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Narrowing Down the Black Cube Suspects

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - MAY 21: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - "BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI ROYAL COUNCIL / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----)US Presid... RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - MAY 21: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - "BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI ROYAL COUNCIL / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----)US President Donald Trump, US First lady Melania Trump (2nd R), Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (2nd L) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (L) put their hands on an illuminated globe during the inauguration ceremony of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 8, 2018 11:59 a.m.

I wanted to take a moment to reason through potential suspects for who may have hired Black Cube, the Israeli private intelligence firm, to spy on Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl. We don’t know who hired them. Indeed, we seem to know less now than we did when the story first broke in The Guardian over the weekend. But there are some basic logical inferences and understandings of this kind of work that can help us narrow down the suspects considerably.

First, as a friend notes, these kinds of operators are seldom purely commercial enterprises. It’s common abroad (and, painfully, more common at home) to find cronies and kleptocratic entities near the government who do these things on the government’s behalf. So wealthy crony or oligarch A, who is close to President B, hires firm or lobbyist C to advance the government’s interests. This gives everyone some distance and deniability. This is the norm.

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