Saturday, May 05, 2018

Trump's private spooks: Did he hire Black Cube?

Here's a remarkable story. The Guardian reports that Trump hired a private Israeli spy firm to dig up dirt on any Obama administration officials who helped to negotiate the Iran deal. Apparently, these individuals have been targeted for all-out smear jobs, using any means available.
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.
Republicans may selectively leak to the media. Democrats may not.

Here's the hidden bit that particularly galls me:
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.
During the campaign, I kept waiting and hoping for the Obama administration to produce some ELINT proving the Trump/Putin connection. I did not realize that the incriminating intelligence would be hidden by minimization protections, which were put in place to hide the identities of Americans conversing with foreign intelligence targets.

In years past, I wrote extensively about the need to strengthen minimization protocols. I never thought that those protocols would be used to help a conclave of fiends take over the country. History loves irony.

(At this stage in life, I finally understand: "History" and "irony" are two concepts so closely related as to be practically synonymous.)

In years past, when I wrote about the need for stronger minimization, I was thinking of average individuals. You and me. I wasn't thinking about protecting international skullduggery committed by political candidates or major wheeler-dealers in the business world. I wasn't thinking about guys like Trump or his pals.

There is no reason not to reveal the identities of Trump associates who talked with Russians during or after the campaign. If anyone working for any campaign -- Democrat or Republican -- is in contact with foreign spies or government officials, the public has a right to know.

It is infuriating to think that the proof of Trump's treason probably resides in an NSA computer just twelve miles away from where I'm sitting right now. Or maybe the evidence is stored in that massive NSA facility in Utah. Why do we have these eavesdropping mechanisms in place if we are not going to use them to protect the country?

Think about it. If Trump had no link to Putin, then why on earth would Trump be so zealous to hide the conversations that his pals had with Russians? Why would Trump hire private spooks to besmirch those who sought to expose those contacts? What is he so afraid of?

I've thought about compiling a list: "Fifty pieces of evidence proving that Trump is a traitor." That'd make for a pretty good post, don'tcha think? The preceding paragraph would have a spot somewhere in the top ten items.

Digby makes a damned good point:
I would normally point out the utter hypocrisy of this action in light of all the pearl clutching about the Fusion GPS campaign oppo but hypocrisy is not longer operative so I'll refrain...
It's okay if a Republican does it. Republicans may do what Dems may not.

That's the rule. That is the unyielding law governing all modern politics. And I am fucking sick of it.

Spot the spooks. Just who are these private Israeli spooks? The Guardian does not identify them.

My first thought was Stratfor, but this sort of thing isn't really in their wheelhouse. I'm leaning toward the mysterious agency known as Black Cube, which has offices in London. (The fact that they are located in the UK may explain why the Guardian, fearful of a lawsuit, refused to name the firm.)

After glancing at this group's resume, you'll see that Trump and the Cube were made for each other.
In November 2017, Ronan Farrow revealed in The New Yorker that film executive Harvey Weinstein hired Black Cube. The aim of the contract, which was signed on October 2016, was to reveal who was behind a negative campaign against the producer.[28] Employees from Black Cube met journalists and actresses, in particular Rose McGowan. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had Black Cube and other agencies "target, or collect information on dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories."[29]

In March 2018, Black Cube and Cambridge Analytics each denied a Cambridge Analytics ex-employee’s statement that the company had hired Black Cube's services. In April 2018, Brittany Kaiser, a senior manager at Cambridge Analytics affirmed the denials and testified in front of the British Parliament that Black Cube is not the company they worked with.
I'd take that denial with a grain of salt. An even larger dose of salt applies to the claimed "dissolution" of C-Anal. These spookworld "private" firms simply change names and corporate identities when things get too hot.

The Cubists apologized for what they did to McGowan (whom I've always adored) and other Weinstein victims. Of course, that apology came after a burst of bad publicity.

Alan Dershowitz, America's most beloved lawyer, is working for Weinstein while unofficially offering advice and aid to Team Trump. Or so it would seem. In the Weinstein effort, Dershowitz will probably use intelligence from Black Cube, and screw the apology.

Interesting to see how Team Weinstein and Team Trump are using the same modus operandi.

Incidentally, Black Cube also hacked into the Nigerian president's emails.

If my guess is right -- if Black Cube really is the firm referenced in the Guardian's story -- Trump will one day have to explain why it is acceptable for him to employ the Cubists but unacceptable for Hillary Clinton's lawyer to hire Orbis (via Fusion GPS).

Qatar: Digby also draws our attention to this story. A judge trashed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause. Weeks later, Qatar spent millions on a Trump condo in Trump World Tower.

The judge who tossed out the suits -- there were two of them -- was George Daniels. Consider his example when you think about what Judge T.S. Ellis did yesterday in the Manafort case.

(Some have told us that Ellis likes to bark loudly but will adjudicate fairly. I'm unconvinced. Look at what Judge Daniels did.)

Of course, the Qataris learned their lesson when they refused to invest in Jared's white elephant with the devilish address.

Imagine if any Dem violated the emoluments clause as flagrantly as Trump has done.

Again: I'm fucking sick of this double standard.


Alessandro Machi said...

The double standard may exist because of the last 3 Republican Presidents. Trump, and Bush Sr. were not previously elected and Bush Jr. was governor of a State that is fiercely loyal to Republican Values. Plus, these same three Republican Presidents refuse to honor subpoenas whereas the Clintons always went face first into their subpoenas. The more hours one spends answering questions under oath, the more opportunities there are to twist those words going forward.

Anonymous said...

Confirmed Black Cube (Laura Rozen on twitter through cover company id)

Secondly, here's direct testimony from Colin Kahl over being targeted by foreign intel.

Anonymous said...

I wish to know what they have on Democrats to make them so cowardly and ineffective.

Marc McKenzie said...

"Imagine if any Dem violated the emoluments clause as flagrantly as Trump has done."

Joseph, I think the word "shitshow" would not be enough to cover the explosion of outrage from the GOP and the mainstream media (as well as the idiot Left).

b said...

It sounds true about Cambridge Analytica and Black Cube, but another Israeli outfit based in London that's worth looking at is the SQR Group. They work more in security than in intelligence, but they still count surveillance and intelligence gathering among their services. They claim to have branches in Britain, elsewhere in Europe, and in the US and the Far East.

b said...

Avi Navama, the founder of SQR, was Boris Berezovsky's bodyguard. In fact he was the guy who found Berezovsky after he supposedly committed suicide in his bathroom. Navama has also worked as the security attaché at the Israeli embassy in London.