A UAE cyber espionage contractor staffed with several former U.S. intelligence agents hacked journalists or news executives at Al Jazeera, the BBC, Al Arabi and others throughout June 2017, Reuters reported Monday. From the report: The American operatives worked for Project Raven, a secret Emirati intelligence program that spied on dissidents, militants and political opponents of the UAE monarchy. A Reuters investigation in January revealed Project Raven’s existence and inner workings, including the fact that it surveilled a British activist and several unnamed U.S. journalists. The Raven operatives — who included at least nine former employees of the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.S. military — found themselves thrust into the thick of a high-stakes dispute among America’s Gulf allies. The Americans’ role in the UAE-Qatar imbroglio highlights how former U.S. intelligence officials have become key players in the cyber wars of other nations, with little oversight from Washington.
The crisis erupted in the spring of 2017, when the UAE and allies — including Saudi Arabia and Egypt — accused Qatar of sowing unrest in the Middle East through its support of media outlets and political groups. The UAE camp demanded Qatar take a series of actions, including shuttering the Qatar-funded Al Jazeera satellite television network, withdrawing funding from other media outlets Doha supports, and cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic movement some Arab governments regard as a threat.