Private espionage is booming.The United States needs a spy registry

Many years ago, although I was stationed in Moscow and served as the president of a major news magazine. A representative of a multinational company approached me and made an attractive offer. He said he has highly sensitive materials that exposed possible criminal activities of Russian competitors. These documents are mine, with one condition: advance notice so that he can go abroad when any story is published.

I have every reason to believe that these materials came from a private intelligence officer employed by the company-there are many such personnel in Moscow-but I did not ask my source for his source. Instead, I started some painful investigations of myself, and after verifying these materials, I published a compelling story.

I remembered this episode again when I was reading Barry Meyer’s new book, Fright: The rise of Trump files, the black cube, and private spies. predecessor New York Times As an investigative reporter, Meyer severely criticized “private spies” and reporters who often used the gold nuggets unearthed by these agents. In the postscript of the book, he reintroduced the idea of ​​”a kind of’spy registry’, in which agents hired must disclose the names of their clients and tasks”, just as Congress now requires the hire of lobbyists To influence the legislators.

Is this really a problem that needs to be solved? Or will spying on the registry cause more serious problems?

It is easy to conclude that there is really nothing new here, and private spies may even provide public services. In the original Gilded Age of the late 19th century, the Pinkerton Detective Agency devoted itself to the art of trickery. In 1890, a man in Pinkerton carried out an undercover investigation on behalf of his client, the governor of North Dakota, and confirmed from a rigorous bar investigation that a considerable amount of “boodle”, that is, bribe money, was made by advocates of the state lottery. The governor of the distribution. The governor exposed the dirty deal to the public, and the lottery plan failed—all this may be for the benefit of citizens.

The situation today is very different. Cheap, off-the-shelf technology for surveillance, hacking, and deception makes spy games easier to play than ever. Employed detectives will not carry a metal fabric bag that can block the GPS signal of a mobile phone, such as the GoDark Faraday model that sells for $49.97 online? This is a trivial item on the expense report.

Industry tools in the digital age, coupled with mixed media that are happy to receive stolen e-mails. For example, news organizations cannot legally obtain them on their own and are made for the “perfect petri dish,” Meyer wrote Frightened, “The influence of private espionage will worsen and breed there, uncontrolled and uncontrolled.” According to the estimates of consulting firm ERG Partners, he guessed that the revenue of the private investigation industry was $2.5 billion in 2018, up from 10 years ago. Something.

Meyer puts his accusation on two episodes of moral issues, one of which is about the Black Rubik’s Cube. This global corporate intelligence company was established in 2010, touting its use of “selected veterans of Israeli elite intelligence units” to provide its “creative intelligence: tailor-made solutions based on high-quality intelligence and cutting-edge technology” products, unique Expertise and out-of-the-box thinking,” as its website tells us.

It is really “out of the box”. In 2016, in order to prevent the media from publishing allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, the law firm of super lawyer David Boies (David Boies) hired Black Cube to work on behalf of Weinstein. Meier pointed out that the contract specifically mentions the use of “avatar operators” by the intelligence company: social media experts who create fake Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles for field workers. One such agent, a female Israeli veteran, became friends with a Weinstein accuser and actress Rose McGowan under the cover of a women’s rights advocate at an investment company in London. The secret agent’s secret purpose is to persuade McGowan to share an unpublished memoir about Weinstein. All of this was later exposed in the Black Cube exposed by Ronan Farrow in 2017. When asked whether Black Cube’s strategy involving false identities constituted a false statement, Boyce returned to convincing legal terms: “I think it may depend on the severity of the false statement to the recipient.”

Another key example of Meier involves Fusion GPS in Washington, DC, which promotes “providing high-quality research, strategic intelligence, and due diligence services to companies, law firms, and investors around the world.”The company is led by a pair of predecessorsWall Street Journal Journalists such as Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, and unsurprisingly used their close personal contacts with the press.

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