Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 11th, 2019

A Brit describes Trump

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Via Facebook:

Stolen from a friend of a friend. The best description of Trump I have ever read, from a Brit.

Someone on Quora asked “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote this magnificent response.

A few things spring to mind.

Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
* You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.

In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

‘My God… what… have… I… created?

If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 5:19 pm

The snow outside is deep and the day dark

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But I sit here in a warm apartment, a Scotch Mist at hand — well, a BC single-malt whisky mist (fill glass with finely crushed ice, pour over single-malt whisky, add a twist of lemon) made from BC barley, and the beef-shank-and-turnip stew with pot barley now cooked, and tasty, too. I have to say this particular single-malt, by The Odd Society, is really excellent.

It truly is proper weather for such a stew.

I just finished Russian Doll on Netflix last night. I enjoyed it.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 3:58 pm

Republicans Keep Admitting Everything They Said About Obama Was a Lie

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, appearing on Fox News Sunday, repeated the official administration line that Democrats had to choose between legislation and investigation. Chris Wallace reminded Mulvaney that he had supported a Republican Congress that had engaged in continuous investigations of the White House, reopening probes to chase conspiracy theories even after they had been conclusively debunked.

This prompted Mulvaney to make an interesting confession. The Republican Congress never wanted to pass laws in the first place:

WALLACE: You were there, of what the Republicans did to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Benghazi, on Fast and Furious. And they got some things done despite the fact that these were aggressive partisan investigations.

MULVANEY: Well, we didn’t get very much done. Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that when the tea party wave, of which I was one, got here in 2011, the last thing we were interested in was giving President Obama legislative successes.

When somebody says “I’ll be the first to admit,” it’s usually an idiom, suggesting they are not trying to hide a fact that is widely known and frequently confessed. But in this case the sentence construction makes more sense if read literally. Mulvaney may actually be the first person to admit that congressional Republicans did not want to give Obama any legislative successes at all.

Mitch McConnell boasted that he pressured Republicans to refuse to compromise with any of the Obama administration’s priorities in his first two years (“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals. Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan.”).

Yet after Republicans won control of Congress on the shoulders of a tea party wave of debt hysteria in 2010, a conventional wisdom took hold that President Obama needed to get Republicans to make a deal. Most outside observers conceded that the congressional GOP might not be the easiest negotiating counterparty. Still, Obama was widely held to bear a share of the blame for his inability to get Republicans to make a deal. He didn’t play enough golf with them, or drink enough with them, or “lead.” The idea that Obama could and should force Republicans to make deals with him was pure conventional wisdom for years on end.

As a high-profile link between the Obama-era Republican Congress and the Trump administration, Mulvaney has retrospectively clarified a lot of points people refused to understand at the time. Mulvaney casually confessed last week that nobody cares about the deficit. Mulvaney of course spent the Obama era claiming to care about the deficit a lot — so much, indeed, that he was willing to shut down the government or even default on the national debt in order to reduce it. The debt hysteria was manufactured to cover a different agenda. Republicans wanted to force Obama to reduce popular domestic spending programs so they could cut taxes for the affluent. But since neither cutting retirement programs nor reducing taxes for the rich are popular goals, Republicans framed their policy as “deficit reduction,” and the debt-scold community and most of the mainstream news media took this framing at face value.

That’s one reason why Obama couldn’t make a deficit deal with Republicans: They didn’t care about the deficit. Also, as Mulvaney now casually concedes, they didn’t want to give him any accomplishments at all, so even if Obama offered a deal they could live with, they would have opposed it rather than allow him to claim legislative success. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 3:00 pm

Report: Leak of Bezos Texts by Mistress’s Brother Was Politically Motivated

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Chas Danner reports in New York:

The source who provided the National Enquirer with personal text messages Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had exchanged with his mistress, news anchor Lauren Sanchez, was Sanchez’s brother, Michael, the Daily Beast reported on Sunday night. Sanchez — a Trump supporter who is friendly with Trumpworld “dirty trickster” Roger Stone and another Russia investigation target, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — has denied that he had anything to do with the scandal, but “multiple sources” within American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s embattled parent company, have told the Beast that he was indeed the one who provided the messages which formed the basis for the Enquirer’s January exposé.

The apparent confirmation came less than three days after Bezos, who also owns the Washington Postpublicly accused AMI of trying to blackmail him in a Medium post. On Thursday night, the Amazon founder shared emailsfrom AMI officials in which they threatened to publish several racy photographs Bezos and Ms. Sanchez had texted each other if he did not call off his investigation into why AMI had targeted him and how it had obtained his text messages.

It is not clear how Mr. Sanchez obtained the texts or why he would have been willing to violate his sister’s privacy in such a way, but the Beast reports that the act appears to have been politically motivated:

Documents reviewed by the Daily Beast show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued its story about Bezos with “President Trump’s knowledge and appreciation” — a chase encouraged, in Sanchez’s estimation, by Republican operatives “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a [Washington Post] meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”

Bezos has been a frequent target for President Trump, who regularly blames the billionaire for the Post’s critical coverage of him and his administration. Trump has had a decades-long friendship and alliance with AMI CEO David Pecker, who has admitted to using the Enquirer to buy and bury damaging stories about Trump.

The president gleefully celebrated Bezos’s embarrassment after the Enquirerstory was published last month.

Working with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign, Pecker and AMI helped to “catch and kill” Playboymodel Karen McDougal’s allegation that she had had an affair with Trump, and helped set up Cohen’s pay-off of porn star Stephanie Clifford, who had made a similar allegation. Last year, Pecker, Howard, and AMI were granted immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for admitting that they had worked in concert with the Trump campaign, and testifying about the deals, which violated campaign finance laws.

Security consultant Gavin de Becker, who led the Bezos–funded investigation into the source of the texts, told the Beast that his team had finished their investigation and forwarded their conclusions to law enforcement officials, but he did not reveal what those conclusions had been. The Beast had previously reported that de Becker had interviewed Mr. Sanchez, and that the Bezos team considered him to be the most likely culprit.

On Thursday, Bezos shared emails from AMI’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, and a company attorney, in which they described the images of Bezos and Ms. Sanchez that they had — including “d*ck pics” — and indicated that the Enquirer would publish the intimate images if Bezos did not call off de Becker’s investigation as well as the one being conducted by the PostIt’s hardly a secret that AMI and the Enquirer employ such tactics, but it’s far from clear why anyone thought they would have leverage over the richest man in the world.

According to the emails, the company was specifically focused on silencing suggestions that exposing Bezos’s affair “was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.” Bezos said that his investigators were examining the possibility that Saudi Arabia has been involved in the Enquirer exposé, and that this inquiry appeared to have hit a “particularly sensitive nerve” at AMI.

David Pecker has reportedly sought to do business in Saudi Arabia in recent years, and has leveraged his relationship with the president to raise his profile with Trump’s wealthy allies in the Middle East. AMI even published a glossy magazine celebrating Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ahead of the prince’s visit to the U.S. last year.

The Saudi regime, meanwhile, is not only a major ally of President Trump’s, but has also been defending itself against the Post’s aggressive reporting about the brash and brutal assassination of Saudi dissident and Postcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the personal direction of the crown prince. The effort to push back against the Post reportedly included an online campaign targeting Bezos and Amazon by Saudi Arabia’s notorious troll army last November. The regime has denied having had any involvement in the Enquirer story, however, which is probably true if Michael Sanchez was the one who gave AMI the Bezos texts.

On Sunday morning, David Pecker’s attorney, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 2:47 pm

Stopping the World’s Biggest Infectious Killer

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Madhukar Pai writes in Scientific American:

Diseases that have plagued humanity since ancient times continue to hold billions of people back, and tuberculosis is one of the most significant among them. Today, there are an estimated 10-million-plus new TB cases each year, and the disease causes more than 1.6 million deaths, earning it the dubious honor of being the world’s number one infectious killer.

While training as a doctor in India, where TB is more prevalent than in any other country, I saw first-hand its devastating impact on individuals, families and entire communities.

Since my time as a medical trainee, I have been encouraged to see modest progress. Globally, the mortality rate dropped 42 percent from 2000 to 2017. New diagnostics and medicines are now available, including bedaquiline, which is proving to be a potential game-changer for drug-resistant TB—and countries like South Africa have successfully rolled it out. Political commitment is also on the rise, with heads of state agreeing to mobilize $13 billion for TB care and prevention by 2022 at a high-level meeting in September, 2018.

Yet one of the most frustrating challenges in the TB epidemic perseveres: the lack of adequate 21st-century tools to fight what’s now a 21st-century epidemic. Despite recent scientific advancements for many diseases, patients and care providers continue to rely on antiquated, inefficient diagnostics, vaccines and drug regimens.

This is unacceptable.

Take vaccination. The BCG vaccine we use for TB today was developed in the 1920s, and has limited efficacy. What about diagnostics? The most widely used test for TB dates back to German scientist Robert Koch, who identified the tuberculosis bacterium under a microscope in 1882, and it is barely 50 percent sensitive. How can we defeat TB if we have no good vaccine and can only detect it half of the time?

For those who do get an accurate diagnosis, the complexity of treatment is another major problem. Existing medications require . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 2:33 pm

Bob Costas, unplugged: From NBC and broadcast icon to dropped from the Super Bowl

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Well worth reading.- And I was just thinking that if you describe the situation in general terms, it reads exactly like some dystopian science-fiction novel: giant corporations controlling the populace to milk money from it, and having to get ever more gladiators and take the bouts to new levels of speed and violence. And hide the damage it does, until the hero (generally, it unfortunately seems, wearing spandex) exposes the villainous companies for what they are, and the contempt they have for their players and for the public, and how they will do absolutely anything to keep the money rolling in, who cares how many players die?

Mark Fainaru-Wada writes for ESPN.

IN DECEMBER 2015, the movie “Concussion” was set for a Christmas Day release in nearly 3,000 theaters across America. The film told the story of the NFL’s attempts to discredit research tying brain damage to football, and Bob Costas wanted to address it on national television.

Over the previous decade, Costas had become the face of football on NBC, hosting one of TV’s most-watched programs, “Sunday Night Football.” As part of every broadcast, Costas would take two minutes at halftime to speak directly to the program’s 18 million viewers about the NFL issues of the day. Mostly, his commentaries were celebrations of the sport — Brady vs. Manning, a tribute to Lambeau Field — but, occasionally, he addressed subjects like gun control or the controversial name of the Washington, D.C., football team.

With his 28 Emmys and eight National Sportscaster of the Year awards, Costas had become the most-respected broadcaster of his generation — a kind of Walter Cronkite for sports. He believed it was his responsibility to address uncomfortable truths, or “elephants in the room,” as he often called them.

The release of “Concussion” seemed a natural topic given the nationwide awakening about head trauma in contact sports, especially the NFL. Costas believed it was important to have viewers confront football’s existential crisis and consider their own moral dilemma as fans complicit to the sport’s carnage.

Yet he recognized such a speech posed a challenge for his bosses and NBC. The network was paying the NFL billions to air games on Sunday nights. Even more, Costas knew NBC executives were hoping to expand the network’s NFL package to Thursdays.

Costas sent the essay to his bosses for approval, something he typically did not do — and waited.

What would ensue that week — and in the years that followed — reveals for the first time how a broadcasting icon went from fronting America’s most popular sport to being excised from last year’s Super Bowl and, ultimately, ending his nearly 40-year career with NBC.

Outside the Lines spoke with the 66-year-old Costas dozens of times over the course of the past year. Those conversations provide not only the never-before-told backstory of how he became an NFL outsider, but also deep insight into his personality: the intelligence and self-assurance that have driven his career; the years-long struggle as he reconciled the celebration of a sport that enriched him financially and helped make him a broadcasting icon, but also weighed so heavily on his conscience; and the insecurity and intense worry — near agony — about the possibility of betraying his colleagues and friends by sharing his story. All of it points to the all-encompassing influence of the NFL — even over the most distinguished broadcaster of his era.

In the end, Costas wished he had never spoken to Outside the Lines about any of it: “The upside is not equal to the fear I have.”

BY DECEMBER 2015, nobody at NBC should have been surprised that Bob Costas would want to speak his mind about football. After joining the network at age 27 in 1979, he had become one of NBC’s signature go-to voices.

With NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol as his champion, Costas established himself as somebody who could do just about anything: play-by-play, commentary, hosting, interviewing.

He was everywhere — . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 2:05 pm

Private Mossad for Hire

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Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow report in the New Yorker:

One evening in 2016, a twenty-five-year-old community-college student named Alex Gutiérrez was waiting tables at La Piazza Ristorante Italiano, an upscale restaurant in Tulare, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Gutiérrez spotted Yorai Benzeevi, a physician who ran the local hospital, sitting at a table with Parmod Kumar, a member of the hospital board. They seemed to be in a celebratory mood, drinking expensive bottles of wine and laughing. This irritated Gutiérrez. The kingpins, he thought with disgust.

Gutiérrez had recently joined a Tulare organization called Citizens for Hospital Accountability. The group had accused Benzeevi of enriching himself at the expense of the cash-strapped hospital, which subsequently declared bankruptcy. (Benzeevi’s lawyers said that all his actions were authorized by his company’s contract with the facility.) According to court documents, the contract was extremely lucrative for Benzeevi; in a 2014 e-mail to his accountant, he estimated that his hospital business could generate nine million dollars in annual revenue, on top of his management fee of two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a month. (In Tulare, the median household income was about forty-five thousand dollars a year.) The citizens’ group had drawn up an ambitious plan to get rid of Benzeevi by rooting out his allies on the hospital board. As 2016 came to a close, the group was pushing for a special election to unseat Kumar; if he were voted out, a majority of the board could rescind Benzeevi’s contract.

Gutiérrez, a political-science major, was a leader of the Young Democrats Club at the College of the Sequoias, and during the 2016 Presidential campaign he attended a rally for Bernie Sanders. Gutiérrez grew up watching his father, a dairyman, work twelve-hour shifts, six days a week, and Sanders’s message about corporate greed, income inequality, and the ills of America’s for-profit health-care system resonated with him. Seeing Benzeevi and Kumar enjoying themselves at La Piazza inflamed Gutiérrez’s sense of injustice. He spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s knocking on doors and asking neighbors to sign a petition for a recall vote, which ultimately garnered more than eleven hundred signatures. Gutiérrez later asked his mother, Senovia, if she would run for Kumar’s seat; the citizens’ group thought that Senovia, an immigrant and a social worker, would be an appealing candidate in a community that is around sixty per cent Hispanic.

The recall was a clear threat to Benzeevi’s hospital-management business, and he consulted a law firm in Washington, D.C., about mounting a campaign to save Kumar’s seat. An adviser there referred him to Psy-Group, an Israeli private intelligence company. Psy-Group’s slogan was “Shape Reality,” and its techniques included the use of elaborate false identities to manipulate its targets. Psy-Group was part of a new wave of private intelligence firms that recruited from the ranks of Israel’s secret services—self-described “private Mossads.” The most aggressive of these firms seemed willing to do just about anything for their clients.

Psy-Group stood out from many of its rivals because it didn’t just gather intelligence; it specialized in covertly spreading messages to influence what people believed and how they behaved. Its operatives took advantage of technological innovations and lax governmental oversight. “Social media allows you to reach virtually anyone and to play with their minds,” Uzi Shaya, a former senior Israeli intelligence officer, said. “You can do whatever you want. You can be whoever you want. It’s a place where wars are fought, elections are won, and terror is promoted. There are no regulations. It is a no man’s land.”

In recent years, Psy-Group has conceived of a variety of elaborate covert operations. In Amsterdam, the firm prepared a report on a religious sect called the Brunstad Christian Church, whose Norwegian leader, Psy-Group noted, claimed to have written “a more important book than the New Testament.” In Gabon, Psy-Group pitched “Operation Bentley”—an effort to “preserve” President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s hold on power by collecting and disseminating intelligence about his main political rival. (It’s unclear whether or not the operations in Amsterdam and Gabon were carried out. A spokesperson for Brunstad said that it was “plainly ridiculous” that the church considered “any book” to be more important than the Bible. Ondimba’s representatives could not be reached for comment.) In another project, targeting the South African billionaire heirs of an apartheid-era skin-lightening company, Psy-Group secretly recorded family members of the heirs describing them as greedy and, in one case, as a “piece of shit.” In New York, Psy-Group mounted a campaign on behalf of wealthy Jewish-American donors to embarrass and intimidate activists on American college campuses who support a movement to put economic pressure on Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.

Psy-Group’s larger ambition was to break into the U.S. election market. During the 2016 Presidential race, the company pitched members of Donald Trump’s campaign team on its ability to influence the results. Psy-Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, even asked Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, to offer Zamel’s services to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. The effort to drum up business included brash claims about the company’s skills in online deception. The posturing was intended to attract clients—but it also attracted the attention of the F.B.I. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been examining the firm’s activities as part of his investigation into Russian election interference and other matters.

Psy-Group’s talks with Benzeevi, after the 2016 election, spurred the company to draw up a plan for developing more business at the state and local levels. No election was too small. One company document reported that Psy-Group’s influence services cost, on average, just three hundred and fifty thousand dollars—as little as two hundred and seventy-five dollars an hour. The new strategy called for pitching more than fifty individuals and groups, including the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and major super pacs. The firm published a provocative brochure featuring an image of a goldfish with a shark fin tied to its back, below the tagline “Reality is a matter of perception.” Another brochure showed a cat that cast a lion’s shadow and listed “honey traps” among the firm’s services. (In the espionage world, a honey trap often involves deploying a sexually attractive operative to induce a target to provide information.)

Psy-Group put together a proposal for Benzeevi, promising “a coordinated intelligence operation and influence campaign” in Tulare to preserve Kumar’s seat on the hospital board. Operatives would use fake identities to “uncover and deliver actionable intelligence” on members of the community who appeared to be leading the recall effort, and would use unattributed Web sites to mount a “negative campaign” targeting “the opposition candidate.” All these activities, the proposal assured, would appear to be part of a “grass roots” movement in Tulare. The operation was code-named Project Mockingjay, a reference to a fictional bird in the “Hunger Games” novels, known for its ability to mimic human sounds.

The modern market for private intelligence dates back to the nineteen-seventies, when a former prosecutor named Jules Kroll began hiring police detectives, F.B.I. and Treasury agents, and forensic accountants to conduct detective work on behalf of corporations, law and accounting firms, and other clients. The company, which became known as Kroll, Inc., also recruited a small number of former C.I.A. officers, but rarely advertised these hires—Kroll knew that associating too closely with the C.I.A. could endanger employees in countries where the spy agency was viewed with contempt.

In the two-thousands, Israeli versions of Kroll entered the market. These companies had a unique advantage: few countries produce more highly trained and war-tested intelligence professionals, as a proportion of the population, than Israel. Conscription in Israel is mandatory for most citizens, and top intelligence units often identify talented recruits while they are in high school. These soldiers undergo intensive training in a range of language and technical skills. After a few years of government service, most are discharged, at which point many finish their educations and enter the civilian job market. Gadi Aviran was one of the pioneers of the private Israeli intelligence industry. “There was this huge pipeline of talent coming out of the military every year,” Aviran, who founded the intelligence firm Terrogence, said. “All a company like mine had to do was stand at the gate and say, ‘You look interesting.’ ”

Aviran was formerly the head of an Israeli military intelligence research team, where he supervised analysts who, looking for terrorist threats, reviewed data vacuumed up from telephone communications and from the Internet. The process, Aviran said, was like “looking at a flowing river and trying to see if there was anything interesting passing by.” The system was generally effective at analyzing attacks after they occurred, but wasn’t as good at providing advance warning.

Aviran began to think about a more targeted approach. Spies, private investigators, criminals, and even some journalists have long used false identities to trick people into providing information, a practice known as pretexting. The Internet made pretexting easier. Aviran thought that fake online personae, known as avatars, could be used to spy on terrorist groups and to head off planned attacks. In 2004, he started Terrogence, which became the first major Israeli company to demonstrate the effectiveness of avatars in counterterrorism work.

When Terrogence launched, many suspected jihadi groups communicated through members-only online forums run by designated administrators. To get past these gatekeepers, Terrogence’s operatives gave their avatars legends, or backstories—often as Arab students at European universities. As the avatars proliferated, their operators joked that the most valuable online chat rooms were now entirely populated by avatars, who were, inadvertently, collecting information from one another.

Aviran tried to keep Terrogence focussed on its core mission—counterterrorism—but some government clients offered the company substantial contracts to move in other directions. “It’s a slippery slope,” Aviran said, insisting that it was a path he resisted. “You start with one thing and suddenly you think, Wait, wait, I can do this. Then somebody asks if you can do something else. And you say, ‘Well, it’s risky but the money is good, so let’s give it a try.’ ”

Terrogence’s success spawned imitators, and other former intelligence officers began to open their own firms, many of them less risk-averse than Terrogence. One of the boldest, Black Cube, openly advertised its ties to Israeli spy agencies, including Mossad and Unit 8200, the military’s signals-intelligence corps. Black Cube got its start with the help of Vincent Tchenguiz, an Iranian-born English real-estate tycoon who had invested in Terrogence. In March, 2011, Tchenguiz was arrested by a British anti-fraud unit investigating his business dealings. (The office later dropped the investigation and paid him a settlement.) He asked Meir Dagan, who had just stepped down as the director of Mossad, how he could draw on the expertise of former intelligence officers to look into the business rivals he believed had alerted authorities. Dagan’s message to Tchenguiz, a former colleague of Dagan’s said, was: I can find a personal Mossad for you. (Dagan died in 2016.) Tchenguiz became Black Cube’s first significant client.

In some respects, Psy-Group emerged more directly from Terrogence. In 2008, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 11:11 am

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