Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis

Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis

They have not addressed the hacking skills honed in some of America’s most advanced intelligence units and sold to the highest bidder.

Earlier this year, the C.I.A. sent a blunt letter to former officers warning them against going to work for foreign governments. The letter, written by the spy agency’s head of counterintelligence, said that it was seeing a “detrimental trend” of “foreign governments, either directly or indirectly, hiring former intelligence officials to build up their spying capabilities.”

“I can’t mince words — former C.I.A. officers who pursue this type of employment are engaging in activity that may undermine the agency’s mission to the benefit of U.S. competitors and foreign adversaries,” wrote Sheetal T. Patel, the C.I.A.’s assistant director for counterintelligence.

Prosecutors said that the U.A.E. gradually transitioned its contracts from CyberPoint to DarkMatter, but that at no time did the three men obtain the necessary approvals to provide defense services to DarkMatter. The court documents said that the three men and others worked in DarkMatter’s “Cyber Intelligence Operations,” which gained access to “information and data from thousands of targets around the world.”

In interviews, former DarkMatter employees said that Emirati officials were particularly focused on hacking the computer systems of the country’s main rival, Qatar, but that operations were also carried out against Emirati dissidents and journalists. They even hacked the emails of a Qatari minister communicating with the former first lady Michelle Obama about a planned trip to Qatar.

Mr. Baier and his group purchased computer tools from U.S. companies for use in hacking operations, according to prosecutors. In two instances, Dark Matter paid about $750,000 and $1,300,000 — illustrating how much American companies stand to gain from selling those dangerous tools to foreign countries and businesses.

Prosecutors said the men “expanded the breadth and increased the sophistication” of the operations that DarkMatter was providing to the U.A.E. government. The efforts took aim at “individual, corporate, and government targets by compromising computers and accounts belonging to associates, employees, or relatives of the primary targets,” according to court documents.

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