On Tuesday, the Justice Department said that three former U.S. Intelligence Community and Military Personnel admitted that they had provided sophisticated technology that allowed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government to hack into individual and company accounts. According to prosecutors Marc Baier, 49 Ryan Adams, 34 and Daniel Gericke, 40 provided hacking and intelligence gathering systems including “zero click” exploit that broke into mobiles without any interaction by the user as well as hacks for computers in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
The charges were filed in a federal court in Washington against them included “a Sophisticated Zero Click’ Exploit, Violated U.S. Export Control and Computer Fraud and Abuse Laws.” The terms under a deferred prosecution agreement included
- a $1.8 million payment
- cooperation with the Justice Department
- severing ties with UAE intelligence or law enforcement agencies.
If the operatives fulfill these terms in the next three years, the Justice Department will not continue with the prosecution, according to a 48-page agreement. The three operatives didn’t dispute any facts that were alleged by the prosecutors, as per the agreement and signed it on September 7.
Prosecutors said that these three operatives joined a company in the UAE that gave them a high increase in salaries, after they left their jobs in the U.S. They did not name the company but a former National Security Agency employee, Lori Stroud said that she worked with the trio, initially at CyberPoint which is based in the U.S. and later at DarkMatter which is based in the UAE. She left as she was uncomfortable with the type of services they were expected to provide.
Although the government has not clearly mentioned the reason behind the concessions offered to the trio, they mentioned the legal novelty of the case. The trio were reportedly also part of Project Raven and that might have helped them obtain the agreement.
In 2019, Reuters was the first to report on Project Raven. It was a secret project that helped wealthy Gulf nations spy on targets. They spied on diverse people including journalists, foreign leaders, and dissidents. They also spied on U.S. citizens.
Multiple agencies contacted the UAE government, DarkMatter and lawyers of the three intelligence operatives but received no response or they declined to comment to date.