When it comes to provable election meddling, including social media campaigns to smear politicians, Israel has become the “go to” place for politicians to seek election victory through guile and deceit.
Those US and British politicians who are bashing Russia for foreign “election meddling” could use a more honest set of talking points. It is Israel, not Russia, China, or North Korea, that hosts a blossoming industry of cyber-election meddlers who operate from corporate offices in Tel Aviv, Cyprus, London, Washington, and Tortola. Most, if not all, of these firms, received their start-up funds from Israeli government-backed business development venture capital funds, some of which are solidly linked to right-wing American financiers like Robert Mercer, Paul Singer, Sheldon Adelson, and Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The US media, subjected to a constant barrage of pressure from the all-powerful Israel Lobby, has refrained from reporting that when it comes to provable election meddling, including social media campaigns to smear politicians, Israel has become the “go to” place for politicians to seek election victory through guile and deceit.
Israel “beta-tested” its social media manipulation software tools when, in 2006, it premiered “Give Israel Your United Support” (GIYUS) program and its associated Megaphone desktop computer article and commentary monitoring tool. The Israelis wanted to influence any bad press it received because of its 2006 surprise attack on Lebanon.
Pro-Israeli volunteers around the world, who became known as “hasbara trolls,” disrupted websites take a number through various means. Options included the use of profanity on forums and chat rooms, especially toward the original poster of an item. But more than often, the infiltration took the form of posting extraneous information to detour the commentary thread away from uncomfortable subjects and promoting Israeli propaganda posted by dubious websites connected to the Israeli state.
Several Israeli companies decided to further monetize such digital dissonance by improving on Megaphone, mixing it with human intelligence tradecraft, and offering it to pro-Israeli politicians and political parties and movements around the world to affect the outcome of elections.
Wikistrat, Inc., along with Wikistrat Ltd., are related Israeli social media and election-meddling firms. Founded in 2010, Wikistrat combined the functionality of Facebook with Wikipedia in a platform called “Global Model” (GLOMOD). GLOMOD’s primary purposes is to manipulate Facebook and Wikipedia. Coincidentally, or not, Wikistrat moved its headquarters from Tel Aviv to Washington, DC, where it is conveniently located next to CNN’s Washington bureau.
Two other Israeli companies, both linked to Wikistrat through interlocking corporate executives, are PSY-Group, once headquartered at Trident Center in Limassol, Cyprus – although its operations were primarily conducted in Israel – and WhiteKnight, a social media information operations company, which operates from the Philippines and the British Virgin Islands.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, PSY-Group reportedly pitched to the Trump Organization a plan that was to rely on thousands of bogus Facebook accounts to conduct a perception management campaign against the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton.
In the current 2018 US mid-term election campaign cycle, social media manipulation that combines Israeli lobbying interests with 2016-style social media attacks is being waged against Pennsylvania 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Scott Wallace. Wallace is the grandson of Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President Henry Wallace. The cyber operation against Wallace has given the Republicans a leg up in retaining a House seat in what is predicted to be a Democratic wave year. Wallace and his wife, who ran the Wallace Global Fund from 2003 to early this year, are under attack from the Republican incumbent, Bryan Fitzpatrick, and pro-Israel Democrats for his fund’s donations to groups that back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel for its genocidal policies in the West Bank and Gaza.
The district Wallace is hoping to represent – a large portion of the Philadelphia suburbs in Montgomery and Bucks counties – has a large Jewish voting bloc, fodder for social media election meddlers. The fact that the grandson of a progressive hero of the Democratic Party could be attacked viciously on social media, ostensibly by “Democrats,” provides a frame of reference for the type of election-meddling seen before with Israeli meddlers and what can be expected in the future.
PSY-Group’s motto was “Shape Reality.” Part of their strategy was to create a false narrative that saw Russia blamed by the Western corporate media for US election meddling, when, in fact, it was Israel that was the culprit. It helped that PSY-Group’s partner, Wikistrat, could provide its “expertise” to its Washington next-door neighbor, CNN, where bureau chief Wolf Blitzer, a former public affairs chief for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, could ensure that Israel escaped all blame for the social media propaganda blitz that helped propel Trump into the White House. Other news organizations that have acted as dupes for Israeli election meddlers include Bloomberg News, Reuters, and the Associated Press.
PSY-Group used a network of shell companies, based in Limassol, Cyprus and Road Town, British Virgin Islands, to mask its financial flows and links to Israel. Many of those involved in manipulating the 2016 US election are either Israeli nationals or dual Israeli citizens of other countries. In almost every case, the election meddlers carry Israeli passports, something that provides them a potent “get-out-of-jail-free” card, when required.
After the New York Times revealed PSY-Group’s involvement in the 2016 campaign, like all intelligence fronts, it closed shop. The “Russia meddling” meme is a ruse. The guilty country is not Russia, but Israel. The guilty meddling leader is not President Vladimir Putin, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The hostile intelligence agency for the US electoral process is not the Federal Security Bureau of the Russian Federation, but Mossad.
Another Israeli firm tied to election meddling is Black Cube, which was founded by former Israeli intelligence officers. Its “services,” in addition to cyber-operations, also includes more “traditional” blackmail operations, including “honeypot” sexual entrapment. Cambridge Analytica, another election meddler that, like PSY-Group, folded up shop after its exposure by the press, also had significant links to the Israelis.
A Cambridge Analytica whistleblower named Christopher Wylie revealed that his former firm hired Black Cube to hack the emails and medical records of Nigerian presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. The firm also conducted a psychographic voter micro-targeting campaign in Kenya’s presidential election, which favored victor Uhuru Kenyatta. Wylie said his predecessor at Cambridge Analytica died in a Kenyan hotel room, likely from poisoning, after a joint operation conducted with Black Cube “went sour.” Black Cube, which employs many ex-Mossad officers, was the same firm hired by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to dig up dirt on women who accused him of sexual assault.
Cambridge Analytica, which enjoyed several close links with Israeli election meddlers, also targeted elections in Brazil, Colombia (through an affiliate called Farrow Colombia), Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Guyana. Cambridge senior executives revealed to investigators for Britain’s Channel 4 that their political clients were provided with dossiers on “all the skeletons” in their opponents’ closets.
More recently, Black Cube was accused of being hired by the Trump White House to discredit former national security officials of the Barack Obama White House, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, as well as Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, to justify Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran. Black Cube, like PSY-Group, used various shell companies to carry out its chicanery. One British shell company had the not-so-clever name of “Shell Productions.” Other shells, which quickly folded their corporate tents after being exposed, included Tauro Capital and Reuben Capital Partners, both situated in London.
Israeli election meddlers are likely behind the political smears of Scott Wallace in the Pennsylvania 1st Congressional District. PSY-Group operated a website, outlawbds.com, which contained the names, names, email addresses and photographs of individuals suspected of supporting BDS. Many members of the pro-Trump alt-right movement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists appear to have taken their cues on “doxxing” political targets – publishing on-line personal information intended to place them in physical jeopardy – from the antics of Black Cube, PSY-Group, and another shadowy Israeli company, Israel Cyber Shield.
Other Israeli firms identified as part of an attempt to illegally penetrate US computer systems, including some involved in the 2016 election, are Embedi, headquartered in Herzliya, Israel – the home of the Israeli intelligence infrastructure – and ERPCSAN, which maintains an office in Tel Aviv. In a rare demonstration of holding Israel accountable for its criminal activity, both Israeli firms have been sanctioned by the US government and their US assets have been frozen.
Black Cube was also involved in smearing Hollywood actresses, who accused former Miramax movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault; waging a propaganda war against Qatar and its state-funded news network, Al Jazeera, on behalf of the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; working to discredit the opposition in the April 2018 Hungarian election; committing espionage in 2015 against the Romanian government; and working on behalf of a competitor to disparage West Face Capital Inc., a Toronto-based investment firm, as well as an Ontario Superior Court judge, who was hearing a case between West Face and Black Cube’s client. Operating through a front company, B.C. Strategy Ltd., Black Cube started a whispering campaign that the judge, who is now retired, was “anti-Semitic.” The same tactic is being employed against Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania and other Democratic candidates around the country.
An Israeli cyber-propaganda operation called “Kela Shlomo.” or “Solomon’s Sling,” formed by former high-ranking Israeli intelligence, national security, diplomatic officials, and “journalists,” all supporters of the Likud Party, tracks a direct path between the operations of Black Cube and PSY-Group right into Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem.
Israeli Member of the Knesset Tamar Zandberg told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that the Black Cube operation is “again and again involved in shady cases in the world.” Zandberg called for the Israeli Defense Ministry to crack down on “this Israeli embarrassment.” Until foreign governments and the media decide to get the story correct and stop assigning blame to the Russian government for election meddling and point the finger at the actual culprit – Israel – Zandberg and law enforcement investigators around the world will merely be laughed off by Netanyahu and his cohorts and cronies.
Top Photo | An Israeli student attends a class on computer network hacking investigation in Beit Shemesh, Israel, Jan.1, 2017. Daniel Estrin | AP
Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club.
Source | Strategic Culture Foundation