Published Tuesday, September 14, 2021 | 6:06 pm
Updated 52 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) – Three former US intelligence agencies and military officials have admitted providing sophisticated computer hacking technology to the United Arab Emirates and agreed to donate nearly $ 1.7 million to settle criminal cases pay, in an agreement the Justice Department named the first of its kind on Tuesday.
The defendants – Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke – are charged with working as an executive at a United Arab Emirates-based company that carried out hacking operations on behalf of the government. Prosecutors say the men deployed hacking and intelligence systems that were used to break into computers in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
The Justice Department alleges the men committed computer fraud and violated export control laws by providing defense services without the required license. The case also appears to be part of a growing trend highlighted by the CIA earlier this year that foreign governments are hiring former US intelligence agencies to reinforce their own espionage – a practice that said there is a risk of US To reveal secrets.
“This is a loud statement” that the Department of Justice takes such cases seriously, said Bobby Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who specializes in national security issues.
The charges were brought under a deferred law enforcement arrangement that, in addition to paying $ 1.68 million, also compelled the men to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigation, sever ties with UAE intelligence or law enforcement agencies, and any Security to forego approvals. If they keep these and other conditions for three years, the Justice Department will stop prosecuting them.
As part of the deal, the three men did not dispute any of the facts alleged by the prosecution.
The Justice Department described it as the “first solution to an investigation into two different types of criminal activity,” including the provision of unlicensed technology for the purpose of hacking.
“Employed hackers and those who support such activities in violation of US law should face full prosecution for their criminal conduct,” said Mark Lesko, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s national security division, in a statement.
According to court documents, the trio left a United Arab Emirates-based company to join an Emerati company that would give them “significant pay increases”.
The companies aren’t named in the fee documents, but Lori Stroud, a former National Security Agency employee, said she worked with the three men in the UAE at CyberPoint and then at DarkMatter, based in the UAE.
Stroud said she quit because she saw DarkMatter hack US citizens. She said she helped the FBI investigate and was glad the case was resolved.
“This is progress,” said Stroud.
DarkMatter’s founder and CEO Faisal al-Bannai told The Associated Press in 2018 that the company does not participate in hacking, despite recognizing the company’s close ties with the Emirati government and the attitudes of former CIA and NSA analysts .
Prosecutors said the defendants stepped up their operations for the UAE government between January 2016 and November 2019. They bought exploits to break into computers and mobile devices from companies around the world, including those based in the US, according to the Justice Department. This includes a so-called “zero-click” exploit – which can penetrate mobile devices without user interaction – which Baier bought in 2016 from an unnamed US company.
Adams and Gericke attorneys did not immediately respond with requests for comments, and one Baier attorney declined to comment.
The Justice Department described each of them as former US intelligence agencies or military personnel. Baier previously worked at the NSA, said a former colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The CIA issued a letter earlier this year warning of “an increase in the number of former officers who have disclosed sensitive information about CIA activities, personnel and trades.”
The letter to former CIA officials was signed by Sheetal Patel, the deputy director of counterintelligence. A “detrimental trend” has been described as a practice in which foreign governments hire former intelligence agents “to improve their espionage skills”. Examples listed included using access to CIA information or contacts for business opportunities and “working for government-sponsored intelligence companies in non-fraternization countries”.
“We ask you to protect yourself and the CIA by protecting the secret trading system that underlies your business,” wrote Patel.
Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associate press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.