Former US intelligence officers in UAE hacking case cooperate with FBI to avoid prosecution

WASHINGTON, Sept.14 (Reuters) – Three former U.S. intelligence operatives, who worked as mercenaries for the United Arab Emirates, agreed to pay fines of $ 1.685 million and cooperate with federal prosecutors to avoid a trial, announced Tuesday the Ministry of Justice.

Defendants Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke were part of an underground unit called Project Raven, first reported by Reuters, which helped the UAE spy on their enemies.

The three men reached a deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, with U.S. prosecutors who accused them of conspiring to violate hacking laws, the Justice Department said in court documents. filed Tuesday.

The three also agreed to relinquish foreign or US security clearances and face future employment restrictions.

They agreed to “fully cooperate” and to provide “full, complete and truthful information to the FBI or any other US government organization” and to provide the documents sought by the government.

United States Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko said in a press release: “This agreement is the first of its kind to resolve an investigation into two distinct types of criminal activity: the provision of unauthorized and controlled export defense in support of IT network operation and a trading company creating, supporting and operating systems specially designed to allow others to access data without authorization from computers around the world, including the United States.

Reuters previously reported that Baier was a program manager for Project Raven. Adams and Gericke were operators as part of the effort, helping the UAE hack their targets.

Text messages sent to Baier and Adams asking for comment went unanswered. A social media message to Gericke also did not receive an immediate response.

Lawyers for the three defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The court document states: “The defendants used illicit, fraudulent and criminal means, including the use of advanced secret hacking systems that used computer exploits obtained in the United States and elsewhere, to gain unauthorized access to protected computers in the United States and elsewhere and illegally obtain information.

Lori Stroud, a former US National Security Agency analyst who worked on Project Raven and then acted as a whistleblower, said Tuesday: “The Office’s dedication to justice is commendable, and I have it. utmost respect for the officers assigned to this matter. “

“However, the most important catalyst in bringing this problem to light has been investigative journalism – the technical and timely information reported has created the awareness and momentum needed to ensure justice,” she said. declared.

Court documents describe how the three men helped the UAE design, procure and deploy hacking capabilities over several years. Their victims are believed to be U.S. citizens, which Reuters previously reported based on information provided by Stroud.

Former program officials told Reuters they believed they were following the law because their superiors promised them the U.S. government approved the job.

The documents describe how Project Raven operatives acquired and used an elite hacking tool named Karma, which Reuters said was used to remotely break into iPhones. The Justice Department said the hack tool was acquired from two US companies.

Karma has been used to penetrate the iPhones of prominent activists who have spoken out against the UAE’s human rights record, Reuters reported.

Reporting by Christopher Bing and Joel Schectman; Editing by Howard Goller

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