The Israeli private intelligence agency allegedly hired to dig up dirt on Obama officials in order to discredit the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during his tenure is the same firm hired by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, according to a report in The New Yorker magazine.
Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London and Paris, and offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” was the firm hired by aides to US President Donald Trump to handle the operation, The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow reported late Sunday, citing two sources familiar with the effort. The agency denies any involvement in the latest affair.
Farrow wrote about the Weinstein investigation in November 2017. Black Cube later apologized for helping Weinstein in his efforts to suppress accusations of sexual assault against him.
The existence of the operation against Obama officials was first reported on Sunday morning by the London-based newspaper The Guardian and its sister newspaper The Observer, which said that aides to Trump contacted the private investigators in May 2017.
The revelations came ahead of a May 12 deadline by which Trump said he will decide whether the United States will remain part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal signed between Iran and the world powers in 2015.
The operation in June 2017 reportedly targeted Ann Norris, a former US State Department official who is married to Ben Rhodes, a foreign-policy adviser to former US President Obama and a prominent advocate of the Iran nuclear deal. It also targeted a month earlier Rebecca Kahl, a former program officer at the National Democratic Institute and the wife of the former Obama Administration foreign-policy adviser Colin Kahl.
Black Cube denied any involvement.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
“It is important to note that Black Cube 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.”
“Referencing Black Cube has become an international sport during 2018. 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 company continued. “Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers.”
“Luckily, 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. ”
Black Cube is known for having close ties to current and former leaders in Israeli politics and intelligence.
Sources told The Guardian that officials linked to Trump contacted investigators days after the US president visited Tel Aviv a year ago. During that trip Trump promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would never have nuclear weapons. The newspaper cited a source with details of the “dirty tricks campaign” who 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.”
Farrow reported that one source familiar with the smear effort told him that the operation was part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.
Rhodes, whose mother is Jewish, said Sunday evening in a tweet: “Why would someone feel the need to do this to win a debate about the merits of the Iran Deal? What message does this send to people entering into public service?”
He also tweeted: “This is not behavior that should be acceptable in a democracy. It is thuggish, mean-spirited, and casts a chilling and threatening cloud over public service that risks extending far beyond me and @ColinKahl”
Kahl also responded to the reports, tweeting on Sunday a lighthearted list of his past antics that might have been uncovered in the probe, but also lamenting the targeting of his wife, saying such action showed “yet another sign of the fundamental degradation of our country that Trump has produced.”
Black Cube has previously been linked to a number of other controversial clients
In May, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who revealed that data analysts Cambridge Analytica harvested details of 50 million Facebook users and used the material in Trump’s 2016 election campaign, also told the British parliament that Black Cube was involved in a hacking scheme targeting the president of Nigeria.
Black Cube told The Times of Israel at the time that the Wylie’s claim was a “flagrant lie.”
In November 2016, An Israeli employee of Black Cube was convicted in Romania of trying to intimidate the country’s crusading anti-corruption chief.