Colin Kahl participates in a panel discussion about Iran's nuclear program on Capitol Hill, February 21, 2012 in Washington, DC..
(photo credit: CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Black Cube, the private Israeli security firm that allegedly targeted former White House officials Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl in an attempt to discredit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, was hired by members of the Trump administration, MSNBC reported on Friday.
An unnamed source, whose face and voice were disguised in the television report, said that Black Cube’s alleged investigation was ordered “for Trump” soon after the president visited Israel in May 2017.
“You’ll never find their name on a contract,” the source told MSNBC. “I can’t prove that it was the administration other than what I was told.”
But, he added, “Why spend time and money to make the whole the deal look rotten, unless you’re obsessed with destroying Obama’s legacy?”
There is no evidence linking Trump administration officials to Black Cube.
According to the allegations, first published in early May in Britain’s The Observer
and in The New Yorker, Black Cube agents used aliases and shell companies in an attempt to solicit information from Rhodes’s and Kahl’s wives
, as well as from reporters and Iran experts who had been in contact with Obama-era officials.
Black Cube is made up of agents “trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to the company’s website. The same firm was hired by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to discredit the women who accused him of sexual harassment, and reporters who were covering the story.
Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower who revealed that company’s mining of Facebook data in an effort to help US President Donald Trump’s electoral campaign, said in March that the research firm hired Black Cube to interfere in Nigeria's recent presidential election
Black Cube has denied that it targeted Rhodes, Kahl and the others. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration or to the Iran nuclear deal,” it said. “Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers.”
A Black Cube source has told The Jerusalem Post
that its employees do not know Kahl.
TRITA PARSI, a Swedish-born Iran expert who served as an adviser to the Obama administration as it negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, was also allegedly targeted by Black Cube, and was interviewed for the MSNBC report. Parsi responded on Twitter Saturday: “Wow! @RichardEngel got his source to speak on camera that it was Trump that hired Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube to target former Obama’s officials and supporters of the #IranDeal (including myself) in order to discredit and silence us...”
Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees called for the Israeli spy firm to share data on the alleged campaign against Rhodes and Kahl.
“We are writing to request documents relating to reports that Black Cube conducted a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against former Obama administration officials Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl at the behest of associates of President Donald Trump,” said the letter sent on Thursday by Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, and Eliot Engel of New York, his counterpart on the Foreign Affairs panel.
“If these reports are accurate, they raise grave questions about how and why a foreign entity was engaged to attempt to secretly influence the foreign policy of the United States,” the congressmen wrote.
The letter was mostly symbolic: As the minority party in the House of Representatives, Democrats do not have subpoena powers, and even with such powers, congressional authority over a foreign entity would be limited.
Cummings and Engel, both notably pro-Israel, said they were not taking at face value Black Cube’s assertion that it has no ties to the Trump administration.
“Your firm has denied these reports only in the broadest terms, stating – in the present tense – that ‘Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal,’” they wrote. “You have not denied the operation itself, you have not explained who was aware of it, and you have not identified the clients who funded it,” they wrote.