Take Three on Trump Dirty Tricks

I noted below that the Israeli private intelligence firm that Harvey Weinstein hired to dig up dirt and muzzle his accusers is now mounting some sort of operation against at least two Obama administration national security officials. The initial version of the story from The Guardian said they were hired by aides to President Trump. Another account from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker went deeper but was less certain about who was paying the bill. One source told Farrow it was “part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.”

Now Black Cube is out with its third successive response to the story, which of course should be taken with some skepticism.

To review, Black Cube first denied it was behind the operation targeting Rhodes and Kahl. Then it said it didn’t comment on its clients. Now it is saying this: “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.”

A source ‘close to the company’ went a bit further with Ha’aretz.

A source close to the company said the purpose of its data collection was to serve the client’s business or legal interests, and had nothing to do with Trump. The source also said correspondence regarding Iranian nuclear issues related to the business interests of the client who hired the spy firm.

He added that neither the Iranian nuclear program nor Barack Obama associates were at the heart of the intelligence gathering operation: Any mention of them was intended purely to buy the trust of the parties, in order to obtain information not connected to Iran.

I think it should go without saying that saying Black Cube was hired by a “business entity” means basically nothing. I doubt you normally hire a private espionage company just as a personal purchase. Everyone is or has a company that can manage this transaction.

When Black Cube says it was no one tied to Trump, again, you’re talking about a company that has already had three successive explanations. This isn’t even a criticism of the company so much. They’re spies. Spies lie. That’s what they do.

If we take this explanation on its own terms, the reference to ‘legal interests’ is notable, especially since they are saying that their project really wasn’t about the Iran nuclear deal. Who would have business or legal interests tied to these two mid-level Obama national security officials?

But there’s more! Black Cube told another Israeli journalist that the campaign was paid for by a company which “profits from the sanctions on Iran.” Another report in the Israeli press says the staffers were targeted as part of a business dispute between two shipping companies, one of which is Taiwanese.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Laura Rozen is right about this when she speculates that this may be a private company trying to find out about leaks from the national security apparatus which it may blame on people like Rhodes or Kahl. Perhaps the tie to the Trump administration was just a bum steer. But I doubt it. It’s probably a ‘private business entity’. But I doubt the Trump tie came out of nowhere.