The Israeli dirty ops firm, Black Cube (corporate website–video above features Israeli social justice activists shaming BC employees outside their corporate headquarters in Tel Aviv), already implicated in a harassment campaign against women who accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual assault, faces new accusations that the Trump transition team hired it to dig up dirt on two key members of Pres. Obama’s Iran negotiating team. Though the Israeli company denies involvement, at least one of the victims, tweeted a claim that it was involved. Black Cube has never conceded its involvement in the Weinstein affair, though numerous victims and media reports have confirmed this.
Another oddity of BC’s response to the charges was, in the same statement, to both refuse to confirm or deny that Trump was a client, then in the next paragraph to deny that it was.
This story began with a bombshell Observer story yesterday saying that during Trump’s first trip to Israel just after he became president, senior members of his transition team “hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign.” It was tasked with finding incriminating information that would impeach the credibility of both Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, two key members of the Obama team negotiating the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran:
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…
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…
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.”
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…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.
The story by the UK newspaper deliberately does not mention the name of the investigative outfit out of fear of permissive English libel laws. However, my first inclination was to think of Black Cube for a number of reasons: first, Harvey Weinstein and Trump are birds of a feather. They’re rich. They have enemies. They need protection. They have few, if any moral scruples. Black Cube was “perfect” for both of them. Second, it is an Israeli firm steeped in the ethos of the IDF’s Unit 8200, which is tasked with spying on Palestinians to determine which ones may be vulnerable to extortion and blackmail in being recruited as Shabak spies. Third, billionaires love the mythical reputation of Israeli intelligence operatives.
An Israel journalist elicited this statement from Black Cube regarding the charges against it:
#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 work” pic.twitter.com/GPP3V98CyZ
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) May 6, 2018
It’s identical to the statement BC sent to Ronan Farrow for his New Yorker story:
“Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal.” The firm also said that it “always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”
After reading this, Colin Kahl, one of the two alleged victims of the covert effort, tweeted:
To say that the least, Black Cube’s dodge is not credible. And lots more will be coming out on Black Cube’s role in all of this very soon. https://t.co/0bgPlVxaf5
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) May 6, 2018
If I had the choice between believing a load of Israeli spies who earned tens of millions of dollars by covering the ass of sleazy billionaires and a distinguished professor of international relations, journalist and national security advisor for Pres. Obama, it would take me less than three nanoseconds to choose the latter.
In an additional series of tweets last night, Kahl recounted a strange e-mail approach to his wife last year offering to aid the elementary school fundraising campaign for her children’s public school. The mystery interlocutor claimed to represent a UK financial firm offering to sponsor her school. He repeatedly asked for meetings with her, rejecting any offers to include school personnel in the discussions. Both Kahl and his wife determined that the outreach was the work of a foreign intelligence agency. He wasn’t far off.
Ronan Farrow, publishing in the New Yorker, recounts that Ben Rhodes’ wife received a similar phishing type e-mail asking her to consult on a film. The gambit appears to have been intended to lure her into sharing information about her husband’s work in the White House. It failed.
Farrow is one of the first journalists to confirm that BC was engaged by Trump administration officials and did compile an extensive dossier on these two administration officials. That means BC’s denials are bogus. Were you surprised?
This is the exact same modus operandi used by another BC operative who solicited dirt on behalf of a commercial client by pretending to be a job recruiter, offering an all-expense paid trip to the UK and a job interview to an executive at a rival firm. The job and interview were fake. But the recruiter was hired by BC to dig up dirt on rival with whom it was embroiled in commercial litigation. Here’s yet another example of BC’s “creative solutions” to commercial “problems.”
In reading the Observer’s account, it’s clear that the Iranian NGO mentioned as a potential target was the National Iranian American Council, led by Trita Parsi. For over a decade, neocons and the Israel Lobby have targeted both the group and Parsi as alleged puppets of the Iranian regime. If they could link the Obama administration to such a reputed pro-Iranian group, then they could damage the overall nuclear agreement.
Indeed, Ronan Farrow confirms my hunch:
Transcripts produced by Black Cube reveal that the firm secretly recorded a conversation between one of its agents and Trita Parsi, a Swedish-Iranian author. The conversation, which began as a general discussion of Iran policy, quickly devolved into questions about Rhodes, Kahl, and whether they had personally profited off of the Iran policy. “I’ve had the first part of the conversation five hundred times,” Parsi recalled, of his conversation with the agent, who claimed to be a reporter. “But then he started asking about personal financial interests, and that was more unusual. He was pushing very, very hard.”
What Trump’s lackeys didn’t understand was that Kahl and Rhodes were far too skilled to allow their enemies to target them in this sort of scheme. But if they had, NIAC is a respected political group offering expertise on Iranian affairs, as is Parsi, who’s written three acclaimed books on U.S. policy toward Iran. It is their enemies, including Trump, who are engaged in sleazy behavior which should impeach them (literally) and their motives in killing the deal.
The key information missing from all these stories is who in the Trump administration made overtures to BC and engaged it as a client. My money is on either Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner or Jason Greenblatt. Though Michael Flynn or someone associated with him might also be a possibility.
Moving to a related subject: as Pres. Trump nears the decision to renounce the Iran nuclear deal, it seems we’re in a similar place to Britain just before it voted to leave the EU. The “leave” campaign sketched out glowing forecasts for Britain’s future outside the EU. All the while ignoring the enormous benefits the country enjoyed being inside it. Only after the stunning result was announced, and Britons realized they had indeed voted to leave, did they begin to fathom all that they would lose.
The same chill is beginning to fall over the U.S. Gas prices, which have been relatively stable for quite a while, rose to $70 a barrel for the first time since 2014. Even the Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee, not exactly the dovish heartland, warned Trump against leaving the agreement. Unfortunately, only the day after Trump withdraws will we begin feeling the full effect of this catastrophic decision. Undoubtedly, Iran is preparing their own contingency plan. One can only hope that it and the Europeans who continue to stand by the deal, will work out ways of maintaining the agreement. My hope is that the Europeans will stake out a firm, assertive position against Trump’s. One that makes clear the EU has its own interests, which will not be plowed under by the U.S. steamroller. There is too much deference from the European side. Trump needs some tough love (if you can call it that). As with most bullies, he needs to be told that aggression will not work and be put firmly in his place. It’s the only way.
Israel’s Prisoner X2 Released from Prison After Serving Sentence for Betraying Mossad Secrets to Iran
חשיפה: שוחרר האסיר “איקס 2”, החפרפרת של איראן בצמרת המוסד
حصري: الافراج عن السجين “إكس الثاني”، عميل ايران المزدوج في قيادة الموساد
Veteran Israeli journalist, Amir Oren, published a story today (see screenshots) in the online news portal, Walla! which reported that the former unit head of the Mossad division responsible for Iranian affairs, was released after serving a 14-year prison sentence. Some have called him an Iranian “mole” within the Israeli intelligence apparatus. Oren revealed something new that he hadn’t previously reported: that Prisoner X2 was the “chief figure” in the conspiracy. This implies that others were involved in lesser roles. What those roles were, who they were, and what they did are not yet known.
Oren, who reported the first story about this individual’s imprisonment, was also the only journalist to report on his release. Both stories were censored by the Israeli military censor. I published Oren’s first story here after it had been “disappeared.” I publish the second story as well here today in defiance of military censorship, which I’ve long abhorred and derided.
The ex-prisoner told Oren mysteriously: “What you know is enough, and what you don’t, it’s best that you not know.”
No one knows precisely the charges against the ex-spy. No one even knows his name. If the military censor had her way, no Israeli would even know there was a Prisoner X2. All I can say is, welcome home! I hope someday you can tell your story.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.