So if I were a spymaster in the employ of a hostile foreign service, I’d devote some significant effort to penetrating one specific private institution: Fox News Channel.
.. It’s no secret that Fox News — specifically, shows such as “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” — have outsize influence on the inner workings of how certain policies are carried out by the U.S. government.
.. Mediate recently argued that the most influential people working in the media today are “Fox & Friends” hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt, because “they have captured the President’s attention — which often then gets tweeted and covered by the media — the topics they cover essentially set the national agenda for the rest of the day.”
.. When Fox News broadcasts, the president often reacts impulsively. His tweet threatening North Korea with his “Nuclear Button” at 7:49 p.m. last Tuesday appeared to have been spurredby a Fox News segment on the very same topic that occurred 12 minutes beforehand
.. The Kremlin has indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin reads Trump’s tweets and views them as official White House statements. Pakistan recently summoned the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad to account for Trump’s tweet bashing what he called the country’s “lies & deceit.”
.. Trump’s unfiltered Twitter feed provides world intelligence operatives with “a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind” — traits to be exploited in further dealings on the global stage.
.. A truly aggressive intelligence effort would not just monitor what’s being said on the network. It would target the on-air talent, as well as the folks behind the scenes who make the network’s programming possible: producers, bookers, associate producers, production assistants and the like.
.. Trump reportedly calls Sean Hannity after his show. If hostile foreign services compromise Hannity’s phone (or place a listening device in the room where Hannity takes his private calls), that could provide real-time intelligence on the American president and his thoughts.
.. For Russian intelligence, a systematic effort to threaten, coerce and co-opt journalists is a decades-old practice.
.. Kalugin wrote that the KGB’s Tumanov helped spread rumors and disinformation within Radio Liberty for years, turning staff against each other and identifying further potential targets for recruitment. He even had a hand in the bombing of Radio Liberty’s headquarters in Munich in 1981.
.. Compared to government workers, Fox employees would make easy targets.
.. Also, it’s television — full of trade secrets, big personalities and titanic egos. Most wouldn’t expect to be compromised by a hostile intelligence power, especially on American soil.
.. Few, if any, have the sort of counterintelligence training the U.S. government administers to people in sensitive positions
The film executive hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists.
The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press
.. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker.
.. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.
.. In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein’s lawyers, including David Boies
.. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein’s abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.
.. Boies said that his firm’s involvement with the investigators was a mistake. “We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,” he told me. “At the time, it seemed a reasonable accommodation for a client, but it was not thought through, and that was my mistake. It was a mistake at the time.”
.. because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court. The documents and sources reveal the tools and tactics available to powerful individuals to suppress negative stories and, in some cases, forestall criminal investigations.
.. In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”
.. Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York who was pursuing a story on Weinstein, said that the same woman met with him twice last fall.
.. Over the course of the two meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives. Anna seemed to be pushing him for information
.. During their second meeting, Anna requested that they sit close together, leading Wallace to suspect that she might be recording the exchange. When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, Wallace said, “it seemed like soap-opera acting.”
.. Last fall, Weinstein began mentioning Black Cube by name in conversations with his associates and attorneys. The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S
.. they originally believed that the assignment focussed on his business rivals
.. Boies’s law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, wired to Black Cube the first hundred thousand dollars, toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice.
.. the project’s “primary objectives” are to “provide intelligence which will help the Client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client,”
.. “a dedicated team of expert intelligence officers .. including a project manager, intelligence analysts, linguists, and “Avatar Operators” specifically hired to create fake identities on social media, as well as “operations experts with extensive experience in social engineering.”
.. After Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian model, accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, in 2015, she reached a settlement with Weinstein that required her to surrender all her personal devices to Kroll, so that they could be wiped of evidence of a conversation in which Weinstein admitted to groping her.
.. Los Angeles-based psops, and its lead private investigator, Jack Palladino, as well as another one of its investigators, Sara Ness, produced detailed profiles of various individuals in the saga, sometimes of a personal nature, which included information that could be used to undermine their credibility.
.. Ness sent to Weinstein last December ran for more than a hundred pages and featured McGowan’s address and other personal information, along with sections labelled “Lies/Exaggerations/Contradictions,” “Hypocrisy,” and “Potential Negative Character Wits,” an apparent abbreviation of “witnesses.” One subhead read “Past Lovers.” The section included details of acrimonious breakups, mentioning Avellan, and discussed Facebook posts expressing negative sentiments about McGowan.
.. Other firms were also involved in assembling such profiles, including ones that focussed on factors that, in theory, might make women likely to speak out against sexual abuse.
.. “Our research did not yield any promising avenues for the personal impeachment of Moss.”
.. psops also profiled Wallace’s ex-wife, noting that she “might prove relevant to considerations of our response strategy when Wallace’s article on our client is finally published.”
.. For years, Weinstein had used private security agencies to investigate reporters. In the early aughts, as the journalist David Carr, who died in 2015, worked on a report on Weinstein for New York, Weinstein assigned Kroll to dig up unflattering information about him
.. In one document, Weinstein’s investigators wrote that Carr had learned of McGowan’s allegation in the course of his reporting. Carr “wrote a number of critical/unflattering articles about HW over the years,” the document says, “none of which touched on the topic of women (due to fear of HW’s retaliation, according to HW).”
.. From the beginning, he said, he advised Weinstein “that the story could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.”
.. “If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest.”
.. He conceded, however, that any efforts to profile and undermine reporters, at the Times and elsewhere, were problematic. “In general, I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to pressure reporters,” he said. “If that did happen here, it would not have been appropriate.”
.. Of his representation of Weinstein in general, he said, “I don’t believe former lawyers should criticize former clients.” But he expressed regrets. “Although he vigorously denies using physical force, Mr. Weinstein has himself recognized that his contact with women was indefensible and incredibly hurtful,” Boies told me. “In retrospect, I knew enough in 2015 that I believe I should have been on notice of a problem, and done something about it. I don’t know what, if anything, happened after 2015, but to the extent it did, I think I have some responsibility.
.. In the middle of the meeting, Weinstein asked Lubell if they could have a private conversation in his office. Lubell told me that a lawyer working with Weinstein was already there, along with Doyle Chambers. Weinstein asked if Lubell and Doyle Chambers could write a “fun book on the old times, the heyday, of Miramax.” “Pam,” she recalled him saying, “write down all the employees that you know, and can you get in touch with them?”
.. she knew that Weinstein “was a bully and a cheater,” she “never thought he was a predator.”