes for leaking to the press.

As part of its work on Iran, Black Cube also targeted journalists and advocates of the Iran deal working outside government, according to documents obtained by NBC News. One of those documents was a Black Cube list of reporters whose work often dealt with Iran, including Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent.

Another target of Black Cube, according to the documents, was Trita Parsi, a Swedish-born Iranian who heads the National Iranian American Council, a Washington nonprofit group that backed the nuclear deal. Parsi says that he was warned by someone within the U.S. intelligence community, through an intermediary, that he was a likely target for critics of the deal.

Sure enough, a Black Cube operative, posing as a reporter, called Parsi about a year ago and pressed him on whether anyone within the Obama administration had profited financially from the deal. NBC News obtained audio and a transcript of the call.

When Parsi denied that financial incentives had motivated the deal, he said the operative “just gave up and cut the interview short.”

A now-familiar playbook

Black Cube’s tactics relating to the nuclear deal – including its use of aliases and its targeting of journalists – resemble its approach in its work for other clients.

As part of the company’s work for Weinstein, a Black Cube operative befriended the actress Rose McGowan while posing as an investment manager focused on women's empowerment at a London-based firm, according to emails between her and McGowan obtained by NBC News. The operative used the alias Diana Filip in the Weinstein scheme, according to the emails. That bogus firm was the same that Gavrilo, in reaching out to Rebecca Kahl, claimed as her employer.

The identity of Diana Filip was revealed to be an Israeli army veteran named Stella Penn Pechanac by the British tabloid The Daily Mail.

Elsewhere, Black Cube’s underhanded tactics have been revealed to the embarrassment of its clients.

Hired by a Canadian investment company in a dispute with another firm, a Black Cube operative attempted to embarrass an Ontario superior court judge who had ruled unfavorably for Black Cube’s client by trying to induce him to make anti-Semitic comments. The effort went nowhere, and Black Cube’s client in that case is now mired in lawsuits.

Rebecca Kahl
Rebecca KahlNBC News
Rebecca Kahl said her experience as a Black Cube target felt like what life would be like in an authoritarian country, where civil society groups and political activists are routinely harassed.

“It certainly has an authoritarian feel to it – to target your political opponents or try to smear them or discredit them,” she said.

For his part, the source familiar with Black Cube's Iran work believes that all the recent publicity around the company will only bring in more clients. “The more we talk about it, the more business they get,” he said. ... an-n877511

Mueller Is Reportedly Examining An Israeli Firm’s Fake News Presentation

A nine-slide presentation includes details about creating fake news sites and fake social media accounts.

Special counsel Robert Mueller may be pulling on another thread in relation to foreign influence on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

According to The Wall Street Journal, his team of investigators have obtained a nine-slide presentation created by the Israeli firm, Psy-Group, which claims to have links to Israeli intelligence agencies.

It is unclear, according to the Journal’s reporting, who received the presentation and whether it is based on analysis of specific activity during the campaign or more of a hypothetical pitch. Mueller is also reportedly examining Psy-Group’s founder Joel Zamel, who is believed to have attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in the weeks prior to election day.

The documents, also obtained by the Journal, include details about creating fake social media accounts and fake news sites. In one of the slides, entitled “Trump Campaign Components,” there is a 2016 timeline and references to establishing “fake news sites/avatars/content” in the first few months of the year. Through May and July on the timeline, the document suggests that this would be “discrediting news/spreading uncertainty & fake content” by the summer. The final part, leading up to election day, entailed “using fake bots to react to real life situations & further polarize the TA” (target audience).

Another slide, called “Fake News Sites Facebook Strategy,” purports that there were “over 140 pro-Trump websites owned by the same man in Veles, Macedonia.” The slide also says that Facebook avatars would be “spreading this news.”

In an additional slide, “Facebook Strategy,” there are three steps outlined. The first is “Avatar seeding in relevant groups,” the second is “Real people sharing/engaging” and the final one is a “Multiplier effect with mass people spreading lies.” There is a screenshot underneath of a Facebook account writing “#crooked_hillary would totally destroy Middle East further.”

The Daily Beast has reported extensive use of Facebook from Russian accounts to incite voters to attend political events throughout the campaign. Additionally, Mueller previously indicted the Internet Research Agency, a massive troll farm backed by the Kremlin. ... esentation
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:52 am

Laura Rozen

According to Canadian lawsuit, Black Cube enlisted for collection, PSY Group to do defamatory/dissemination campaign ... _Mar18.pdf


Interesting. Founder/man. director of canada firm that enlisted israeli private intel firms black cube & psy group vs rival was w/ cerberus

Cerberus headed by Steve Feinberg, head of Trump intel advisory board. ... Management

NYT 2/15/17, days after Flynn out ... nberg.html … Trump, blaming leaks, plans to hire Feinberg to spy on US intel agencies from WH


and who was urging Trump to bring Feinberg to WH to counter US intel community? Bannon and Kushner ... nberg.html


and to counter leaks Kushner and Bannon reportedly feared were being masterminded by ex Obama aides and intel community

recall Fire & Fury report that Bannon and Kushner went to CIA in early 2017 to chase down what Tony Blair supposedly told Kushner

(& Blair has strenuously denied he said), about alleged spying on the Trump campaign. main take away is Kushner/Bannon spooked abt leaks

prompting report Feinberg may be hired to oversee intel from WH. and soon after, Black Cube hired to spy on ex Obama aides

Nov. 2016 NY Mag profile of Feinberg, hedge fund guy, aspiring to get into arms/private security biz[
A Secretive Billionaire’s Dreams of Creating America’s Foremost Guns Empire

Stephen WittNovember 15, 2016 8:00 am
Before he went into the gun business, before he started buying assault-rifle manufacturers, before he expanded into scopes and silencers, before he rolled up 18 of America’s most lethal companies into a single conglomerate, before he funded a private military base, before the massacre, before the investor revolt, before the recalls and the product defects and the bad press and the lawsuits — before any of that could happen — Stephen Feinberg, the billionaire financier, had to perfect his shooting technique. So one weekend in late 2005, he left behind the Manhattan offices of Cerberus Capital, the private-equity firm he’d founded, and his multistory Upper East Side residence, which he was in the process of spending $15 million to renovate, and traveled to Moyock, North Carolina, to the tactical-training facilities of Blackwater, the notorious private military contractor, for a weekend of long-range-firearms instruction.

Feinberg was trim, balding, blond, and wore a bristly mustache but no beard. He spoke quietly, patiently, in a gentle New York accent. Friends say he had trained in college, at Princeton, with the ROTC, parading in military drills and shooting targets with a standard service rifle, and that he had even attended jump school. But he’d left the ROTC before graduation and landed a job on Wall Street, trading securities for Drexel Burnham Lambert, the pioneer of the junk bond. Ten years later, he was running his own firm. Ten years after that, he was a Wall Street colossus.

Now Feinberg, 45, wanted to get into the field. At Blackwater, his instructor was Steve Reichert, a Marine Corps infantryman and decorated war hero who was one of the best marksmen on Earth. In Iraq, in 2004, he had shot a man from over a mile away, one of the longest confirmed hits by any American soldier in the war. Reichert had earned the Bronze Star for valor that day; two months later, he had a hole ripped in his cheek by an IED.

Having returned to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina to recuperate, Reichert started moonlighting at the Blackwater range as a shooting instructor. Feinberg, an avid elk hunter, was one of his better pupils. By the end of his second day, he was consistently hitting targets from a thousand yards away — the equivalent of 11 city blocks.

At that distance, he couldn’t just aim his weapon at the target; he had to lob the bullet like an artillery shell. “It’s not as hard as it sounds,” Reichert told me. “I could teach anyone how to do this with a properly sighted gun in five minutes.” Gravity was a constant, and one could consult a table to calculate the trajectory. What set the expert shooter apart was the ability to read the wind. “Feinberg was good at that,” Reichert said.

Stephen Feinberg. Photo: Peter Reitzfeld
Cerberus manages an enormous amount of money — more than $30 billion — from several floors in a midtown office building on 52nd Street and Third Avenue. On one floor are the hedge funds, trading in distressed debt and residential mortgages. On a separate floor is the private-equity group. The latter excels at the turnaround, acquiring struggling businesses, implementing management fixes, cutting overhead, and flipping them for a profit.

Throughout the years, Cerberus has owned controlling stakes in dozens of businesses. It currently owns the Albertson’s supermarket empire and previously owned the Alamo and National car-rental chains. It has owned a water park in Texas and a television station in Salt Lake City. It has owned a school-bus manufacturer, a chain of bowling alleys, and a Japanese bank. Through one subsidiary, it ran the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. Through another, it controlled the movie-distribution rights to The Sixth Sense. In 2004, alongside Goldman Sachs, Cerberus privatized 65,000 units of public housing in Berlin. For a time, it was the largest landlord in the city.

Behind all of this is Feinberg. He is said to be Cerberus Capital’s largest investor and reinvests most of his earnings back into his funds. His net worth is a matter of debate. Forbes magazine estimates it at $1.2 billion; office gossip at Cerberus puts it closer to $3 billion. Feinberg has said these are exaggerations.

Private equity is not a business for the patient, and once a new business is acquired, it is not unusual for Feinberg to cycle through two or three managers in search of the right leadership. His desire for quick results is masked by a constitutional equanimity: Several Cerberus insiders told me Feinberg never raises his voice, even when he is calling for someone’s head. The company’s corporate culture is Darwinian. “There was huge competition between partners,” said one former employee. “Well, not ­partners — just Steve Feinberg, he is the partner — but between the managing directors, it was a very ‘Eat what you kill’ mentality.”

Not long after Feinberg’s trip to Blackwater, Cerberus’s private-equity arm bought its first firearms manufacturer. The target was Bushmaster, one of the leading makers of “black guns”: highly configurable assault rifles patterned after the military-issue AR-15. Based in Windham, Maine, Bushmaster had, over the course of 30 years, grown from a tiny gun-parts manufacturer into the preferred firearm of the high-­capacity target shooter. In 2002, it was the weapon of choice for John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the Beltway snipers.

Muhammad hadn’t purchased his Bushmaster legally; he’d stolen it from a gun store. But his victims were able to bring a civil lawsuit against Bushmaster, arguing that the company failed to ensure the weapon wouldn’t end up in the hands of criminals. The company was forced to settle. The payout was small — just $62,500 per victim — but the potentially unlimited liabilities from gun-injury lawsuits, accompanied by the political and ­public-relations hazards, had historically scared away capital and discouraged conglomeration. The industry was fragmented, consisting of numerous small, private manufacturers like Bushmaster scattered across the American Northeast. There had been Big Pharma, and Big Oil, but never Big Gun.

Cerberus set out to create it. A catalyst was the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed by NRA lobbyists and passed by a Republican-controlled Congress in 2005. PLCAA granted gunmakers broad immunity from lawsuits from victims of gun violence. A year later, Cerberus bought Bushmaster for $76 million from Richard Dyke, the company’s founder.

Dyke was a typical gun boss — a country boy, a serial entrepreneur, a lifelong Republican. He treated his workers like family members. Each month, he paid an equal share of Bushmaster’s gross profits to every employee, from the CEO to the guy who cleaned the toilets. As part of the Cerberus sale, the original Bushmaster factory would remain open for at least five years. Cerberus agreed but was a less generous manager. One of the first things it did was cancel the ­profit-sharing plan.

Dyke, who remained on Bushmaster’s board, sensed he was in unusual territory. “Guys like Steve Feinberg live in a different world than Dick Dyke,” he told me. “Their way of making money is very different than mine.” Dyke had held his companies for decades, earning money via dividends paid out from company profits. Feinberg earned money by charging his investors management fees. Most of these fees could be collected only once the investment had been closed — meaning that even before he entered a business, Feinberg was thinking about how to exit.

Soon after the sale, Bushmaster was folded into Freedom Group, the holding company Cerberus had chartered to conquer the gun business. Its play was obvious: roll up small gun companies, centralize management while combining costs and cutting overhead, and then, when the moment was right, sell the conglomerate to the public via an IPO. After Bushmaster, Freedom purchased Marlin, a manufacturer of lever-action hunting rifles; Parker, a manufacturer of ornate, collectible shotguns; DPMS, another assault-rifle manufacturer; and the big one, Remington, America’s oldest continuously operated gunmaker, whose .22 caliber hunting rifle had, for generations, served as the young firearms initiate’s “first gun.” Remington’s CEO, Tommy Millner, was selected to run the entire group.

Dyke was uncomfortable with the speed at which Cerberus was moving. “They were very driven to get to a billion in sales,” Dyke said. “They were driving awfully fast down the road.” After a year on the board, he quit.

Cerberus continued without him. The companies it was buying were small and inefficient, with unjustifiable overhead. Many were using equipment and methods that hadn’t been updated for decades. At Remington, some of the machinery dated back to World War II. The potential cost savings to be realized by consolidating these operations into a single, modern factory were substantial.

Freedom Group used its integrated brand portfolio as leverage. In 2008, it introduced its new Remington-branded assault rifle, the R-15. Essentially just a Bushmaster painted green, the gun was re-termed a “modern sporting rifle” and marketed to hunters. There was no disguising its military heritage, but by stamping a storied brand onto this menacing instrument, Cerberus was able to expand Freedom Group’s ­business in both the traditional gun-store market and the family-friendly sporting retailers. Soon, Remington-branded assault rifles were available at Walmart.

It’s impolite to call your customers ‘wannabes,’ ” said the former Cerberus insider. “So we called them ‘military enthusiasts.’
Sales of the R-15 boomed. Who was buying them? Not budding hunters, necessarily — participation rates in the outdoor sports had been stagnating for years. And, Remington brand or not, a semi-automatic assault rifle is not an appropriate choice for a first gun, or even a second. Instead, the purchasers tended to be seasoned gun collectors with large arsenals.

This demographic was key to Cerberus’s success. Surveys estimated that somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of Americans owned guns, but usually just one or two. Concentrated into a smaller demographic were the serial gun purchasers, a hard core of about 3 percent of the U.S. population. One recent survey, conducted by public-health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, suggested that this 3 percent owned more than half the country’s guns. The same survey estimated that members of this demographic owned, on average, 17 different firearms.

It was easy to imagine these well-armed individuals as doomsday preppers or anti-government fanatics, but the reality, one former Cerberus insider suggested, was mundane. “Novelty sells in this business more than tactical improvements,” he told me. “The gun business is almost like a fashion business for men. You either have two or you have 20. It’s like handbags for women.”

And, like fashion, the real money was in the accessories. Freedom Group marketed its firearms not just as guns but as “shooting platforms”: modular, lethal Lego sets whose component parts could be updated for years after the initial purchase. Freedom Group regularly introduced must-have innovations — threaded triangular barrels, polarized scope filters, lightweight polymer stocks — and customers rushed to outfit their guns with the latest in firearms tech. Many of these accessories were of questionable utility. The margins on them were superb.

Freedom also benefited from broad growth in the American gun market. There are no official industry statistics for sales of new guns, but a common proxy used is the number of gun-buyer background checks conducted by the FBI each year. From 2006 to 2013, that number doubled from 10 million checks to over 21 million. Ruger and Smith & Wesson, Freedom Group’s publicly traded competitors, saw their stock prices surge.

To market their shooting platforms, the Freedom Group frequently employed the cultural imagery of the global war on terror. Before being acquired by Cerberus, Bushmaster’s bare-bones product brochure had all the glamour of a catalogue of plumbing fixtures. By 2009, it looked like a recruiting poster for Delta Force.

If a Remington was a gun buyer’s first gun, a Bushmaster was the last, the ultimate fetish object for a generation acclimated to imagery from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Marketed to civilians as “the ultimate combat weapons system,” many of Bushmaster’s gun builds were modeled after the weapons used by America’s Special Forces. The ­“military-proven” guns offered the buyer vicarious status as an “operator,” although Cerberus understood well that few of its customers actually had combat experience.

“It’s impolite to call your customers ‘wannabes,’ ” said the former Cerberus insider. “So we called them ‘military enthusiasts.’ ”

Reichert saw Feinberg again sooner than expected. Feinberg’s hunting expeditions were taking him deep into the bush, outside the range of GPS, and he needed instruction in military land navigation. Reichert obliged, dragging his pupil into the swamps near the Camp LeJeune base. “We were a good 5k into an area, when my aspiring student lollygagged right into the path of one of the largest cottonmouth snakes I have seen,” Reichert wrote in an account of the trip. “I grabbed him by his collar and let the snake continue on his way.”

During the training, Feinberg was struck by the inferior quality of the camp’s range and facilities. Nearby Blackwater, he felt, had a much better setup. Reichert agreed, and the two began to discuss a new venture. Within weeks, Reichert had a business plan and had assembled a team of military trainers, including a number of special-forces veterans. Reichert named the company Tier 1 Group, after the Defense Department’s designation for its top-level commandos.

Cerberus put up the capital, purchasing a shooting range on the outskirts of Memphis for Tier 1’s facilities, a sprawling 800-acre private military base with a half-­dozen shooting ranges, on-road and off-road driving courses, a parachute-drop zone, and an “urban-combat compound” designed to look like an Afghan village. Tier 1’s biggest customer was the United States Special Operations Command. Navy seals, Army Rangers, and other elite military operatives trained there in preparation for clandestine missions across the globe.

Over time, Reichert became Feinberg’s friend. He joined him on one of his elk-hunting jaunts and described the billionaire as an “ordinary, down-to-earth American.” Feinberg even offered to fly Reichert to California for a consultation with a leading plastic surgeon regarding his still-­disfigured face. Reichert declined but noted that Feinberg offered to pay for medical care for a number of other injured veterans as well. His commitment to military contracting seemed to go beyond money. Tier 1 Group was profitable, but its sales maxed out at around $15 million annually — a fraction of a percent of Cerberus’s total business. Reichert sensed Feinberg was doing this out of a sense of patriotism.

“We’d get after-action reports from the front lines, saying these tactics saved us, or this medical training saved us, with details,” Reichert said. Reichert would forward these reports of Special Operations daring to Feinberg. “That made him happy.”

A Remington advertisement in 1946.
While Feinberg generally stayed out of Freedom Group’s day-to-day affairs, he took a personal interest in Remington Defense, the company’s military-supply wing, appointing Jason Schauble, a former Marine Corps captain, to run it. Schauble won a number of military contracts for Remington Defense and helped negotiate the purchase of Advanced Armaments Corporation, a start-up manufacturer of gun silencers. The consumer market for silencers was growing, particularly in the competitive-target-shooting community. “They’re great for urban encroachment,” said the company’s founder, Kevin Brittingham. “Silencers turn shooting more into golf.”

Advanced Armaments was small but did a lot of business with the military. “By focusing on the military market, and especially special ops, you can translate that to the commercial market,” Brittingham said. His point applied broadly: Freedom Group’s business strategy was to use America’s Special Forces as an R&D department for selling guns at Walmart. What worked in the battlefield worked in the forest. “Shooting a 180-pound deer is the same tech as shooting an 180-pound man,” said Brittingham, and Freedom was staffed with a number of people who’d done both.

This approach was duplicated across a number of other Freedom Group sidelines, including manufacturers of weapon optics, pistol grips, ammunition, even clothing. Freedom Group’s customers were buying, often at a premium, field-tested military gear. Some belonged to military families, but many were just hobbyists. Among these customers was Nancy Lanza, of Newtown, Connecticut. She purchased a Bushmaster assault rifle in March 2010, part of an expanding arsenal: three pistols, two bolt-action rifles, a shotgun, and three samurai swords.

Despite his success with Freedom Group, 2008 was a bad year for Feinberg. Cerberus held majority equity stakes in Chrysler and in General Motors’ financing division and had brought in Robert Nardelli, the former CEO of Home Depot, to run Chrysler. Echoing Reichert, Nardelli said that “Steve saw this as a huge patriotic opportunity, in addition to a great investment.” Nardelli was wrong. By 2009, both companies were in financial peril. Investors fled Cerberus.

Feinberg was saved by Obama. Although the U.S. government’s 2009 automotive-industry bailout forced Cerberus to devalue its holdings in the two firms, Cerberus was able to salvage what could have been a total loss. GMAC was converted into Ally Financial, the online bank, and Feinberg’s patriotic stake in Chrysler ended up with the Italian carmaker Fiat.

Perhaps no single person benefited more from the automotive-industry bailout than Stephen Feinberg, who, in all other respects, was a conservative. He had ­contributed to numerous Republican political campaigns. In 1999, he had appointed Vice-President Dan Quayle chairman of the global divisions of his firm, despite Quayle’s confessed lack of business experience. (Quayle was supposedly still respected in Asia, where Cerberus did a lot of business and where his malapropisms didn’t translate.) In 2006, he had hired George W. Bush Cabinet appointee John Snow as co-chairman shortly after the Treasury secretary resigned.

Despite these connections, Feinberg regarded himself as a regular guy. In a rare interview in early 2008, he pitched himself as a blue-collar billionaire and distanced himself from his Ivy League pedigree. “I probably would have been better off going to a state school,” he said. “I would have been more comfortable with the people.” That’s possible, but the kinds of connections you needed to persuade the Feds to bail out your bad auto-industry bet for $30 billion were more readily available to graduates of Princeton than UC-Irvine.

Freedom Group’s connection to the bailout rankled right-wing gun enthusiasts. A persistent rumor, circulated by email in 2011, alleged that Freedom Group was actually controlled by George Soros: “One of the most evil men on this planet who wants to restrict or ban all civilian guns.” The rumor was only debunked after the NRA released a statement to its members: “NRA has had contact with officials [of] Cerberus and Freedom Group for some time. The owners and investors involved are strong supporters of the Second Amendment and are avid hunters and shooters.” Two years later, three Freedom Group executives gave a million dollars each to the NRA.

While some enthusiasts collected guns, Feinberg collected gun companies. At Cerberus, he talked firearms often, once derailing a Freedom Group board meeting with a discussion of the relative ballistic merits of polymer-cased ammunition and traditional hollow-points. In 2012, his daughter Lindsey posted a picture of her father’s T-shirt to Instagram. It featured images of a sniper rifle trailing smoke, a mounted machine gun, and a row of bullets emblazoned with the tagline IT’S TIME TO WORK. In the comments, she’d posed the question: “Who is my dad…….???????”

Nardelli’s tenure at Freedom Group was disastrous. He knew little about guns; his expertise was in high-­efficiency manufacturing and building economies of scale. He alienated many of Freedom’s top managers and accelerated a program of manufacturing consolidation that centralized production in Remington’s main facility in Ilion, New York. This push for efficiency meant laying off skilled workers, introducing manufacturing defects into Freedom Group products. “Since the announced closure of the North Haven factory, the quality of Marlin lever-actions has gone completely to hell,” wrote one gun blogger. “Our rifles were neither fit nor finished, nor in any condition to be offered for sale.” Gun magazines and internet forums were filled with complaints, and after Cerberus bought it, Remington was forced to issue multiple recalls, for both guns and ammunition. A number of customers sued the manufacturer, claiming their guns had gone off without the trigger being pulled, prompting a class-action lawsuit.

The gun culture’s objection to conglomeration was reminiscent of objections I’d once heard from “conscious consumers” when Unilever had purchased Ben & Jerry’s. Gun manufacturing had historically been an artisanal business, and gun buyers liked it that way. So did a former Bushmaster employee I spoke with, whose complaints about Cerberus’s conduct sounded, at times, more like complaints about capitalism itself. “I observed them screw up a lot of companies and put a lot of people out of work,” he told me. “They weren’t in it for the right reasons.” When I suggested to him that Cerberus just wanted profits, he responded with indignation. “Yeah, sure. But there’s also heritage, and history. They didn’t care about any of that.”

They certainly didn’t. When the five-year agreement to keep the original Bushmaster factory open expired in 2011, the plant was shut down almost immediately. Manufacturing was moved to Ilion, and Bushmaster customers soon noticed a drop in product quality. Within days, Dyke, the company’s founder, came out of semi-retirement at the age of 77, reopening his old factory under the new name Windham Weaponry and hiring back nearly all of the original employees. Selling a gun that was an original Bushmaster in all but name, the new company grew to $65 million in sales in less than five years. “There’s no doubt we’re taking customers away from the old Bushmaster base,” Dyke said.

By March 2012, Nardelli was gone. He was replaced by another Cerberus insider, George Kollitides, who oversaw a plan to relocate most of Freedom Group’s manufacturing to a disused Chrysler facility in Huntsville, Alabama. The move offered nearly $40 million in state tax incentives, but Freedom Group still struggled. As 2012 came to a close, Cerberus’s gun play was nearly seven years old — ripe enough for an exit. Investment managers weren’t likely to view the company favorably until the company’s product-quality concerns were addressed. Kollitides needed a fix, quickly.

Fortunately — for him, at least — there was one thing that always, infallibly, drove gun sales through the ceiling: a mass shooting.

A Remington advertisement in 2013.
When Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy, in her sleep on the morning of December 14, 2012, he used one of her bolt-action rifles, a Savage Mark II. He then discarded this gun and prepared for a tactical assault, arming himself with two pistols, a shotgun, and her Bushmaster assault rifle, along with ten 30-round magazines. Using a technique employed by Special Forces operators, he then taped these magazines together into bundles of three, allowing for immediate reload. Then he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot his way into the school, killing six adults and 20 schoolchildren, all with the Bushmaster, in less than ten minutes. Then he shot himself in the head.

During the flood of grief that followed, an outcry erupted directed at Cerberus, Remington, and Bushmaster. By some karmic coincidence, Martin Feinberg, Stephen’s father, lived in Newtown, in a senior community. It was rumored that, following the massacre, he asked his son to sell the company. He was joined in this request by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a key Cerberus investor and one of the largest pension funds in the country, which threatened to pull its money from the firm if it didn’t divest from its gun investments. Cerberus issued a statement, promising it would move to sell Freedom Group immediately. Of course, it had wanted to do that all along.

Feinberg wanted over a billion dollars, but he couldn’t find a taker at that price. The original idea, of an IPO, was out of the question: No reputable investment bank would underwrite it, nor even take the M&A fees associated with a private deal. Another option would have been to sell off the most controversial product lines, like Bushmaster, but the centralization of manufacturing made that impossible, too.

But the fear of regulation in the aftermath spurred gun hoarding, and this was good for Cerberus. In late 2013, Freedom Group rebranded, changing its name to Remington Outdoor Company. By the end of the year, Remington Outdoor’s annual sales had finally passed its billion-­dollar target. It was its most profitable year.

The boom was short-lived: The 2014 ­rollout of a new pistol, the Remington R51, was a disaster — an unreliable shooter with serious production flaws, the R51 was the Galaxy Note of the firearms industry, and Remington ended up recalling the guns. Having once sought a billion dollars for its investment, Freedom was, according to insiders, now internally valued at just $400 million.

The next year was even worse. In 2015, Walmart announced it would no longer carry assault rifles. That same year, Remington’s annual sales fell almost 35 percent from its post-Newtown peak, even as Remington’s public competitors outperformed. The lawsuit over the faulty Remington trigger mechanism had forced the company to offer another recall, this time for more than 7.5 million units, and the firm ended up losing more than $135 million in a single year, for a net profit margin of minus 17 percent.

Meanwhile, with elementary schools across the country now forced to conduct “active shooter” drills, the California teachers were demanding out. Unable to find a buyer, Feinberg proposed a deal: He’d pay a special onetime dividend from Remington Outdoor’s accrued earnings, letting investors cash out, and Remington would be placed in a special-purpose vehicle, concentrating ownership of what remained in the hands of a few die-hard Cerberus insiders. Of course, “owning” was a questionable term here; by the end of 2015, Remington Outdoor Company was worth less than the debt attached to it, like a house with an underwater mortgage. In June of this year, the company’s latest CEO, Jim Marcotuli, stated the obvious: “We’re not for sale.”

Several people I spoke to said Cerberus had extracted enough cash from Remington during the good years to meet the firm’s threshold rate of return, and so, in a narrow sense, the investment was a victory. But the social fallout had cost it dearly, affecting its ongoing access to capital in a way it hadn’t foreseen. Owning a gun business doesn’t just affect one’s reputation — it also affects one’s ability to own other, less controversial businesses. Profits or not, other private-equity firms, having witnessed an unprecedented revolt from investors, won’t touch it. It’s the investing equivalent of toxic waste.

For now, that waste is buried in Steve Feinberg’s yard. As the head of Cerberus, he personally owns a controlling, concentrated stake in the firm — likely a majority. Internally, business conditions are improving, as Marcotuli’s cost-cutting fixes have returned the company to profitability. But revenue remains soft in a market still saturated by the assault-rifle-buying frenzy of 2013, and Remington, in a tacit acknowledgment of its critics, has abandoned the kind of combat-oriented marketing imagery that so excited its customers.

That marketing was the focus of the lawsuit brought against Remington by the victims of Sandy Hook. Although the PLCAA granted immunity from lawsuits of this type, lawmakers had left an exception: “negligent entrustment.” This term referred to the rights of victims to sue gun dealers who had sold weapons irresponsibly — say, to a customer who was obviously drunk or homicidal.

The attorneys for the victims’ families argued that Freedom Group’s marketing, with its aggressive slogans and its fetishistic imagery of SWAT teams and Special Forces operators, was a large-scale example of negligent entrustment and that Remington had cultivated a dangerous and uncontrollable demographic with predictable results. The courts didn’t buy the argument, and last month, the judge in the case dismissed the lawsuit. It was the closest victims of gun violence had come since PLCAA’s passing to holding a gun company responsible, but in the end, Cerberus’s bet that the law would shield its investment turned out to be right.

Reichert, the shooting instructor, eventually left Tier 1 Group to work on a classified high-tech firearms program for DARPA. He remained on good terms with Feinberg and had only positive things to say about his experience with Cerberus, but he conceded that the firearms side of the business had been a disaster. “I know all the guys involved,” he said. “In the end, none of them were happy they sold.”

Reichert remained an outspoken advocate for the broadest possible interpretation of the Second Amendment. So, too, did every other gun-industry executive I spoke with. None of them wavered in the slightest, not even when I brought up the Newtown massacre, or the Pulse-nightclub shooting, or the San Bernardino attacks, or the shooting of the Dallas police officers, or the certainty of other massacres to come. The exception was Richard Dyke, who conceded a single point. “Look, I grew up in rural America,” he said. “But if I lived in New York City in a building with a hundred people, and I saw a guy with an assault weapon in his hand in the hallway, I think I’d go back in my apartment.”

Feinberg actually did live in New York, but he didn’t waver either. In early 2016, Donald Trump unexpectedly decapitated the Republican Party, and GOP power brokers were forced to choose sides. Feinberg picked Trump.

The two were both pseudo-populist billionaires from New York, but otherwise dissimilar. Feinberg downplayed his wealth; Trump exaggerated his. One of the keys to Feinberg’s success was his focus; Trump had the attention span of a mayfly. Feinberg shunned the press; Trump sought publicity wherever it was to be found. But Feinberg was able to overlook these character flaws, and — somehow — the frothing anti-­Semitism of the Trumpist fringe as well. At Trump’s fund-raising dinner at Le Cirque in June, he made the largest political contribution of his life: more than $678,800, split between him and his wife. The donation made him one of the top contributors to the Trump Victory fund and earned him a spot as one of the 13 business leaders on the Trump Economic Advisory Council.

Trump’s victory means Feinberg will ascend to a position of influence he has never experienced before. It also probably means a paradoxical slackening of demand in the gun market, further devaluing Feinberg’s investment. Without the fear of a Democratic president seizing their guns, there’s no need for hoarding. But for Feinberg, that’s a small price to pay.

*This article appears in the November 14, 2016, issue of New York Magazine. ... mpire.html

Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:14 am

Wendy Siegelman

Inside the Mysterious Intelligence Firm Now in Mueller’s Sights - Wikistrat, run by Joel Zamel who also runs Psy-Group, serves mostly foreign customers & engaged in intelligence collection through in country informants, by @kenklippenstein HT @webradius

Inside the Mysterious Intelligence Firm Now in Mueller’s Sights

Wikistrat bills itself as a ‘crowdsourced’ analysis agency based in Washington. But interviews with current and former employees and documents tell a very different story.

In the fall of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and other key aides to the future president reportedly met in Trump Tower with Joel Zamel, the founder of a company called Wikistrat.

Wikistrat bills itself as a “crowdsourced” geopolitical analysis firm based in Washington, D.C. But interviews with current and former employees and documents reviewed by The Daily Beast tell a different story: that the vast majority of Wikistrat’s clients were foreign governments; that Wikistrat is, for all intents and purposes, an Israeli firm; and that the company’s work was not just limited to analysis. It also engaged in intelligence collection.

Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Wikistrat and Zamel, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the special counsel’s probe expands into Middle Eastern governments’ attempts to influence American politics.

Publicly, Wikistrat touts its crowdsourcing interface it has described as “Wikipedia meets Facebook” to develop reports for clients. The documents also highlight Wikistrat’s heavy reliance on “gamification”—applying game design features to encourage user engagement—to solicit information from sources. Former Wikistrat employees say its founder viewed himself as the Mark Zuckerberg of the national-security world.

But despite the firm’s purported commitment to “transparent, open-source methodologies,” the documents provided to The Daily Beast show something different: that the company exploits “in country… informants” as sources.

Wikistrat’s “About” page includes mention of “on-the-ground collection.”

And according to internal Wikistrat documents marked “highly confidential and sensitive material,” 74 percent of the firm’s revenue came from clients that were foreign governments.

Although Wikistrat’s clients were overwhelmingly foreign governments, the company boasted incredible access to top U.S. military and intelligence officials. The firm’s advisory council lists former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser James L. Jones, former deputy director of the National Security Council Elliott Abrams, and former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency David Shedd, among others.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the company’s website is adorned with the insignias of U.S. military agencies and that it claims D.C. as its headquarters.

But exactly how much of a connection these advisers have with the company isn’t totally clear. “I have always been informal… but I support the concept of their work (as my quote [on Wikistrat’s website] points out),” Hayden told The Daily Beast in an email. “There is no paperwork between us and I have never been to a board meeting.”

A former senior analyst for Wikistrat, James Kadtke, described his experience with the company to The Daily Beast. A physicist by training, Kadtke worked as a defense and technology adviser to Sen. John Warner from 2002-05 and as a senior fellow at the National Defense University before joining Wikistrat in 2016.

When Kadtke first interviewed with a couple of Wikistrat executives to discuss working for them, he said it became obvious to him that there was more to this company than meets the eye.

“It was clear to me that both of these guys had intelligence backgrounds, intelligence professionals, not academics or analysts,” Kadtke told The Daily Beast. “They were using their experts for tacit information going on in various parts of the world. I got the impression they were doing things outside of Wikistrat. It seemed mysterious.”

Working for Wikistrat didn’t seem to clear up Kadtke’s questions. Kadtke said that, in retrospect, Wikistrat appeared to be more about intelligence collection than anything else.

Elad Schaffer, the Wikistrat CEO who succeeded Zamel this year, did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked about Kadtke’s remarks about intelligence collection, one former high-ranking employee said, “Could he [Wikistrat’s founder] have done this? Yes, by all means,” adding that Wikistrat’s work “was not limited to geopolitics.”

The documents provide rare insight into a company that Wikistrat employees repeatedly described as extraordinarily secretive.

“Joel ran a very compartmentalized organization,” one former high-ranking staffer said.

“I felt like I had no real visibility into what the company was really doing,” another former senior employee said.

“He was very secretive, everything was highly compartmentalized… It was clear that he kept the entire company in the dark. Even [company executives] didn’t have the whole picture,” a former employee said, adding that if someone took a photo at a company gathering, Zamel would leave the room.

“He never allowed anyone to get near his phone, his laptop, stuff like that.”

Even in the internal company documents, which include a page about the company’s leadership, photos of each of the executives are included—except Zamel’s.

“I suspected he was involved in other stuff simply because a man without secrets doesn’t need to be secretive. If he had nothing to hide, he would’ve been much more open. I thought he was involved in other operations.”

If Wikistrat was engaged in intelligence collection, an obvious question arises: For whom?

Much of the reporting so far has focused on Wikistrat’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates. For instance, The New York Times recently reported a secretive Trump Tower meeting three months before the 2016 presidential election, between Donald Trump Jr., Zamel, and George Nader, an emissary for the UAE. The meeting drew comparison to the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin.

Zamel is reported to have pitched Trump Jr. on a social-media manipulation strategy to help his father win the election. After Trump was elected, Nader is said to have paid Zamel a large sum of money—as much as $2 million.

In light of the scrutiny of Zamel’s ties to the UAE, it’s natural that news coverage would focus on that country. But Wikistrat may, in fact, have stronger ties to Israel.

Zamel is a citizen of Israel and master’s graduate of IDC Herzliya—a small, elite college that’s often compared to U.S. Ivy League schools—where he studied government, diplomacy, and strategy, specializing in counterterrorism and homeland security.

(The internal documents reviewed by The Daily Beast confirm that Zamel also owned the lion’s share—86 percent—of Wikistrat, with the next biggest shareholder possessing less than 6 percent of the company.)

Though Wikistrat’s website lists its location as Washington, Kadtke said the company was run out of Israel the entire time he worked there.

A former Wikistrat employee confirmed the company was run out of Tel Aviv, with the D.C. office only handling sales and business development, he said.

“He knew a whole lot of people there [in Israel]. One of his connections was the former head of the [Israeli] intelligence directorate, Amos Yadlin.”

In fact, each of Wikistrat’s principals listed Tel Aviv as their address in a 2015 copy of Wikistrat’s Virginia business license.

Former employees say that at the core of Wikistrat’s leadership were three Israelis: Daniel Green, the CTO, Elad Schaffer, formerly the COO and now the CEO, and Zamel, the founder and, until this year, its CEO.

“Those people were very close, and it wasn’t just professional,” one former employee said.

That former employee added, “I had an initial conversation with Joel where I said, ‘One of the issues you’re going to run into, if you want to be focused on [U.S.] government work, you’re going to run into problems every day because of the Israeli connection.’ He said, ‘Well, why is that? They’re amazing allies?’”

“There were many conversations internally [about this]... Israel is one of the top counterintelligence concerns for the U.S.”

One of the internal documents reviewed by The Daily Beast lists a former “major in [an] elite Israeli intelligence-analysis unit,” Shay Hershkovitz, as its chief security officer and director of analytic community. That document also describes Schaffer as a former “counterterrorism officer for Israeli intelligence.”

“Elad was involved in a very elite, select group of individuals performing a very important mission… dealing with the height of the global war on terrorism,” one former employee said. “He did some collaborative work with U.S. special-operations counterparts who were working in the Middle East to deal with threats coming from al Qaeda.”

“Elad kept a very low profile.”

Schaffer did not respond to a request for comment.


Zamel apparently wanted former national security adviser Michael Flynn to be a member of the firm’s advisory board; Zamel spoke with him about it on multiple occasions around the time Flynn was forming his ill-fated Flynn Intel Group, a former high-ranking Wikistrat employee told The Daily Beast.

“Flynn took a real shining to Joel,” the source said.

Another former Wikistrat employee appeared to confirm Zamel’s links to Flynn, saying a mutual contact, Adam Lovinger, helped introduce Zamel to numerous Pentagon officials. Lovinger, a Pentagon strategist and former Trump NSC analyst, had been named to the National Security Council by Flynn and was reportedly associated with Flynn Intel Group.

Flynn Intel Group would later be investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller in connection to a $530,000 payment it received from a company owned by a Turkish businessman close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lovinger told The Daily Beast that he had introduced Zamel to Pentagon officials after a Navy commander brought him to the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment.

“I know both Joel and Mike Flynn, but I don’t know the extent of their relationship,” Lovinger added.

Zamel had apparently been introduced to Flynn by Bijan Kian, Flynn Intel Group’s former vice chairman of its board of directors, according to one source. Kian had been a partner at Flynn Intel Group and served as point man on Flynn’s discussions with Zamel.

Neither Flynn nor Kian responded to requests for comment.

“Joel Zamel has never met Michael Flynn,” Zamel’s attorney, Marc Mukasey, told The Daily Beast via telephone. Asked about Zamel’s relationship with Kian, Mukasey hung up.

However, shortly after this report’s publication, Mukasey confirmed via email that Zamel had indeed communicated with Flynn. In an email to The Daily Beast, Mukasey wrote: “Regarding Joel and Wikistrat, your information and your statistics and your numbers and your descriptions are flat-out wrong. You’ve been fed misinformation (likely by a disgruntled ex-employee) or you’re simply making things up. By way of example, there was one—and only one—conversation with Flynn.”

The appeal of working with a high-profile intelligence officer like Flynn is easy to see. What’s more opaque is why Zamel moved away from harvesting “crowdsourced” intel to making foreign deals.

The allure of quick and easy money from extravagantly wealthy Middle East leadership figures, coupled with an increasingly personal relationship with them, represented a “shiny object” that lured Zamel away from Wikistrat’s original mission, a former senior Wikistrat employee said.

And although Zamel was rich, he might not have been wealthy enough to float Wikistrat on his own.

“It was never clear to me how much Joel was actually paying out of pocket to subsidize the company vs. what was brought in,” another former employee said. “Clients paid decently but not enough to sustain the company. So Joel was either substantially funding the company or we were getting money from somewhere else. That naturally leads you to focus on non-U.S. sources of income.”

The documents appear to corroborate this, showing that Wikistrat had been losing large amounts of money. For example, an income statement summary shows Wikistrat’s income as -$603,000 in 2013, -$110,000 in 2014, and a projected -$773,000 for 2016.

Kadtke said that, toward the end of 2017, Wikistrat’s ordinary operations (i.e., war games and analysis) went “way down.”

“Around the beginning of 2017, the three people I knew there left very abruptly… The last study on the website was January 2017 (they used to do a lot). They seemed to have ceased operations,” Kadtke said. “It was very strange to me that they just sort of collapsed. It was probably a three-month period after which everyone I knew there left.” ... ers-sights

Zamel apparently wanted former national security adviser Michael Flynn to be a member of Wikistrat’s advisory board; Zamel spoke with him about it on multiple occasions around the time Flynn was forming his ill-fated Flynn Intel Group ... ers-sights

Zamel had apparently been introduced to Flynn by Bijan Kian, Flynn Intel Group’s former vice chairman of its board of directors according to a source - but Zamel’s attorney, Marc Mukasey (Giuliani's former law partner) said Zamel never met Flynn ... ers-sights

Erik Prince had arranged the meeting in August 2016 with Don Jr., George Nader, and Stephen Miller, where Joel Zamel pitched social media services of another company Psy-Group, and after the election was reportedly paid $2 million by George Nader ... zamel.html

Wendy Siegelman Retweeted Wendy Siegelman
According to a recent article about a Canadian court case involved intelligence companies Psy-Group and Black Cube, despite allegedly getting paid $2 million in 2017, Joel Zamel's company Psy-Group is now in liquidationWendy Siegelman added,
Wendy Siegelman

Canadian court battle reveals tactics of two Israeli intelligence firms - Psy-Group (introduced to Don Jr by Erik Prince & George Nader) & Black Cube (hired by Weinstein & allegedly by Trump admin to discredit Iran deal), by @tomer_ganon @orr_hirsch ... 90,00.html ... 3340944384
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Aug 23, 2018 10:29 pm

David Carroll

Lawsuit reveals more details about original SCL investor Vincent Tzhenguiz and Black Cube, the private intelligence firm. Big article.

Cambridge Analytica-linked businessman helped start Black Cube, lawsuit claims

Vincent Tchenguiz also helped controversial 'private intel agency' apply for Israeli government grant for developing dual-use technologies; Economy Ministry won't say if it got one

By TOI staff23 August 2018, 11:06 am
home page

New light on funding, ties of secretive Israeli spy firm

Black Cube's internet homepage (screenshot)

Vincent Tchenguiz, an Iranian-born British entrepreneur and property tycoon who until 2015 was the largest shareholder in the parent company of the scandal-hit data firm Cambridge Analytica, also played a prominent role in the founding stages of the controversial Israeli business intelligence company Black Cube, and provided it with vital funding, according to a 2013 Israeli lawsuit filed by lawyers for Tchenguiz.

Tchenguiz, whose family is of Iraqi-Jewish origin, fell out with the secretive Israeli company and its founders and sued it for fraud and other alleged offenses, seeking almost a million pounds in damages. The case, which received very little media coverage at the time, was ultimately settled out of court.

Black Cube, which was founded in 2011 and whose former honorary board president was the late Mossad chief Meir Dagan, has been at the center of considerable international press scrutiny in recent months.

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Many of the company’s reported behind-the-scenes activities — including its work in Romania, its work on an election campaign in Hungary (where it denies involvement), its involvement in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and its activities relating to the Iran nuclear deal, when it allegedly conducted a “dirty ops” campaign against former Obama administration officials — have made headlines worldwide.

Vincent Tchenguiz (YouTube screenshot)
Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group, too, have been the subject of intense media attention, with the FBI and US Justice Department reportedly investigating the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica over its role in the 2016 election campaigns of US President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians, including the harvesting and alleged illegal use of personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users.

Black Cube — which calls itself a “private intelligence agency” and employs former members of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence units — has denied any links to Cambridge Analytica or any of its subsidiaries. (Last month, the British Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sports Committee issued a report alleging that Black Cube had engaged in election-related hacking in Nigeria on behalf of SCL-linked companies, citing testimony it heard in March by Cambridge Analytica’s former research director Christopher Wylie; however Wylie retracted this allegation in US Senate testimony in May, and it was also denied by Brittany Kaiser, who managed Cambridge Analytica’s project in Nigeria, in written testimony to the British committee.)

In the 2013 lawsuit, which was filed days after Black Cube had sued Tchenguiz in the UK for breach of contract and unpaid bills, Tchenguiz’s lawyers claim that their client played a prominent role in the founding stages of Black Cube, and provide documentation to support this assertion.

If Tchenguiz, SCL Group’s largest shareholder until June 2015, indeed played a such a role in Black Cube in 2011-12, this sheds new light on two mysterious companies that are alleged to have been involved in political influence campaigns worldwide.

The 2013 Israeli lawsuit was brought by a private company, Vincos Ltd., of which Tchenguiz was the beneficial owner. In the suit, filed in Tel Aviv District Court, Tchenguiz claims that the setting up of Black Cube was partly his initiative.

“Defendants 3 and 4 [Black Cube founders Dan Zorella and Avi Yanus] entered into a contract with the plaintiff [Vincos Ltd.] according to which defendant 3, defendant 4 and the plaintiff agreed to jointly establish a company that provides business intelligence research,” the complaint reads.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan(photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The late Mossad chief Meir Dagan (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Furthermore, the lawsuit indicates that Tchenguiz provided vital early funding for Black Cube, with the option of making a larger investment at a later date. “The plaintiff intended to invest in the company in the future and agreed to fund various projects involved in the company’s development, according to the cost plus business model whereby the defendants would have their costs covered by the plaintiff and receive an additional 15 percent on top of that,” it states.

In addition, Tchenguiz allowed the UK branch of Black Cube to operate from a London office he owned for the nominal monthly rent of one British pound, the suit states.

For over a year, from December 2011 until December 2012, Black Cube prepared weekly reports for Tchenguiz, some of which were provided as exhibits in the lawsuit, describing the projects the company was working on and the number of hours it spent on each project. Every Sunday, company founders Zorella and Yanus spoke by phone with Tchenguiz or his representative, the complaint in the lawsuit claims. Tchenguiz was apprised of all the company’s activities, documents attached to the lawsuit show, not merely those that concerned his own affairs — underlining the extent of his involvement in Black Cube.

Tchenguiz also helped the company apply for a grant from the Office of the Chief Scientist in the Israeli Economy Ministry, under a program that incentivizes entrepreneurs to develop dual-use military and civilian technologies for commercial export.

A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry refused to say whether Black Cube received the grant. (In an unrelated case reported last year by The Times of Israel, the Economy Ministry gave taxpayers’ money totaling some $270,000 to a company at the heart of Israel’s now-outlawed binary options industry in order to help it expand abroad, even though the ministry had been warned in advance that the binary options industry was blighted by fraud; the ministry failed for two years to publicize the grant, in breach of its legal obligations.)

David Geclowitz and Ron Weiner, employees of the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, being brought to the appeals court in Bucharest, after their arrest on suspicion of spying on the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, April 12, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)
According to Israeli law, any Israeli company exporting technologies that involve military-related equipment, know-how or services must receive an export permit from the Defense Ministry. When queried in November 2017 by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) as to whether Black Cube had sought and received such a permit, Avi Abuhatzera, an adviser to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, replied, in a letter seen by The Times of Israel, that the Defense Ministry had asked Black Cube whether it was exporting military products or know-how that fall under the law’s regulations. Black Cube had replied in the negative, Abuhatzera told Zandberg, and the Defense Ministry had concluded, on the basis of this reply, that the law requiring a military export permit did not apply to Black Cube.

While the company’s activities may have changed in the intervening years, documents filed in the 2013 lawsuit reveal that Black Cube applied for the Economy Ministry’s Magnet/Meimad grant, which was specifically geared towards military exports abroad, and that the Defense Ministry may have even been a client of Black Cube at the time of the lawsuit.

‘Not transparent enough’

On March 23, 2013, Vincos Ltd., a British company owned by Tchenguiz, sued the defendants B.C. Strategy Ltd., also known as Black Cube Israel, its daughter company B.C. Strategy UK Ltd (Black Cube UK), the company’s founders Zorella and Yanus, and an additional employee, in Tel Aviv District Court.

Tchenguiz accused the defendants of fraud, breach of contract and unlawfully enriching themselves. He sought £924,790 in damages.

According to the complaint, Tchenguiz says he met Zorella in 2010 when the latter was an employee of a business intelligence firm called Businessscope. Businessscope was founded in May 2010 and its initial directors were Shai Schiller, Itay Yonat and Doron Dabby, later to be joined by Gadi Aviran, all of whom are well-known figures in Israel’s WebInt (web intelligence) industry. (These latter four names are cited on the relevant Israeli corporate documents. Apart from the claims in the lawsuit, there is no evidence of which The Times of Israel is aware that Zorella was a Businessscope employee.)

According to the complaint, a company owned by Tchenguiz held a 17 percent ownership stake in Businessscope. On March 10, 2011, when the British Serious Fraud Office raided Tchenguiz’s home and office — on suspicions that he had conspired to cause the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank in 2008 — Tchenguiz turned to Businessscope, he said, and specifically to Dan Zorella, to help him fight the allegations.

A view of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Andreas Tille/Wikipedia)
After a short period of dealing with Businessscope, according to the complaint, Tchenguiz felt the company was not being sufficiently transparent in its dealings with him.

Zorella had a short time before, on March 7, 2011, set up his own Israeli business intelligence company, which he called Zorella Ltd; he later changed its name to B.C. Strategy Ltd., aka “Black Cube.”

Tchenguiz, according to the complaint, said he paid Businessscope £21,000 to allow Zorella to work with Tchenguiz through this new company, Black Cube. Tchenguiz said he agreed to pay the operating expenses of Zorella’s new company, starting in December 2011, plus 15 percent profits.

According to the complaint, Vincos Ltd. paid Black Cube a total of £844,790 over a period of 13 months — from December 2011 till December 2012.

Tchenguiz and Zorella had agreed that Black Cube would do research into Kaupthing Bank — a project they had dubbed “Athena” — as well as seek out new projects and clients. Black Cube’s work on behalf of Tchenguiz led the Serious Fraud Office to eventually in 2014 drop the case against him [paywall], pay millions of dollars in damages and publicly apologize to him.

Throughout 2012, Vincos Ltd. received detailed weekly reports of Black Cube’s activities and paid the company on the basis of these reports, according to Tchenguiz, who attached several pages of these reports to the complaint.

As asserted in the complaint, “the plaintiff periodically received from the defendants a detailed budget for the various projects Black Cube was involved in and the plaintiff paid the defendants on the basis of detailed descriptions of the company’s expenses which they sent him. In addition, almost every Sunday there was a phone conversation between the plaintiff and defendants in which they detailed all the work and activity that Black Cube had undertaken over the past week and the plaintiff approved payments to the defendants on the basis of these presentations.”

In addition, on February 4, 2012, Tchenguiz and B.C. Strategy signed an agreement, attached to the complaint, stating that for the next five years Tchenguiz had the option to acquire 49 percent of the company and to appoint himself as a director.

According to the complaint, however, Tchenguiz began to suspect that Zorella and Yanus had padded their reports and charged him for work they had never done. This caused Tchenguiz to stop paying them and immediately halt negotiations over the option agreement. He then sent a letter to Israel’s Economy Ministry saying he would no longer be investing in B.C. Strategy and was withdrawing his support for B.C. Strategy’s application for a grant under the Magnet/Meimad program.

On March 8, 2013, Black Cube’s lawyers sent Vincos a letter demanding payment of £336,708, and subsequently sued him in the UK, a development that was covered in the British press. Vincos sued the company in Israel on March 23, an event that received minimal media coverage. Both cases were ultimately settled out of court. In April 2013, the Guardian reported that Tchenguiz had settled his dispute with Black Cube and that “the terms of the deal were not disclosed but include an undertaking not to discuss further details with the media.”

Tchenguiz’s lawyers attached several pages of Black Cube’s weekly reports [see link] to the complaint.

Several of the names mentioned in these reports are still in the headlines in 2018, although there is not enough information available to determine the nature of Black Cube’s association with these entities. For instance, Black Cube researched the Icelandic law firm Logos, whose managing partner Gunnar Sturluson was also a board member at the Icelandic firm FL Group, a company that has been in the media spotlight for being a heavy investor in several of Donald J. Trump’s real-estate projects.

Other questions raised by the reports include:

Why was Black Cube interested in Iran sanctions?

What, if anything, did it have to do with an Egyptian gas deal?

And did Black Cube do work for Israel’s Defense Ministry, as the reports in the complaint suggest?

The Trump Soho was funded in part by Iceland’s FL Group (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)
SCL Group and Tchenguiz

SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica are part of a tangled web of companies that even a UK parliamentary committee has struggled to map, as the committee explained in a report last month entitled “Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report.”

“Much effort has been expended in trying to untangle the complex web of relationships within what started out as the SCL (Strategic Communications Laboratories) group of companies, in which the founder Nigel Oakes and Alexander Nix have been involved, along with a myriad of changing shareholders,” reads the report.

“Christopher Wylie told us, in March 2018, that everyone who worked for Cambridge Analytica was ‘effectively’ employed by SCL: ‘When I started in June 2013, Cambridge Analytica did not exist yet. It is important for people to understand that Cambridge Analytica is more of a concept or a brand than anything else because it does not have employees. It is all SCL, it is just the front-facing company for the United States.'”

The UK parliamentary committee cited a May 2017 chart created by investigative journalists Wendy Siegelman and Ann Marlowe that includes 30 companies interlinked within the SCL Group, but noted that the structure had since changed.

What is clear, however, is that from 2005 to 2015 Vincent Tchenguiz was SCL Group’s largest shareholder. During this period, in 2014 and 2015, SCL Group held meetings with Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil company, according to the New York Times. Lukoil is under US sanctions and has strong Kremlin ties.

Also in 2015, when Tchenguiz still owned shares in SCL Group, the company or one of its affiliates allegedly intervened in elections in Nigeria. In a section devoted to SCL Group, last month’s UK parliamentary committee report stated that “We received disturbing evidence, some of which we have published, some of which we have not, of activities undertaken by the SCL-linked companies in various political campaigns dating from around 2010, including the use of hacking, of disinformation, and of voter suppression…“

According to Wylie’s testimony to the British parliamentary committee, when Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon (later Donald Trump’s campaign director and White House chief strategist) were finalizing the establishment of Cambridge Analytica, “they got rid of Tchenguiz [as a shareholder in SCL Group]. The Mercer lawyers didn’t like Tchenguiz’s involvement. He had fairly sketchy business dealings that they didn’t want to be associated with.”

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
It is unclear what business dealings Wylie was referring to. But UK Companies House filings reveal that Tchenguiz was for a time an investor in a company in which Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who is wanted in the US for bribery and other allegations, was also an investor, as described by journalist Ann Marlowe.

Black Cube, in response to The Times of Israel’s requests for comment, said in a statement: “This is an example of sensationalist reporting on Black Cube of absolutely no value. This story, which is from five years ago, has been dug up, twisted and is completely misleading the readers.”

Vincent Tchenguiz’s Consensus Business Group did not comment on its relationship with Black Cube but sent the following response with regard to SCL Group.

“Consensus Business Group invested in SCL in 2005 taking a 24% stake in the business. The investment was made on the basis that the company was intending to develop a major emergency response and strategic communication centre capability for clients.

“When SCL’s business model failed, Consensus Business Group lost interest in the investment and began negotiating an exit from the business in 2013. It finally sold its stake back to SCL’s management in 2015 at a loss.

“Consensus Business Group was a financial investor and not involved in the day to day management or operations of SCL. The investment in SCL was just one of many investments made by Consensus Business Group during the period from 2002 to 2008.”

Spies for hire

In July, Politico reported that Black Cube had secretly recorded representatives of Hungarian NGOs as part of a campaign to discredit the opposition in the run-up to Hungary’s national elections. (Black Cube has denied involvement.)

In 2016, two Israeli Black Cube employees were arrested in Romania for harassing and spying on the country’s anti-corruption czar and later pled guilty to the charges.

In this May 25, 2018 file photo, Harvey Weinstein, center, listens during a court proceeding in New York during his arraignment on rape and other charges. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool)
Black Cube was also hired by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to discredit women accusing him of sexual offenses including rape. (A Black Cube board member later apologized for Black Cube having worked on Weinstein’s behalf.)

Other players

Black Cube is not the only Israeli company that has come under fire for reportedly exporting military-grade spy tools and techniques to deep-pocketed international clients.

In May of this year, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that a now-defunct Israeli company called Psy-Group was being investigated by the FBI in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged illegal interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Psy-Group, which operated in Israel under the name Invop Ltd, was a self-styled leader in “intelligence and influence” which boasted in its marketing material of its covert techniques and capabilities. Its founder and co-owner Joel Zamel was reported by the New York Times in May to have met with Donald Trump Jr. three months before the November 2016 US presidential elections, offering to assist his father’s campaign, and the company was reported to have drawn up “a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”

Former FBI director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill on June 19, 2013, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Meanwhile, an Israeli company called NSO Group that sells software that can hack into smartphones has drawn media attention lately because its software was reportedly used to target human rights activists in Mexico and a dissident in the United Arab Emirates. (NSO Group did not respond to a Times of Israel request for comment.)

Defensive Shield, another Israeli company that has reportedly exported Israeli military know-how to regimes abroad, is currently the subject of an ongoing Israeli police investigation over alleged corrupt practices abroad, police told The Times of Israel.

The Times of Israel is also aware of at least four Israeli military/intelligence companies that have overlapping ownership with now-outlawed fraudulent binary options companies.

One of Israel’s staunchest critics of the unregulated activity of former Israeli military and intelligence personnel abroad is opposition MK Zandberg, the chair of the Meretz party, who wrote in a November 2017 Facebook post (Hebrew) that “Black Cube is part of an entire Israeli industry that exports the weapons, security know-how and training of Israeli security forces, and that crisscrosses the globe for dubious goals. We are aware of the involvement of Israelis in ethnic cleansing, persecution of citizens and spying on journalists.”

Leader of the Meretz party MK Tamar Zandberg attends during a joint Knesset and Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
“This shameful activity is made possible under the veil of extreme secretiveness justified by the prestigious halo of ‘security.’ But behind this veil we learn time after time there is just a lot of money that former generals are raking in at the expense of basic morality,” she charged

In recent years, a shadowy spy-for-hire industry has sprung up in Israel, Dr. Avner Barnea, chairman of the Israeli Forum of Competitive Intelligence, told The Times of Israel in a phone interview, and it is giving legitimate Israeli companies a bad reputation.

Although many of these firms describe what they do as business intelligence, it is anything but, he charged. “Competitive intelligence is completely different from the reported, alleged activity of companies like Black Cube and Psy-Group,” he said.

“Competitive intelligence is intelligence that companies need to make business decisions — whether to adopt a new technology, tweak their product or take other decisions to achieve and sustain competitive advantage. Our industry, through SCIP (the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals Association), has a code of ethics and we never obtain information through illegal means or by impersonating someone we are not.”

‘No Israeli law enforcement’

Barnea described Black Cube, however, as a private investigation firm that, according to media reports, “seeks out information that is not open source in a manner that is illegal. They impersonate people they are not, create fake websites, and use other dubious means.”

(Black Cube has denied any illegal activity, saying it “always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction.”)

“In Israel it is against the law to impersonate someone else; you can face up to five years in prison for that,” said Barnea. “But many of these companies do this.”

Black Cube, said Barnea, applies the methods a state intelligence agency might use to combat terrorists or enemies to civilian life. Exacerbating the problem, said Barnea, is that Israeli police do nothing to curb this phenomenon. “There is no law enforcement in Israel, so companies can do anything they want,” he said.

In November 2017, the Israeli Bureau of Private Investigators filed a complaint against Black Cube with the Israeli police, alleging that it was conducting private investigations without a license and gathering evidence, within Israel, using illegal means. Black Cube has denied the allegations.

The Times of Israel asked the Israel Police whether it was investigating Black Cube. A police spokesman replied that “we do not provide information about the existence or non-existence of police operations and we neither confirm nor deny that such operations are occurring.”

Asked why such intelligence companies for hire seem to have sprung up in Israel, Barnea replied, “Israelis learn some of these techniques in the army. Some Israel Defense Forces veterans are happy to share their expertise with people who pay them a lot of money. There is no law enforcement on the one hand, and a lot of money to be made on the other. ”

Not in this article: A reliable source familiar with Black Cube’s operations told me about the unit that runs a troll factory style operation of imposter social media accounts that push pro-Isreal messaging.

To this day, I can’t get over the @chrisinsilico testimony that the Mercers pushed out Tzhenguiz when they formed Cambridge Analytica because he was too fukkin dodgy…even for them.

Here’s that moment. ... /81022.pdf


WHOA: Another big Black Cube story drops today on the “Echo Chamber” conspiracy theory memo that accuses Obama era operatives of orchestrating comms “war room” to push Iran deal and taint Seb Gorka with his Nazi group background, etc.

The Conspiracy Memo About Obama Aides That Circulated in the Trump White House
The 2017 document, titled “The Echo Chamber,” accused former Obama officials of undermining the incoming Administration.

Adam Entous
In early 2017, some of Donald Trump’s advisers concluded that they faced a sophisticated threat responsible for “coordinated attacks” on the new Administration. They circulated a memo, titled “The Echo Chamber,” which read like a U.S. military-intelligence officer’s analysis of a foreign-insurgent network. Instead of being about enemies in a distant war zone, however, the network described in the memo consisted of former aides to President Barack Obama.

The memo claimed that the “communications infrastructure” that the Obama White House used to “sell Obamacare and the Iran Deal to the public” had been moved to the private sector, now that the former aides were out of government. It called the network the Echo Chamber and accused its members of mounting a coördinated effort “to undermine President Trump’s foreign policy” through organized attacks in the press against Trump and his advisers. “These are the Obama loyalists who are probably among those coordinating the daily/weekly battle rhythm,” the memo said, adding that they likely operated a “virtual war room.” The memo lists Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national-security adviser to President Obama, as “likely the brain behind this operation” and Colin Kahl, Vice-President Joe Biden’s former national-security adviser, as its “likely ops chief.” Rhodes and Kahl both said in interviews that the allegations are false and no such organization exists.

The memo is unsigned and undated, and Trump Administration officials familiar with it offered conflicting accounts of who authored it and whether it originated inside or outside the White House. The officials said that it was circulated within the National Security Council and other parts of the Trump White House in early 2017. They said the memo may have had additional pages. A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment.

Some of the same conspiracy theories expressed in the memo appear in internal documents from an Israeli private-intelligence firm that mounted a covert effort to collect damaging information about aides to President Obama who had advocated for the Iran deal. In May, 2017, that firm, Black Cube, provided its operatives with instructions and other briefing materials that included the same ideas and names discussed in the memo. The Black Cube documents obtained by The New Yorker referred to Rhodes and Kahl, arguing that they were using allies in the media to undermine the Trump Administration. The Black Cube documents use the term “echo chamber” five times, including in a document describing the operatives’ directive as “Investigating the Rhodes’ / Kahl ‘Eco-chamber.’ ” The same document states that “Rhodes and Kahl are suspected to make use of privileged access and information leveraging it against the incumbent administration.”

The British newspaper the Observer revealed the existence of the operation in May, and The New Yorker identified the firm as Black Cube, an organization that Harvey Weinstein had hired to collect information on women accusing him of sexual abuse and journalists trying to expose the allegations. Black Cube has declined to answer questions about who hired it to collect damaging information on Rhodes and Kahl, citing client confidentiality. In a statement, the firm said that “Black Cube does not get involved in politics, and has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal. Black Cube is not aware of the documents mentioned in this article, neither their contents.” A source familiar with the operation has maintained that the investigation of Rhodes and Kahl was part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client in the shipping industry, pursuing commercial interests. But the memo, circulated at senior levels in the White House, shows just how deeply the Echo Chamber conspiracy theory had penetrated business and politics, and suggests a commonality of interests between Black Cube’s unidentified client and parts of the Trump Administration.

Whether those behind the memo had any connection to Black Cube’s work remains unclear. The allegations against Rhodes and Kahl appeared in articles published by Breitbart and other conservative Web sites in 2016 and 2017, fuelled by a May, 2016, Times Magazine profile in which Rhodes was quoted using the phrase “echo chamber” to describe his and other officials’ advocacy for the Iran nuclear deal. A profile of Rhodes compiled by Black Cube quotes the Times Magazine story. (In a recent memoir, Rhodes said, “all I was describing was the most routine aspect of communications work. Briefing people. Disseminating fact sheets.”)

Conspiracy theories of this kind appear to have thrived in the Trump White House, which was divided into factions that often used media leaks to undermine their rivals and compete for influence with the President. Those in the White House and on the National Security Council staff who aligned themselves with Steve Bannon, who left Breitbart to serve as Trump’s chief strategist, perceived former Obama Administration officials and so-called holdovers (career professionals who remained in the White House after Trump’s Inauguration) as obstacles to advancing their agenda and potential sources of leaks aimed at undermining them. In private meetings, Bannon’s allies in the power struggle, some of whom had military backgrounds, said they were eager to fight back.

The Black Cube documents show a similar focus on the lines of communication between Obama-era officials and the press. The firm compiled a list of nine reporters and commentators it claimed were part of the Echo Chamber, including The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the New York Times’ Max Fisher, and NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell. Fisher is described as having “heavily advocated” for the Iran deal and “placed himself at the service of Rhodes’ ‘Eco-chamber,’ ” while Mitchell is at one point identified as being a “vessel for Rhodes’ ‘eco-chamber.’ ” The reporters disputed that characterization. “It’s my first time hearing of this, and it’s obviously ridiculous,” Mitchell said. Fisher, who described the effort as “weird and misguided,” said, “I don't really understand what they were hoping to accomplish.” In an e-mail, Goldberg added, “This is one of the stupider conspiracy theories circulating through a city currently drowning in stupid conspiracy theories.”

Black Cube also assembled a list of six additional journalists and commentators it described as being “close to Rhodes vessels of his message.” Operatives approached targeted individuals to elicit potentially damaging statements about Rhodes and Kahl. At least one of those conversations, with a commentator on the list, Trita Parsi, was secretly recorded. Operatives also used false identities and front companies to try to dupe targets, including Rhodes’s and Kahl’s wives, into unwittingly sharing information.

Both the memo and Black Cube documents reference attacks in the press on Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to President Trump. In a section titled “Gorka Allegations,” the Black Cube documents reference allegations that he was anti-Semitic and affiliated with Nazi groups, which Rhodes mentioned in a tweet on one occasion. (Gorka has disputed the allegations.) The memo identifies the former Obama Administration officials purported to be in the Echo Chamber as “the people who would be behind coordinated attacks such as the one against Seb Gorka.” Later, it cites an article Kahl wrote in Foreign Policy, which questioned whether Gorka had a top-secret security clearance.

The memo also claims that other former Obama Administration officials are part of the Echo Chamber. Jake Sullivan, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, is identified as one of the leaders of the Echo Chamber. The former Obama Administration officials Tommy Vietor, Ned Price, Jon Favreau, Jon Finer, and Dan Pfeiffer are all listed as “likely operations officers.” Many of those former officials have publicly criticized Trump’s foreign policies, but Rhodes and Kahl said there was no “Echo Chamber,” “network,” “ops chief,” or “virtual war room.” In a statement, Rhodes described the memo as “a bizarre effort to validate ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories” and said that, “given Trump’s many efforts to intimidate and malign his critics, it’s worth asking how his White House and outside enablers acted on this strange memo.” In an e-mail, Kahl added that “the NSC’s role is to staff the President and coordinate the interagency on foreign affairs. It is not the NSC’s role to conduct military-style network analysis of domestic opponents.”

The memo obtained by The New Yorker has been reproduced below.

The Echo Chamber

The communications infrastructure that the Obama admin used to sell Obamacare and the Iran Deal to the public (“Echo Chamber”) has been shifted from the White House into the private sector, and is now being used to undermine President Trump’s foreign policy. Some of the members of this network refer to themselves as “the resistance.”

They are the same Obama loyalists using the same media outlets and same allied journalists to promote their narrative of US foreign policy. Many of the figures in this network were focused on selling Obama's Iran Deal, so there is something of a Middle East/Iran slant to the network's membership.

Likely Leadership: Responsible for higher-level strategy and higher-level fundraising. Probably also responsible for senior-level political outreach with major Democrat donors (e.g., Tom Nides and Alan Solow) and members of Congress.

Ben Rhodes. Likely the brain behind this operation. -Former Deputy NSA for Strat Comms.-Wife Ann Norris is PDAS for legislative affairs in the State Dept.

Jake Sullivan. Former NSA to VP Biden; now on the faculty at Yale. -Was foreign policy chief to Hillary Clinton's campaign.-Was director of policy planning for Clinton at State Dept.-With Ben Rhodes, co-authored the Benghazi talking points.

Likely Operations Officers: These are the Obama loyalists who are probably among those coordinating the daily/weekly battle rhythm—i.e., the "War Room." These are the ones who are probably among those coordinating the daily/weekly battle rhythm—i.e., the “War Room.” These are the ones who are likely reaching out to reporters to plant stories and then using a comms infrastructure to amplify those stories on listservs and in social media. These are the people who would be behind coordinated attacks such as the one against Seb Gorka. These people have also had very close working and personal relationships going back to the Obama campaign of 2007-2008. Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau were roommates in DC during the Obama admin, for example.

Colin Kahl (likely ops chief). Former NSA to VP Biden. Now on the faculty at Georgetown.
-Very active on Twitter and on TV.-Kahl is the likely coordinator of this group and of the virtual “war room.” We can surmise this because he is the author of last resort: i.e., when an attack is not gaining traction via articles or social media posts written by others, Colin weighs in directly himself, as in the article he wrote that demanded to know whether Seb Gorka had a security clearance or not.

Tommy Vietor, former deputy to Ben Rhodes.

Ned Price, former deputy to Ben Rhodes. -Wrote article in February saying he was resigning from the CIA because of his disgust with President Trump’s policies—a preplanned article.

Jon Favreau, former Obama speechwriter.

Jon Finer, former senior advisor to Sec Kerry and former Director of Policy Planning at State Dept. Also former journalist.

Dan Pfeiffer, former communications advisor to Obama. ... hite-house
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:00 pm

Federal Prosecutors Exploring New Charges Against Harvey Weinstein
Prosecutors look at whether Weinstein committed fraud in alleged efforts to silence accusers

Harvey Weinstein arrived to court in New York in July. PHOTO: SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Nicole Hong and Bradley Hope
Sept. 6, 2018 5:10 p.m. ET
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein violated wire fraud or other laws in any efforts to silence women who accused him of sexual misconduct, say people familiar with the matter, an indication he could still face federal charges after his arrest in May on state charges.

Part of the federal probe is examining Mr. Weinstein’s relationship with Israeli investigative firm Black Cube, people familiar with the matter said.

The firm worked undercover on Mr. Weinstein’s behalf to gather information about his accusers.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating alleged efforts by Mr. Weinstein to intimidate women and cover up the accusations against him using hush money, a person familiar with the matter said.

The federal investigation has been active in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said.

Benjamin Brafman, Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer, said in a statement that he met with Manhattan federal prosecutors to “demonstrate that Black Cube was retained and supervised by prominent lawyers,” who Mr. Weinstein “believed would never have authorized illegal activity of any kind.”

Mr. Brafman said Mr. Weinstein’s objective in hiring Black Cube was to “defend himself through legal action from serious and patently false allegations.”

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Mr. Weinstein, who is out of jail on $1 million bail after his arrest in May, faces state charges that include rape and predatory sexual assault, a felony that carries a minimum 10-year sentence and a maximum of life in prison.

Mr. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has previously denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Investigators may be pursuing federal fraud charges as a backstop to the state case, should the Manhattan district attorney’s office fail to secure a conviction against Mr. Weinstein. Sex-crime cases are among the toughest to prove at trial, former prosecutors say.

The state charges stem from incidents with three separate women, which took place in 2004, 2006 and 2013, according to prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors are looking at Mr. Weinstein’s dealings with private investigators at Black Cube, who were hired to assist in an effort to stop the publication of sexual-harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein, according to a July 2017 contract between Black Cube and Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, the law firm representing Mr. Weinstein at the time.

Black Cube and Boies Schiller haven’t been accused of any illegal wrongdoing. Black Cube couldn’t be reached to comment. A spokesman for Boies Schiller declined to comment.

To bring wire fraud charges against Mr. Weinstein, prosecutors would have to prove Mr. Weinstein engaged in a scheme to use deception to obtain money or property from a victim.

The charge, which covers many types of fraud, requires the use of a “wire,” such as an email or phone call across state lines, to further the scheme.

The Wall Street Journal has previously reported another focus of federal prosecutors, whether Mr. Weinstein lured or induced any women to travel across state lines for the purpose of committing a sex crime.

The judge in the state case hasn’t yet set a trial date. Mr. Weinstein is expected to appear in state court for a hearing on Sept. 20.

In recent court filings in the state case, Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers have included emails that they say show he had a longtime consensual relationship with one of the alleged victims. State prosecutors haven't yet filed their response.

Law-enforcement officials in multiple jurisdictions have been investigating sexual-assault allegations against Mr. Weinstein after media reports in October 2017 detailed financial settlements paid by Mr. Weinstein to women accusing him of assault and harassment. ... 1536268233
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:19 pm

Ex-Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy Joins Spy Firm Black Cube

Halevy will serve on the board of directors and head the committee to screen potential clients, among other things, Yedioth Ahronoth reports. The 'Private Mossad' has a history ripe with controversy

Haaretz Nov 11, 2018 3:29 PM

Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, February 7, 2011. Yotam Frum
Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has joined the controversial private intelligence firm Black Cube as a member of the board of directors. He will also head the committee to screen potential clients and act as a senior advisor on operational and intelligence matter, the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

Halevy could also be elected as president of the company, the report added.

Halevy, 83, previously served as the head of the National Security Council, the Israeli ambassador to the EU and the ninth director of Mossad. Halevy also served as the envoy and confidant of five prime ministers.

>> $6 billion of Iranian money: Why Israeli firm Black Cube really went after Obama's team

Black Cube has been the subject of much attention in recent years, since being founded in 2010 by Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, veterans of a secret Israeli intelligence unit.

Most of the firm's employees come from the country's spy community, including the Intelligence Corps, Mossad and the Shin Bet security service.

Last month, Haaretz revealed the reason for which the commercial spy firm, which has been marketed as the "private Mossad," was targeting members of the Obama administration - the seizure of Iranian cash worldwide.

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Black Cube said in response to the Haaretz report: “Black Cube policy is never to discuss its clients with any third party, and never to confirm or deny any speculation about its work. Black Cube only works to gather evidence in the biggest litigations in the world and not in other cases."

Last May, the Observer newspaper and New Yorker magazine published articles on the espionage operation against senior Obama administration officials. At their center were Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and national security adviser to the vice president, Colin Kahl. Black Cube had contacted both under different covers in order to discuss Iran. The operation failed and was exposed.

Last year, it was reported that disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein hired Black Cube to investigate his accusers of sexual assault.

Black Cube made the headlines in Israel in 2013 when it was hired by former IDB chairman Nochi Dankner to dig up dirt on Moti Ben-Moshe and Eduardo Elsztain, who succeeded in wresting control of the IDB conglomerate from Dankner.

In 2014, Argentina wanted to hire Black Cube to collect intelligence on the U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management, which took Argentina to court to force it to pay up on bonds it has previously restructured.

In 2016, two Israeli Black Cube employees were arrested in Romania on hacking charges with the alleged aim of harassing and intimidating the country's chief anti-corruption prosecutor.

Black Cube maintains offices in Tel Aviv. Visitors to the office are confronted with a plain black entrance with no writing on it. ... -1.6638862 ... -1.6593965
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Mar 01, 2019 7:47 am

How a Private Israeli Intelligence Firm Spied on Pro-Palestinian Activists in the U.S.

Adam Entous
Hatem Bazian, a veteran pro-Palestinian activist in his fifties, lives with his family on a quiet street in North Berkeley, near the campus of the University of California, where he lectures. Early on the morning of May 10, 2017, as Bazian was about to drive his teen-age daughter to school, he noticed fliers on the windshields of cars parked on his block. At first, Bazian assumed that they were advertisements for a new movie or restaurant. When he looked more closely at the flier that had been left on his BMW sedan, he realized that it featured a photograph of his face, below a tagline that read, “He supports terror.” Bazian quickly folded up the flier so his daughter wouldn’t see it.

Born in Jordan to a father from the West Bank city of Nablus and a mother from Jerusalem, Bazian has long been an outspoken champion of Palestinian causes. For decades, staunch supporters of Israel have criticized Bazian’s activism. The incident with the fliers, though, was particularly unnerving, he told me. He rented his house and did not publicize the address. His opponents, he thought, must be following him. Later that day, Bazian, who describes himself as a proponent of nonviolent protest, reported what happened to the Berkeley police. He said that officers told him they could do nothing about the harassment.

Although it is unclear who left the fliers, internal documents from a private Israeli intelligence firm called Psy-Group show that, at the time of the incident, the company, and possibly other private investigators, were targeting Bazian because of his leadership role in promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, known as B.D.S. Supporters of B.D.S. urge corporations, universities, and local governments to impose economic, academic, and cultural boycotts on Israel to protest its treatment of the Palestinians. Opponents say that the B.D.S. movement aims to delegitimize Israel and hobble its economy. On its Web site, the movement states that it does not advocate for or against a resolution in which Israel continues to exist.

Psy-Group’s intelligence and influence operations, which included a failed attempt in the summer of 2017 to sway a local election in central California, were detailed in a New Yorker investigation that I co-wrote earlier this month. Before it went out of business, last year, Psy-Group was part of a new wave of private-intelligence firms that recruited from the ranks of Israel’s secret services and described themselves as “private Mossads.” Psy-Group initially stood out among its rivals because it didn’t just gather intelligence; its operatives used false identities, or avatars, to covertly spread messages in an attempt to influence what people believed and how they behaved. In 2016, Psy-Group held discussions with the Trump campaign and others about conducting covert “influence” operations to benefit the candidate. Psy-Group’s founder and C.E.O., Royi Burstien, a veteran Israeli intelligence officer who established the firm in 2014, told me that his talks with the Trump campaign went nowhere. The company’s posturing, however, attracted the attention of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who has been investigating interference in the 2016 Presidential race.

Psy-Group’s operations against B.D.S. activists on U.S. college campuses began in February, 2016, according to internal documents describing the campaign. The company raised money in New York from Jewish-American donors and pro-Israel groups, and assured them that their identities would be kept secret. Psy-Group told them that its goal was to make it appear as though the donors were not involved in any way.

The campaign, code-named Project Butterfly, initially targeted B.D.S. activists on college campuses in “a single U.S. state,” which former Psy-Group employees have told me was New York. The company said that its operatives drew up lists of individuals and organizations to target. The operatives then gathered derogatory information on them from social media and the “deep” Web, areas of the Internet that are not indexed by search engines such as Google. In some cases, Psy-Group operatives conducted on-the-ground covert human-intelligence, or HUMINT, operations against their targets. Israeli intelligence officials insist that they do not spy on Americans, a claim that is disputed by their U.S. counterparts. Israeli officials said, however, that this prohibition does not apply to private companies such as Psy-Group, which use discharged Israel Defense Forces soldiers and former members of elite intelligence units, rather than active-duty members, in operations targeting Americans.

A Psy-Group document, from 2017, outlines a campaign to investigate supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

Project Butterfly called for Psy-Group operatives to disseminate negative information about B.D.S. activists in ways that could not be traced back to the company or its donors. The goal, according to a Psy-Group summary of the campaign, from May, 2017, was to create “a new reality in which anti-Israeli activists are exposed and forced to confront the consequences of their actions.” The campaign’s messages were designed to convince Americans that “anti-Israeli activity” equated to “terrorism,” the company told donors. A former Psy-Group employee said these so-called name-and-shame tactics were often effective at silencing individual B.D.S. activists. “They would disappear,” the employee told me, claiming that some activists appeared to become less engaged after derogatory information about them was publicized. If an activist claimed to be a pious Muslim, operatives would look for evidence that he had behaved in ways unacceptable to many observant Muslims, such as drinking alcohol or having an affair, a former employee said. B.D.S. leaders, however, seemed to recruit new activists quickly. The former employee likened Psy-Group’s campaign to the war on terrorism, saying, “It’s never-ending.”

Video From The New Yorker

During the period when Psy-Group mounted its anti-B.D.S. campaign, several Web sites, including the now-defunct, published information on the movement’s leaders and supporters. Definitively determining who was behind the sites is difficult because Psy-Group and other organizations involved in anti-B.D.S. work used avatars and other tactics to disguise their involvement.

In an example of the deceptive practices employed by operatives involved in the campaign, an avatar who identified himself as “Alex Walker” sent an unsolicited e-mail on August 15, 2017, to an advertising-sales broker who represented several New York-based national Jewish publications. Walker claimed that a friend referred him to the broker and said that he was impressed with his services. When the broker asked for the friend’s name, Walker dodged the question. At that point, the broker, who asked not to be named, said he suspected that Walker wasn’t who he claimed to be. Walker said that he was upset about B.D.S. and wanted the broker to place advertisements promoting in the New York area. Walker said that his assistant would pay the eight-hundred-dollar fee via PayPal. The broker told me that he placed the ads and took the money despite his suspicions about Walker. “In my mind, I’m not doing anything wrong,” he said.

The Web site featured short profiles of B.D.S. activists, one of whom was Peter Moskowitz, a Jewish-American supporter of the movement. His profile contained misspellings, and, at one point, referred to him as “she.” But the site contained a piece of information that surprised Moskowitz: had somehow uncovered his membership in a left-wing Jewish organization critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, even though Moskowitz had not disclosed his involvement online or to many friends.

Project Butterfly was overseen by an advisory board composed of “senior ex-officials and experts from the government, security and legal sectors,” according to Psy-Group documents. The most senior of those ex-officials was Yaakov Amidror, who became Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national-security adviser after leading a military-intelligence analysis division within the I.D.F. Amidror told me that before joining the board he spoke to Daniel Reisner, one of Israel’s most prominent lawyers, and a partner at Herzog Fox & Neeman, which was Psy-Group’s outside counsel. He said that Reisner told him Psy-Group’s operations in the U.S. against B.D.S. activists were legal. Amidror said that he advised Psy-Group executives to insure that their operatives didn’t breach any U.S. laws or norms while targeting American activists. “Don’t beat them. Don’t go into their houses,” Amidror said.

Amidror said that he supported the central goal of the Psy-Group operation: to “expose” B.D.S. leaders on American university campuses and collect intelligence about any connections they might have to Palestinian organizations and other groups. “The Israeli government was not there, and I thought that, if private people are ready to do it, it can be helped,” Amidror said. “It should be known who is behind them. It’s not known. We don’t know where the money is coming from, how far it is connected to Ramallah or Hamas.” He defended the propriety of a private Israeli intelligence firm collecting and disseminating information on American citizens who supported B.D.S. “If it is in the public domain, why not? I don’t see any problem,” he told me. “If someone doesn’t want it to be leaked publicly, he shouldn’t put it” on the Internet or on social media, Amidror said.

After Amidror joined the effort, Psy-Group recruited Ram Ben-Barak, who stepped down as the deputy director of Mossad in late 2011, to help as a paid strategic adviser on Project Butterfly. He worked one day a week out of Psy-Group’s offices near Tel Aviv. Ben-Barak said he believed that supporters of Israel had no choice but to counter B.D.S. forces in the United States. “You need to do it,” he told me. “They’re fighting against us, so we need to fight against them.”

In 2017, Psy-Group planned to expand Project Butterfly to target up to ten college campuses and other “venues,” according to the documents. In addition, the company said that its operatives would focus on between fifteen and twenty “national level individual targets.” Donors were told that Psy-Group had “mapped anti-Israel hubs” across the country and had “executed 5 rapid-response operations nationwide,” without explaining what those operations entailed and whom they targeted.

The names of Psy-Group’s targets weren’t included in the May, 2017, summary of Project Butterfly, which was marked “confidential.” But a few days after the incident outside Bazian’s home, Burstien, Psy-Group’s founder and C.E.O, provided a report to researchers at a Washington think tank called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, or F.D.D., which included the names of some of the B.D.S. activists whom the Israeli firm had targeted or planned to target. According to the Psy-Group report, the company had prepared “dossiers” on Bazian and eight other individuals. Psy-Group told the foundation that Bazian “got our full attention,” and that his dossier included “criminal background records” and other documents “obtained via HUMINT capabilities,” using the abbreviation for human-intelligence gathering. (When asked about the report, Bazian said he wasn’t sure what “criminal background records” Psy-Group was referring to. He said that he had received speeding tickets on occasion over the years, and was arrested in San Francisco, in 1991, for helping organize a student protest.)

A Psy-Group report names some of the activists targeted by the firm.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Psy-Group appeared to share a particular interest in the role of a pro-B.D.S. organization that Bazian had founded, American Muslims for Palestine, or A.M.P. At a congressional hearing in 2016, F.D.D.’s vice-president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, alleged that Bazian and others working for or on behalf of A.M.P. had ties to organizations that Schanzer said have been accused of providing money to Hamas. (Bazian said that the foundation’s accusations were part of “a smear campaign that attempts to discredit anyone that deals with Palestine.” He added, “I have no ties whatsoever to any Palestinian group, faction, or organization inside occupied Palestine.”)

Psy-Group told the foundation that it planned to investigate “organizations and companies” that sponsor A.M.P.’s conferences, and singled out a Wisconsin-based Palestinian activist named Salah Sarsour, who has been in charge of organizing the conferences since 2015, as a planned target. Psy-Group alleged that Sarsour had “involvement with Hamas.” (Sarsour said that he had no relationship with the group.) Sarsour, who moved to the U.S. from the West Bank in 1993, told me about two incidents since the summer of 2017 that made him suspect people were spying on him—although, he acknowledged, he had no hard evidence.

An F.D.D. official confirmed that the think tank met with Psy-Group, but she said the foundation “did not end up contracting with them, and their research did little to advance our own.” Psy-Group went out of business in February, 2018, as F.B.I. agents began to investigate its work. Other counter-B.D.S. organizations have continued to operate against activists. Bazian’s page at accuses him of spreading “classic anti-Semitism,” and features several videos, including one titled “The Most Dangerous Professor in America?” “I am concerned and do take stock of the intimidation tactics,” Bazian told me. “But I am not deterred.” ... -in-the-us
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Re: Black Cube Israeli Intelligence

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 09, 2019 8:35 pm

Wendy Siegelman

Retweeted US Attorney SDNY
Former Uzbek Govt Official Gulnara Karimova & telecom exec Bekhzod Akhmedov charged in $1 billion bribery & money laundering scheme

Case involves VimpelCom (HT @KlasfeldReports) - majority owned by Alfa Bank's Mikhail Fridman, Mercer's Renaissance Tech also invested in VimpelCom Wendy Siegelman added,

Frmr Uzbek gov’t official & director of Russian telecommunications co. charged in bribery & money laundering scheme involving the payment of nearly $1 billion in bribes

Former Uzbek Government Official And Uzbek Telecommunications Executive Charged In Bribery And Money Laundering Scheme Involving The Payment Of Nearly $1 Billion In Bribes

Largest Bribe Payment Ever Received by Individual Defendant in FCPA Case Russian Telecommunications Company Agreed to Pay More than $850 Million in Penalties, Including the Largest FCPA Criminal Penalty Ever Paid to the United States

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), Brian A. Benczkowski, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Don Fort, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division, Internal Revenue Service (“IRS-CI”), and Patrick J. Lechleitner, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Washington, D.C, announced today the filing of criminal charges against GULNARA KARIMOVA, a former Uzbek government official who is the daughter of the former president of Uzbekistan, and BEKHZOD AKHMEDOV, the former general director of Uzdunrobita, an Uzbek subsidiary of Moscow-based MOBILE TELESYSTEMS PJSC (“MTS”), the largest mobile telecommunications company in Russia and an issuer of publicly traded securities in the United States, in connection with one of the largest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) bribery schemes ever charged, a decade-long corrupt scheme to pay KARIMOVA more than $865 million in bribes. AKHMEDOV, who helped orchestrate the massive bribery scheme on behalf of MTS and two other telecommunications companies, VimpelCom Ltd. (“VimpelCom”) and Telia Company AB (“Telia”), and their Uzbek subsidiaries, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and two counts of violating the FCPA. KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering based on numerous international financial transactions they conducted to promote and conceal the bribery scheme. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood.

Yesterday afternoon, criminal charges were filed against MTS and another of its Uzbek subsidiaries, KOLORIT DIZAYN INK LLC (“KOLORIT”), for conspiring to violate the FCPA by paying more than $420 million in bribes through AKHMEDOV to KARIMOVA. KOLORIT pled guilty yesterday in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to a criminal Information charging the company with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the FCPA. MTS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with SDNY and DOJ in connection with a criminal Information charging the company with one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the FCPA and one count of violating the internal controls provisions of the FCPA. Pursuant to the DPA, MTS agreed to pay a total criminal penalty of $850 million to the United States, including a $500,000 criminal fine and $40 million in criminal forfeiture that MTS agreed to pay on behalf of KOLORIT. MTS also agreed to the imposition of an independent compliance monitor for a term of three years and to implement rigorous internal controls and cooperate fully with SDNY’s and DOJ’s ongoing investigation, including their investigation of individuals such as KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV.

In related proceedings, MTS reached a civil settlement with the SEC. Under the terms of its agreement with the SEC, MTS agreed to pay a $100 million civil penalty, which SDNY and DOJ agreed to credit toward the financial penalties imposed as part of their agreement with MTS. Thus, the combined total amount of criminal and regulatory penalties paid by MTS to U.S. authorities in connection with the FCPA bribery scheme will be $850 million.

U.S. Attorney Berman said: “This is the third installment in a trilogy of cases arising from an almost $1 billion bribery scheme that reached the highest echelons of the Uzbekistan government and was orchestrated by some of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. By funneling multimillion-dollar bribe payments through the U.S. financial system, the companies and individual defendants corruptly tried to tip the global economy in their favor and line their own pockets. But they are now paying the price. Today, my Office and our law enforcement partners are sending a bold, unequivocal message that the U.S. financial system is not in business to enable foreign bribery or money laundering. This Office stands ready to prevent, prosecute, and penalize foreign corrupt practices wherever in the world we find them.”

Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said: “Gulnara Karimova stands accused of exploiting her official position to solicit and accept more than $865 million in bribes from three publicly traded telecom companies, and then laundering those bribes through the U.S. financial system. The indictment and corporate resolution announced today, together with two prior corporate resolutions involving bribes allegedly paid to Karimova, demonstrate the Department’s comprehensive approach to foreign corruption: we will aggressively pursue both corrupt foreign officials and the companies and individuals who bribe them in order to gain unfair business advantages, and we will do everything we can to keep the proceeds of that corruption out of the U.S. financial system.”

IRS-CI Chief Don Fort said: “With the increase in globalization and ease with which funds can be moved, criminals think their financial transactions cannot be tracked – but they would be wrong. We will continue to investigate violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to ensure our country’s financial institutions are not used for devious purposes. We are committed to aggressively pursuing all who engage in corruption, money laundering, and bribery for their own personal gain and at the expense of the United States government.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Lechleitner said: “Corruption of this level and reach poisons our integrity as a participant in the global marketplace. Thanks to our skillful and collaborative investigators at ICE and the IRS-CI, Karimova and Ahkmedov’s exploitive crimes will be presented before the resolute and just eye of our courts and no longer will such corruption be permitted to metasticize across our borders.”

According to allegations contained in the Indictment filed today against KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV and criminal Informations filed yesterday against MTS and KOLORIT, the Statement of Facts set forth in the DPA, and statements made during public proceedings in Manhattan federal court:

Between approximately 2001 and 2012, KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV agreed that AKHMEDOV would solicit and obtain corrupt bribes for KARIMOVA from telecommunications companies, including MTS and KOLORIT, so that the companies could obtain and retain telecommunications business in Uzbekistan. The bribes were paid to KARIMOVA, who, in exchange, exercised her corrupt influence over Uzbek telecommunications industry regulators to allow the telecommunications companies to obtain lucrative business and operate in the Uzbek market. MTS and KOLORIT structured and concealed the bribes through various payments to shell companies that certain members of MTS and KOLORIT management knew were beneficially owned by KARIMOVA. In total, AKHMEDOV and others conspired to pay KARIMOVA more than $865 million in bribes. KARIMOVA, AKHMEDOV, and others agreed to launder those funds in order to promote and conceal the bribery scheme. For their part, MTS, KOLORIT, and affiliated entities paid KARIMOVA more than $420 million in bribes. A substantial portion of the illicit funds were transmitted through financial institutions in the Southern District of New York before they were deposited into bank accounts controlled by KARIMOVA in various countries around the world.

The resolution with MTS and KOLORIT, reached in coordination with the SEC, marks the third such resolution by a major international telecommunications company for bribery in Uzbekistan. On February 18, 2016, Amsterdam-based VimpelCom and its Uzbek subsidiary, Unitel LLC, entered into a resolution with SDNY and DOJ and admitted to conspiring to pay more than $114 million in bribes to KARIMOVA between 2005 and 2012. On September 21, 2017, Stockholm-based Telia and its Uzbek subsidiary, Coscom LLC, entered into a resolution with SDNY and DOJ and admitted to conspiring to pay more than $331 million in bribes to KARIMOVA between 2007 and 2010.

The investigation has thus far yielded a combined total of more than $2.6 billion in global fines and disgorgement, including more than $1.3 billion in criminal penalties paid to the United States. In related actions, DOJ has also filed civil complaints seeking the forfeiture of more than $850 million held in bank accounts in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland, which constitute bribe payments made by MTS, VimpelCom, and Telia, or funds involved in the laundering of those bribes, to KARIMOVA

* * *

KARIMOVA, 46, a citizen of Uzbekistan, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. AKHMEDOV, 44, a citizen of Uzbekistan currently residing in Russia, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, two counts of violating the FCPA, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV remain at large.

KOLORIT was charged with, and pled guilty to, one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the FCPA. MTS was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the FCPA and one count of violating the internal controls provisions of the FCPA.

Mr. Berman thanked the Fraud Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division for their collaboration and praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS-CI, the IRS Global Illicit Financial Team, and HSI. Mr. Berman also thanked the SEC’s Division of Enforcement for its assistance and cooperation in the investigation. Mr. Berman expressed his appreciation to the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs for its significant assistance in this matter and to law enforcement colleagues in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Ireland, Isle of Man, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by SDNY’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit and the FCPA Unit of the Fraud Section of DOJ’s Criminal Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. Imperatore, Assistant Chief Ephraim Wernick, Senior Litigation Counsel Nicola Mrazek, and Trial Attorney Elina Rubin-Smith are in charge of the prosecution. Trial Attorney Michael Khoo of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (“MLARS”) is prosecuting the forfeiture case with substantial assistance from former MLARS Trial Attorney Marie M. Dalton, now an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Washington.

The charges contained in the Indictment against KARIMOVA and AKHMEDOV are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proved guilty. ... ed-bribery

The massive $1 billion bribery scheme war organized "on behalf of MTS and two other telecommunications companies, VimpelCom Ltd. (“VimpelCom”) and Telia Company AB (“Telia”), and their Uzbek subsidiaries


I ran across that connection in a crazy Canadian lawsuit - two firms had competed to buy Wind Mobile from Mikhail Fridman's Vimpelcom (VEON) - West Face won the bid and later alleged their rival Catalyst had hired Black Cube AND Psy-Group to discredit them

I ran across that connection in a crazy Canadian lawsuit - two firms had competed to buy Wind Mobile from Mikhail Fridman's Vimpelcom (VEON) - West Face won the bid and later alleged their rival Catalyst had hired Black Cube AND Psy-Group to discredit them

Sawaris' Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding set up and run the first and only 3G mobile network in North Korea in 2010 and a year later opened Orabank.

In 2015 Sawaris' Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding handed the control of the 3G network to North Korean entities due to sanctions but remained as the major shareholder. In 2016 they closed Orabank for the same reason. ... /ora-bank/

Sawaris' have made big investment in Cyprus recently. "Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding has invested in a $235m (EUR220m) mixed-use project in Ayia Napa, Cyprus."

Vasily Anisimov's (Coalco/Head of Russian judo federation=Putin) LX-NAD 1/25/18 Moscow-Zurich-London. 1/27/18 London-Zurich-Moscow. He isn't on the official attendee list. He's a property developer and "lives in Moscow, and sometimes New York." Trump?

When Dmytro Firtash got arrested in Austria, in 2014, Vasily Anisimov "loaned" him the $155 million for the bail. "SPECIAL REPORT-Putin's allies channelled billions to Ukraine oligarch"
SOCAR's (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic) TC-OIL 1/25/18 From?-Landed somewhere near Basel (~2hours)-To? SOCAR's
President Rovnag Abdullayev and VP Elshad Nasirov are on the official attendee list.
"The Structure of Corruption in Azerbaijan"

Andrey Kozitsyn's (CEO of Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company/Iskander Makhmudov) VP-BAK 1/26/18 Yekaterinburg-Zurich. 1/28/18 Zurich-Yekaterinburg. Kozitsyn or UMMC weren't on the official Davos 2018 attendee list. Kozitsyn is tied to organized crime
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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