4 Artikel von Whitney Webb von Mintpressnews
Der Epstein-Case von der Prohibition bis zur Gegenwart.
(Der Artikel wird aufgrund vieler interessanter Zusammenhänge gepostet, auch wenn Trump hier natürlich komplett falsch in den Zusammenhang gebracht wird.)
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
Epstein is only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime.
Despite his “sweetheart” deal and having seemingly evaded justice, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epsteinwas arrested earlier this month on federal charges for sex trafficking minors. Epstein’s arrest has again brought increased media attention to many of his famous friends, the current president among them.
Many questions have since been asked about how much Epstein’s famous friends knew of his activities and exactly what Epstein was up to. The latter arguably received the most attention after it was reported that Alex Acosta — who arranged Epstein’s “sweetheart” deal in 2008 and who recently resigned as Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary following Epstein’s arrest — claimed that the mysterious billionairehad worked for “intelligence.”
Other investigations have made it increasingly clear that Epstein was runninga blackmail operation, as he had bugged the venues — whether at his New York mansion or Caribbean island getaway — with microphones and cameras to record the salacious interactions that transpired between his guests and the underage girls that Epstein exploited. Epstein appeared tohave stored much of that blackmail in a safe on his private island.
Claims of Epstein’s links and his involvement in a sophisticated, well-funded sexual blackmail operation have, surprisingly, spurred few media outlets to examine the history of intelligence agencies both in the U.S. and abroad conducting similar sexual blackmail operations, many of which also involved underage prostitutes.
In the U.S. alone, the CIA operated numerous sexual blackmail operations throughout the country,employing prostitutes to target foreign diplomats in what the Washington Post once nicknamed the CIA’s “love traps.” If one goes even farther back into the U.S. historical record it becomes apparent that these tactics and their use against powerful political and influential figures significantly predate the CIA and even its precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In fact, they were pioneered years earlier by none other than the American Mafia.
In the course of this investigation, MintPress discovered that a handful of figures who were influential in American organized crime during and after Prohibition were directly engaged in sexual blackmail operations that they used for their own, often dark, purposes.
In Part I of this exclusive investigation, MintPress will examine how a mob-linked businessman with deep ties to notorious gangster Meyer Lansky developed close ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) while also running a sexual blackmail operation for decades, which later became a covert part of the anti-communist crusade of the 1950s led by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), himself known throughout Washington for having a habit of drunkenly groping underage teenaged girls.
Yet, it would be one of McCarthy’s closest aides who would take over the ring in later years, trafficking minors and expanding this sexual blackmail operation at the same time he expanded his own political influence, putting him in close contact with prominent figures including former President Ronald Reagan and a man who would later become president, Donald Trump.
As will be revealed in Part II, after this figure’s death, the blackmail operation continued under various successors in different cities and there is strong evidence that Jeffrey Epstein became one of them.
Samuel Bronfman and the Mob
The Prohibition Era in the United States is often used as an example of how banning recreational substances not only increases their popularity but also causes a boom in criminal activity. Indeed, it was Prohibition that greatly increased the strength of the American Mafia, as the top crime lords of the day grew rich through the clandestine trade and sale of alcohol in addition to gambling and other activities.
It is through the bootlegging trade of the 1920s and the early 1930s that this story begins, as it brought together key figures whose successors and affiliates would eventually create a series of blackmail and sex trafficking rings that would give rise to the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, the “Lolita Express” and “Orgy Island.”
Samuel Bronfman never planned to become a major producer of liquor but true to his family’s last name, which means “brandy man” in Yiddish, he eventually began distributing alcohol as an extension of his family’s hotel business. During Canada’s Prohibition period, which was briefer than and preceded that of its southern neighbor, the Bronfman family business used loopholes toskirt the law and find technically legal ways to sell alcohol in the hotels and stores the family owned. The family relied on its connections with members of the American Mafia to illegally smuggle alcohol from the United States.
Soon after Prohibition ended in Canada, it began in the United States and, by the time the flow of illegal alcohol had turned the other way, the Bronfmans – whose business ventures were then being led by Sam Bronfman and his brothers — were relatively late to an already flourishing bootlegging trade.
“We were late starters in the two most lucrative markets – on the high seas and across the Detroit River. What came out of the border trade in Saskatchewan was insignificant by comparison,” Bronfman once told Canadian journalist Terence Robertson, who was then writing a biography of Bronfman. Nonetheless, “this was when we started to make our real money,” Bronfman recounted. Robertson’s biography on Bronfman was never published, as he died under mysterious circumstances soon after warning his colleagues that he had uncovered unsavory information about the Bronfman family.
Samuel Bronfman pictured in 1937 with his sons Edgar and Charles
Key to Bronfman’s success during American Prohibition were the ties his family had cultivated with organized crime during Canada’s Prohibition, ties that led many prominent members of the mob in the United States to favor Bronfman as a business partner. Bronfman liquor was purchased in massive quantities by many crime lords who still live on in American legend, including Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Moe Dalitz, Abner “Longy” Zwillman and Meyer Lansky.
Most of Bronfman’s mob associates during Prohibition were members of what became known as the National Crime Syndicate, which a 1950s Senate investigative body known as the Kefauver Committee described as a confederation dominated by Italian-American and Jewish-American mobs. During that investigation, some of the biggest names in the American Mafianamed Bronfman as a central figure in their bootlegging operations. The widow of notorious American mob boss Meyer Lansky even recounted how Bronfman had thrown lavish dinner parties for her husband.
Years later, Samuel Bronfman’s children and grandchildren, their family’s ties to the criminal underworld intact, would go on to associate closely with Leslie Wexner, allegedly the source of much of Epstein’s mysterious wealth, and other mob-linked “philanthropists,” and some would even manage their own sexual blackmail operations, including therecently busted blackmail-based “sex cult” NXIVM. The later generations of the Bronfman family, particularly Samuel Bronfman’s sons Edgar and Charles, will be discussed in greater detail in Part II of this report.
Lewis Rosenstiel’s dark secret
Crucial to Bronfman’s Prohibition-era bootlegging operations were two middlemen, one of whom was Lewis “Lew” Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel got his start working at his uncle’s distillery in Kentucky before Prohibition. Once the law banning alcohol was in force, Rosenstiel created the Schenley Products Company, which would later become one of the largest liquor companies in North America.
Though he was a high school drop-out and not particularly well-connected socially at the time, Rosenstiel happened to have a “chance” meeting with Winston Churchill in 1922 while on vacation in the French Riviera. According tothe New York Times, Churchill “advised him [Rosenstiel] to prepare for the return of liquor sales in the United States.” Rosenstiel somehow managed to secure the funding of the elite and respected Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers to finance his purchase of shuttered distilleries.
Officially, Rosenstiel is said to have built his company and wealth after Prohibition, by following Churchill’s advice to prepare for Repeal. However, he was clearly involved in bootlegging operations and was even indicted for bootlegging in 1929, though he evaded conviction. Like Bronfman, Rosenstiel was close to organized crime, particularly members of the mostly Jewish-American and Italian-American mob alliance known as the National Crime Syndicate.
Subsequent New York state legislative investigations would allege that Rosenstiel “was part of a ‘consortium’ with underworld figures that bought liquor in Canada [from Samuel Bronfman]”, whose other members were “Meyer Lansky, the reputed organized crime leader; Joseph Fusco, an associate of late Chicago gangster Al Capone and Joseph Linsey, a Boston man Mr. Kelly [the congressional investigator testifying] identified as a convicted bootlegger.” Rosenstiel’s relationship with these men, particularly Lansky, would continue long after Prohibition and Samuel Bronfman, for his part, would also maintain his mob ties.
In addition to his friends in the mob, Rosenstiel also cultivated close ties with the FBI, developinga close relationship with longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and making Hoover’s right-hand man and longtime assistant at the FBI, Louis Nichols,the Vice President of his Schenley empire in 1957.
Despite their similar backgrounds as bootlegger barons turned “respectable” businessmen, Bronfman’s and Rosenstiel’s personalities were drastically different and their relationship was complicated, at best. One example of the dissimilarities between North America’s top liquor barons was how they treated their staff. Bronfman was not necessarily known for being a cruel boss, whereas Rosenstielwas known for his erratic and “monstrous” behavior towards employees as well as his unusual practice of bugging his offices in order to hear what employees said about him when he wasn’t present.
Rosenstiel was connected to both the FBI and to organized crime
Such differences between Bronfman and Rosenstiel were also reflected in their personal lives. While Bronfman married only once and was loyal to his wife, Rosenstiel was married five times and was known for his relatively closeted bisexual antics, a part of his life that was well-knownto many of his close associates and employees.
Though for years there were only hints to this other side of the controversial businessman, details emerged years later during a divorce proceeding brought by Rosenstiel’s fourth wife, Susan Kaufman, that would back the claims. Kaufman alleged that Rosenstiel hosted extravagant parties that included “boy prostitutes” that her husband had hired “for the enjoyment” of certain guests, which included important government officials and prominent figures in America’s criminal underworld. Kaufman would later make the same claims under oath during the hearing of the New York’s State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime in the early 1970s.
Not only did Rosenstiel organize these parties, but he also made sure that their venues were bugged with microphones that recorded the antics of his high-profile guests. Those audio recordings, Kaufman alleged, were then kept for the purpose of blackmail. Though Kaufman’s claims are shocking, her testimonywas deemed credible and held in high regard by the former chief counsel of the Crime Committee, New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, and committee investigator William Gallinaro and aspects of her testimony were later corroborated by two separate witnesses who were unknown to Kaufman.
These “blackmail parties” offer a window into an operation that would later become more sophisticated and grow dramatically in the 1950s under Rosenstiel’s “field commander” (a nickname given by Rosenstiel to an individual to be named shortly in this report). Many of the people connected to Rosenstiel’s “field commander” during the 70s and 80s have again found their names in the press following the recent arrest of Jeffrey Epstein.
The “Untouchable” Mobster
Bronfman and Rosenstiel became legendary in the North American liquor business, in part due to their fight for supremacy in the industry, whichthe New York Times described as often erupting “into bitter personal and corporate battles.” Despite their dueling in the corporate world, the one thing that united the two businessmen more than anything else was their close connection to American organized crime, particularly renowned mobster Meyer Lansky.
Lansky is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history of American organized crime and is notable for being the only famous mobster rising to notoriety in the 1920s who managed to die an old man and never serve a day in jail.
Lansky’s long life and ability to avoid prison time was largely the result of his close relationships to powerful businessmen like Bronfman and Rosenstiel (among many others), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. intelligence community, as well as his role in establishing several blackmail and extortion rings that helped him keep the law at arm’s length. Indeed, when Lansky was finally charged with a crime in the 1970s, it was the Internal Revenue Service that brought the charges, not the FBI, and he was charged with and acquitted of tax evasion.
Lansky was remarkably close to both Bronfman and Rosenstiel. Bronfman regularly threw“lavish dinner parties” in Lansky’s honor both during and after Prohibition. These parties were remembered fondly by Lansky’s wife, and Lansky in turn did favors for Bronfman, ranging from exclusive protection of his shipments during Prohibition to getting him tickets to coveted “fight of the century” boxing matches.
Rosenstiel also threw regular dinner parties honoring Lansky. Susan Kaufman, Rosenstiel’s ex-wife, claimed to have taken numerous pictures of her ex-husband and Lansky socializing and partying together, photos that were also seen by Mary Nichols of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, Lansky, per Kaufman’s recollection, was one of the individuals that Rosenstiel sought to protect from legal scrutiny as part of his child prostitution and blackmail ring targeting high-ranking officials, and he was overheard saying that if the government “ever brings pressure against Lansky or any of us, we’ll use this [a specific recording taken at one of the ‘parties’] as blackmail.”
Lansky was known to address Rosenstiel as “Supreme Commander,” a title that would later be used to refer to Rosenstiel by another individual deeply connected to the mob and sexual blackmail operations, previously referred to in this report as Rosenstiel’s “Field Commander.”
Lansky also had close ties to the CIA and U.S. military intelligence. During World War II, Lansky — along with his associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — worked with Naval intelligence in what was codenamed “Operation Underworld,” an operation the existence of which the government denied for over 40 years.
Journalist and noted chronicler of CIA covert activities, Douglas Valentine, noted in his book The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World that the government’s cooperation with the Mafia during World War II led to its expansion after the war and set the stage for its future collaboration with U.S. intelligence.
According to Valentine:
Top government officials were also aware that the government’s Faustian pact with the Mafia during World War II had allowed the hoods to insinuate themselves into mainstream America. In return for services rendered during the war, Mafia bosses were protected from prosecution for dozens of unsolved murders. […]
The Mafia was a huge problem in 1951 [when the Kefauver Committee was convened], equivalent to terrorism today. But it was also a protected branch of the CIA, which was co-opting criminal organizations around the world and using them in its secret war against the Soviets and Red Chinese. The Mafia had collaborated with Uncle Sam and had emerged from World War II energized and empowered. They controlled cities across the country.”
Indeed, not long after its creation, the CIA forged ties with Lansky at the behest of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton. The CIA would later turn to the Lansky-linked mobin the early 1960s as part of its consistently fruitless quest to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, showing that the CIA maintained its contacts with Lansky-controlled elements of the Mafia long after the initial meeting with Lansky took place.
The CIA also had close connections to associates of Lansky, such as Edward Moss, who did public relations work for Lansky and was said to be of “interest” to the CIA by the agency’s then-inspector general J.S. Earman. Harry “Happy” Meltzer was also another Lansky associate that was a CIA asset and the CIA asked Meltzer to join an assassination team in December 1960.
In addition to the CIA, Lansky was also connected to a foreign intelligence agency through Tibor Rosenbaum, an arms procurer and high-ranking official in Israel’s Mossad, whose bank – the International Credit Bank of Geneva –laundered much of Lansky’s ill-gotten gains and recycled them into legitimate American businesses.
Lansky outside the High Court of Israel where he sought permission to emigrate in 1972. Photo | AP
Journalist Ed Reid, author of the Virginia Hill biography The Mistress and the Mafia, wrote that Lansky was attempting to entrap powerful people through sexual blackmail as far back as 1939. Reid contends that Lansky sent Ms. Hill to Mexico, where his West Coast connections had established a drug ring that later involved the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, to seduce numerous “top politicians, army officers, diplomats and police officials.”
Eventually, Lansky was credited with obtaining compromising photos of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sometime in the 1940s, which showed “Hoover in some kind of gay situation”, according to a former Lansky associate, who also said that Lansky had often claimed, “I fixed that sonofabitch.” The photos showed Hoover engaged in sexual activity with his long-time friend, FBI Deputy Director Clyde Tolson.
At some point, these photos fell into the hands of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton, who later showed the photos to several other CIA officials, including John Weitz and Gordon Novel. Angleton was in charge of the CIA’s relationship with the FBI and Israel’s Mossad until he left the agency in 1972 and, as was recently mentioned, he was also in contact with Lansky.
Anthony Summers, former BBC journalist and author of Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, has argued that it was not Lansky, but William Donovan, the director of the OSS, who obtained the original photos of Hoover and later shared them with Lansky.
Summers also stated that “To [gangster Frank] Costello and Lansky, the ability to corrupt politicians, policemen and judges was fundamental to Mafia operations. The way they found to deal with Hoover, according to several mob sources, involved his homosexuality.” This anecdote shows that Lanksy and the CIA maintained a covert relationship, which included, among other things, the sharing of blackmail material (i.e., “intelligence”).
It is also possible that Hoover was ensnared by the mob during one of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties,” at which Hoover sometimes found himself in attendance with prominent figures of the Mafia. Hoover was said to have worn women’s clothing at the some of the events and Meyer Lansky’s wife later said that her husband had photos of the former FBI director in drag. Furthermore, Hoover is on record showing an unusual concern in the FBI’s handling of Rosenstiel’s criminal links as early as 1939, the same year that his close associate Lansky was actively orchestrating the sexual blackmail of powerful political figures.
The blackmail acquired on Hoover and the mob’s possession of the evidence has been cited as a major factor in Hoover’s decades-long denial that nationwide networks of organized crime were a serious issue. Hoover asserted that it was a decentralized, local issue and therefore outside of the bureau’s jurisdiction. By the time Hoover finally acknowledged the existence of national organized crime networks in 1963, they were so entrenched in the U.S. establishment that they were untouchable.
Congressional crime consultant Ralph Salerno told Summers in 1993 that Hoover’s willful ignorance of organized crime for most of his career as FBI director “allowed organized crime to grow very strong in economic and political terms, so that it became a much bigger threat to the wellbeing of this country than it would have been if it had been addressed much sooner.”
J. Edgar Hoover: Blackmail Victim?
Most records place the beginning of Hoover’s relationship with Rosenstiel in the 1950s, the same decade when Susan Kaufman reported that Hoover was attending Rosenstiel’s blackmail parties. Rosenstiel’s FBI file, obtained by Anthony Summers, cites the first Rosenstiel meeting as taking place in 1956, though Summers notes that there is evidence that they had met much earlier. After requesting the meeting, Rosenstiel was granted a personal face-to-face with the director in a matter of hours. The FBI file on Rosenstiel also reveals that the liquor baron heavily lobbied Hoover to aid his business interests.
During that time, the salacious details of Hoover’s sex life were already known to the U.S. intelligence community and to the mob, and Hoover was aware that they knew of his closeted sexuality and penchant for women’s clothing. Yet, Hoover apparently seemed to embrace the very type of sexual blackmail operation that had compromised his private life, given that he was seen at many of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties” in the 1950s and 1960s, including at venues such as Rosenstiel’s personal home and later at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. Hoover’s penchant for dressing in drag was also described by two witnesses who were not connected to Susan Kaufman.
Hoover with Dorothy Lamour on the set of The Greatest Show on Earth in 1951
Soon after their first “official” meeting, the public relationship between the two men quickly flourished, with Hoover even sending Rosenstiel flowers when he fell ill. Summers reported that, in 1957, Rosenstiel was heard telling Hoover during a meeting, “your wish is my command.” Their relationship remained close and intimate throughout the 1960s and beyond.
Like Rosenstiel, Hoover was well-known for amassing blackmail on friend and foe alike. Hoover’s office contained “secret files” on numerous powerful people in Washington and beyond, files he used to gain favors and protect his status as FBI director for as long as he wished.
Hoover’s own propensity for blackmail suggests that he may have associated with Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation more directly, given he already knew he was compromised and his involvement in the operation would have served as a means of procuring the blackmail he coveted for his own purposes. Indeed, if Hoover was merely being blackmailed and extorted by the Lansky-Rosenstiel connected mob, it is unlikely that he would have been so friendly to Rosenstiel, Lansky and the other mobsters at these gatherings and participated in them with such regularity.
According to journalist and author Burton Hersh, Hoover was also tied to Sherman Kaminsky, who ran a sexual blackmail operation in New York involving young male prostitutes. That operation was busted and investigated in a 1966 extortion probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, though the FBI quickly took over the investigation and photos of Hoover and Kaminsky together soon disappeared from the case file.
Hoover and Rosenstiel’s deep ties would continue to develop over the years, an example of which can be seen in Rosenstiel’s hiring of long-time Hoover aide Louis Nichols as the vice president of his Schenley liquor empire and Rosenstiel’s donation of over $1 million to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, which Nichols also ran at the time.
There is also more than one documented occasion wherein Hoover attempted to use blackmail to protect Rosenstiel and his “field commander,” none other than the infamous Roy Cohn, the other key figure in Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation involving minors.
The Making of a Monster
Decades after his death, Roy Cohn remains a controversial figure in large part because of his close, personal relationship with current U.S. President Donald Trump. Yet reports on Cohn, both in recent and in past years, often miss the mark in their characterization of the man who became closely associated with the Reagan White House, the CIA, the FBI, organized crime and, incidentally, many of the figures who would later surround Jeffrey Epstein.
To understand the true nature of the man, it is essential to examine his rise to power in the early 1950s when, at just 23 years of age, he became a key figure in the high-profile trial of Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and later as the right-hand man of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).
Cohn’s dedication to anti-communist activities in the 1950s is allegedly what first endeared him to J. Edgar Hoover, whom he first met in 1952. During that meeting, as described by Hersh in Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America, Hoover expressed admiration for Cohn’s aggressive and manipulative tactics and told Cohn to “call me directly” whenever he had information worth sharing. From that point on, Cohn and Hoover “traded favors, effusive compliments, gifts and elaborate private dinners. It quickly became ‘Roy’ and ‘Edgar.’” Hersh also describes Hoover as Cohn’s soon to be “consigliere.”
The date and circumstances around Cohn’s introduction to Rosenstiel are harder to come by. It is possible that the connection was made through Roy Cohn’s father, Albert Cohn, a prominent judge and an influential figure in the New York City Democratic Party apparatus then run by Edward Flynn. It was later revealed that the Democratic organization dominated by Flynn and based in the Bronx had long-standing connections to organized crime, including associates of Meyer Lansky.
Regardless of how or when it began, the relationship between Cohn and Rosenstiel was close and was often likened to that of a father and son. They were said to frequently salute each other in public and remained close until Rosenstiel was near death, at which point Cohn attempted to trick his then-barely conscious and senile “friend” and client into naming him the executor and trustee of the liquor magnate’s estate, valued at $75 million (more than $334 million in today’s dollars).
LIFE magazine reported in 1969 that Cohn and Rosenstiel had for years referred to one another as “Field Commander” and “Supreme Commander,” respectively. Media references to these nicknames appear in other articles from the period.
Though LIFE and other outlets had interpreted this as merely an anecdote about the nicknames shared in jest between close friends, the fact that notorious crime lord Meyer Lansky also calledRosenstiel “Supreme Commander” and the fact that Cohn and Rosenstiel would later become intimately involved in the same pedophile sex ring suggests that there may have been more to these “nicknames.” After all, the mob to which Rosenstiel was connected often used military-themed titles like “soldier” and “lieutenant” to differentiate the rank and importance of its members.
Once he had made his connection with Hoover, Cohn’s star began to rise even higher in Washington. Hoover’s recommendation of Cohn would become the deciding factor in his appointment as Sen. McCarthy’s general counsel over Robert Kennedy, a rival and bitter enemy of Cohn’s.
McCarthy covers the mic while having a whispered discussion with Cohn during a 1954 committee hearing. Photo | AP
Though Cohn was ruthless and seemingly untouchable as McCarthy’s counsel and helped the senator destroy many careers during both the red and lavender scares, his antics in relation to his work on the committee would eventually lead to his downfall after he attempted to blackmail the Army in return for preferential treatment for committee consultant and Cohn’s rumored lover, David Schine.
After he was forced to leave McCarthy’s side due to the scandal, Cohn returned to New York to live with his mother and practice law. A few years later New York Judge David Peck, a long-time associate of former CIA Director Alan Dulles, orchestrated Cohn’s hire to the New York law firm Saxe, Bacon and O’Shea — which would later become Saxe, Bacon and Bolan after Tom Bolan, a friend of Cohn’s, became a partner in the firm. Upon his hire, Cohn brought the firm a slew of Mafia-linked clients, including high-ranking members of the Gambino crime family, the Genovese crime family and, of course, Lewis Rosenstiel.
What happened in Suite 233?
The connections Roy Cohn built during the 1950s made him a well-known public figure and translated into great political influence that peaked during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Yet, as Cohn built his public image, he was also developing a dark private life, which would come to be dominated by the same blackmail pedophile racket that appears to have first begun with Lewis Rosenstiel.
One of the “blackmail parties” Susan Kaufman attended with her then-husband Lewis Rosenstiel was hosted by Cohn in 1958 at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, suite 233. Kaufman described Cohn’s suite as a “beautiful suite…all done in light blue.” She described being introduced to Hoover, who was in drag, by Cohn, who told her that Hoover’s name was “Mary” in a fit of barely concealed laughter. Kaufman testified that young boys were present and Kaufman claimed that Cohn, Hoover and her ex-husband engaged in sexual activity with these minors.
New York attorney John Klotz, tasked with investigating Cohn for a case well after Kaufman’s testimony, also found evidence of the “blue suite” at the Plaza Hotel and its role in a sex extortion ring after combing through local government documents and information gathered by private detectives. Klotz later told journalist and author Burton Hersh what he had learned:
Roy Cohn was providing protection. There were a bunch of pedophiles involved. That’s where Cohn got his power from — blackmail.”
Perhaps the most damning confirmation of Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 comes from statements made by Cohn himself to former NYPD detective and ex-head of the department’s Human-Trafficking and Vice-Related Crimes Division, James Rothstein. Rothstein later told John DeCamp — a former Nebraska state senator who investigated a government-connected child sex ring based in Omaha — among other investigators, that Cohn had admitted to being part of a sexual blackmail operation targeting politicians with child prostitutes during a sit-down interview with the former detective.
Flags fly over the main entrance of the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1982. Suzanne Vlamis | AP
Rothstein told DeCamp the following about Cohn:
Cohn’s job was to run the little boys. Say you had an admiral, a general, a congressman, who did not want to go along with the program. Cohn’s job was to set them up, then they would go along. Cohn told me that himself.”
Rothstein later told Paul David Collins, a former journalist turned researcher, that Cohn had also identified this sexual blackmail operation as being part of the anti-communist crusade of the time.
The fact that Cohn, per Rothstein’s recollection, stated that the child sex blackmail ring was part of the government-sponsored anti-communist crusade suggests that elements of the government, including Hoover’s FBI, may have been connected at a much broader level than Hoover’s own personal involvement, as the FBI closely coordinated with McCarthy and Cohn for much of the red scare.
It is also worth noting that among Hoover’s many “secret” blackmail files was a sizeable dossier on Senator McCarthy, the contents of which strongly suggested that the senator himself was interested in underage girls. According to journalist and author David Talbot, Hoover’s file on McCarthy was “filled with disturbing stories about McCarthy’s habit of drunkenly groping young girls’ breasts and buttocks. The stories were so widespread that they became ‘common knowledge’ in the capital, according to one FBI chronicler.”
Talbot, in his book The Devil’s Chessboard, also cites Walter Trohan, Washington Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune, as having personally witnessed McCarthy’s habit of molesting young women. “He just couldn’t keep his hands off young girls,” Trohan would later say. “Why the Communist opposition didn’t plant a minor on him and raise the cry of statutory rape, I don’t know.” Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that those “planting” minors on their political foes were McCarthy’s allies and close associates, not his enemies.
The question that necessarily arises from revelations regarding Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 is who else was Cohn “protecting” and servicing with underage prostitutes? One of them could very well have been one of Cohn’s close friends and clients, Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York, who was said to have been present at some of these parties Cohn hosted at the Plaza Hotel.
Spellman — one of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church in North America, who was sometimes referred to as “America’s Pope” — was accused of not only condoning pedophilia in the Catholic church and ordaining known pedophiles including Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick, but also engaging in it himself to such an extent that many New York area priests widely referred to him as “Mary.” Furthermore, J. Edgar Hoover was said to have a filedetailing the cardinal’s sex life, suggesting Spellman’s involvement in the ring and pedophile protection racket in which Cohn and Hoover were personally involved.
Cardinal Francis ‘Franny’ Spellman. Photo | Museum of the City of New York
People close to Cohn often remarked that he was frequently surrounded by groups of young boys, but seemed to think nothing of it. Similar off-handed comments about Epstein’s penchant for minors were made by those close to him prior to his arrest.
Controversial Republican political operative and “dirty trickster” Roger Stone — who, like Donald Trump, was also a protégé of Cohn — said the following about Cohn’s sex life during an interview with The New Yorker in 2008:
Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.” (emphasis added)
Compare this quote from Stone to what Donald Trump, who was also close to Cohn, would later say about Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he was also closely associated:
I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” (emphasis added)
Though it is unknown how long the sex ring at the Plaza Hotel continued, and whether it continued after Cohn’s death from AIDS in 1986, it is worth noting that Donald Trump purchased the Plaza Hotel in 1988. It would later be reported and confirmed by then-attendeesthat Trump “used to host parties in suites at the Plaza Hotel when he owned it, where young women and girls were introduced to older, richer men” and “illegal drugs and young women were passed around and used.”
Andy Lucchesi, a male model who had helped organize some of these Plaza Hotel parties for Trump, said the following when asked about the age of the women present: “A lot of girls, 14, look 24. That’s as juicy as I can get. I never asked how old they were; I just partook. I did partake in activities that would be controversial, too.”
The Roy Cohn Machine
Roy Cohn was only at the beginning of his career when he waded his way into the underground sexual blackmail ring apparently led by Lewis Rosenstiel. Indeed, when Cohn first met Hoover, he was only 23 years old. Over the next three decades or so, before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1986 at the age of 56, Cohn built a well-oiled machine, largely through his close friendships with some of the country’s most influential figures.
Among Cohn’s friends were top media personalities like Barbara Walters, former CIA directors, Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy, media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman, numerous celebrities, prominent lawyers like Alan Dershowitz, top figures in the Catholic Church and leading Jewish organizations like B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress. Many of the same names that surrounded Cohn until death in the late 1980s would later come to surround Jeffrey Epstein, with their names later appearing in Epstein’s now-infamous “little black book”.
Reagan meets with Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, and Roy Cohn in the Oval Office in 1983. Photo | Reagan presidential library
While President Trump is clearly connected to both Epstein and Cohn, Cohn’s network also extends to former President Bill Clinton, whose friend and longtime political advisor, Richard “Dirty Dick” Morris, was Cohn’s cousin and close associate. Morris was also close to Clinton’s former communications director, George Stephanopoulos, who is also associated with Jeffrey Epstein.
Yet, these were only Cohn’s connections to respectable members of the establishment. He was also known for his deep connections to the mob and gained prominence largely for his ability to connect key figures in the criminal underworld to respected influential figures acceptable to the public sphere. Ultimately, as New York attorney John Klotz stated, Cohn’s most powerful tool was blackmail, which he used against friend and foe, gangster or public official alike. How much of that blackmail he acquired through his sexual blackmail operation will likely never be known.
As Part II of this exclusive investigation will reveal, Cohn and Epstein, and the sexual blackmail operations they ran share many things in common, including not only many of the same famous friends and patrons, but also connections to intelligence agencies and consortiums of mob-linked businessmen, the modern-day equivalents of Samuel Bronfman and Lewis Rosenstiel who have since rebranded as “philanthropists.”
Part II will also reveal that Cohn’s operation was known to have successors, as revealed by a series of scandals in the early 1990s that have since been swept under the rug. The significant amount of overlap between Epstein’s and Cohn’s covert activities in sexual blackmail and their ties to many of the same powerful individuals and circles of influence strongly suggest that Epstein was one of Cohn’s successors.
As will be shown in the final installment of this report, Epstein is only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime, making it a racket truly too big to fail.
The picture painted by the evidence is not a direct Epstein tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.
effrey Epstein, the billionaire who now sits in jail on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors, has continued to draw media scrutiny in the weeks after his arrest on July 6. Part of the reason for this continued media interest is related to Epstein’s alleged relationship to the intelligence services and new information about the true extent of the sexual blackmail operation Epstein is believed to have run for decades.
As MintPress reported last week, Epstein was able to run this sordid operation for so long precisely because his was only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive operation that began in the 1950s and perhaps even earlier.
Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.
This report, Part II of this series titled “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big To Fail,” will delve into Cohn’s close ties to the Reagan administration, which was also closely tied to the same organized crime network led by the infamous mob figure Meyer Lansky, which was discussed in Part I. Of particular importance is the “Iran Contra” network, a group of Reagan officials and associates who played key roles in the Iran Contra scandal. Though it has remained relatively unknown for years, many key figures in that same network, and several fronts for the CIA that were involved in funneling money to the Central American Contra paramilitaries, were also trafficking minors for their sexual exploitation and use in sexual blackmail rings.
Several of these rings made headlines at one point or another over the years — from the “call boy ring” run by Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, to the Franklin child-sex and murder ring run by Republican operative Larry King, to the scandal that enveloped the Catholic charity Covenant House in the late 1980s.
Yet, as this report will show, all of these rings — and more — were connected to the same network that involved key figures linked to the Reagan White House and linked to Roy Cohn — revealing the true scope of the sordid sexual blackmail operations and sex rings that involved the trafficking of children within the U.S. and even in Central America for their exploitation by dangerous and powerful pedophiles in the United States.
Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the United States from the Prohibition Era right up to the present day and the Age of Trump, a fact made increasingly clear as more and more information comes to light in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case.
“Roy could fix anyone in the city”
Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene in 2015, the legacy of his mentor, Roy Cohn – as well as Cohn’s influence on his most famous protege — have begun to garner renewed media attention. Many of the profiles on Cohn following Trump’s rise have focused solely on certain shadowy aspects of Cohn’s history, particularly his association with major figures in New York organized crime, his corrupt dealings, and his eventual disbarment. Some of these portrayals even went so far as to label Cohn as politically impotent. While Cohn was known to deal with a sizable amount of sleaze in his career, such depictions of the man fail to note that he had created an influence machine of unrivaled power that included some of the most prominent people in media and politics as well as a cadre of celebrities.
Cohn was closely associated with numerous celebrities, famous politicians and political operatives. Many of his birthday parties over the years attracted such famous figures such as artist Andy Warhol, fashion designer Calvin Klein, and comedian Joey Adams, as well as notable political figures including former Mayor of New York Abraham Beame and then-Assemblyman from Brooklyn and future Senator Chuck Schumer, among others. In 1979 Margaret Trudeau, mother of current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, attended Cohn’s birthday party, where she famously toppled his custom birthday cake; and of course Donald Trump, who became Cohn’s protege in the mid-1970s, was a frequent fixture at social events held in Cohn’s honor.
The politicians, journalists and celebrities invited to Cohn’s exclusive parties were said to be those who “had open accounts in Cohn’s ‘favor bank,’” his nickname for his unofficial balance sheet of political favors and debts that was surely informed and influenced by his extensive involvement in sexual blackmail operations from the 1950s well into the 1980s.
Many of Cohn’s celebrity friendships were cultivated through his relationship with and frequent appearances at the famous and famously debaucherous New York nightclub Studio 54, which was described by Vanity Fair as “the giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex.” Cohn was the long-time lawyer of the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell and Roy Cohn, left, talk to reporters outside U.S. District Court in Manhattan on, Nov. 2, 1979. Photo | AP
Among Cohn’s closest friends were Barbara Walters, to whom Cohn often referred as his “fiancee” in public, and whom he later introduced to the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, and other high rollers in the Reagan White House. Yet, Walters was just one of Cohn’s powerful friends in the media, a group that also included Abe Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times; William Safire, long-time New York Times columnist and New York Magazine contributor; and George Sokolsky of The New York Herald Tribune, NBC and ABC. Sokolsky was a particularly close friend of both Cohn and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose involvement in Cohn’s sexual blackmail operation is described in Part I of this investigative series. Sokolsky ran the American Jewish League Against Communism with Cohn for several years and the organization later named its Medal of Honor after Sokolsky.
Cohn was also the attorney and friend of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and, according to New York Magazine, “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped, item put in, or story exploited, Roy called Murdoch;” and, after Murdoch bought the New York Post, Cohn “wielded the paper as his personal shiv.” According to the late journalist Robert Parry, the friendship between Murdoch and Cohn first began thanks to their mutual support for Israel.
Cohn also leaned on his life-long friend since high school, Si Newhouse Jr., to exert media influence. Newhouse oversaw the media empire that now includes Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and numerous local newspapers throughout the United States, as well as major interests in cable television. New York Magazine also noted that “Cohn used his influence in the early ’80s to secure favors for himself and his Mob clients in Newhouse publications.” In addition to Newhouse, Cohn’s other high school pals, Generoso Pope Jr. and Richard Berlin, later became the owners of the National Enquirer and the Hearst Corporation, respectively. Cohn was also a close friend of another media mogul, Mort Zuckerman, who – along with Rupert Murdoch – would go on to befriend Jeffrey Epstein.
Cohn’s media confidants, like journalist William Buckley of The National Review and Firing Line, often attacked Cohn’s political enemies – particularly long-time Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — in their columns, using Cohn as an anonymous source. Buckley, whom historian George Nash once called “the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure,” received the George Sokolsky medal alongside Cohn’s mob-linked client and “Supreme Commander” Lewis Rosenstiel from the Cohn-run American Jewish League Against Communism in 1966. Buckley later got a heavily discounted $65,000 loan to buy a luxury boat from a bank where Cohn held influence and whose president Cohn had hand picked, according to a 1969 article in LIFE magazine.
Buckley — along with Barbara Walters, Alan Dershowitz and Donald Trump — would later serve as character witnesses for Cohn during his 1986 disbarment hearings and all but Buckley would later draw controversy for their relationships with Jeffrey Epstein.
With connections like this, it’s no wonder that Stanley Friedman — a law partner of Cohn, who was later imprisoned over a kickback and bribery scandal while serving as New York’s deputy mayor — told journalist Marie Brenner in 1980 that “Roy could fix anyone in the city.”
Politically ubiquitous and polygamous
Roy Cohn’s “favor bank” and his unique position as a liaison between the criminal underworld, the rich and famous, and top media influencers made him a force to be reckoned with. Yet, it was his political connections to leadership figures in both the Republican and Democratic parties and his close relationship to long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, among other figures, that made him and his dark secret “untouchable” for much of his life. Though most of his political influence was forged in the 1950s, Cohn became even more powerful with the rise of Ronald Reagan.
Even though he nominally maintained his affiliation with the Democratic Party throughout his life, Cohn was a well-known “fixer” for Republican candidates and this is clearly seen in his outsized roles during the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan. It was during the latter that Cohn would meet another of his proteges, Roger Stone, whom he infamously instructed to leave a hefty bribe tucked in a suitcase at the doorstep of the Liberal Party’s headquarters during the 1980 campaign. During this campaign, Cohn would also meet Paul Manafort — an associate of Stone and later Trump’s 2016 campaign manager — and introduce both to Donald Trump.
Cohn’s law partner, Tom Bolan, was also an influential force in the Reagan campaign and later chaired Reagan’s transition team in 1980. Reagan then named Bolan, whom he considered a friend, a director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the government’s development finance institution, and he was also the New York finance co-chairman in the Reagan campaign in both 1980 and 1984. Bolan was also close to others in Cohn’s circle, such as William F. Buckley Jr., Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.
Furthermore, Bolan was instrumental in securing federal judgeships for several individuals who would later become influential, including future FBI Director Louis Freeh. Cohn was also able to get friends of clients appointed as federal judges, including Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry. After Barry was appointed as a federal judge, Trump called Cohn to thank him for pulling strings on his sister’s behalf.
Though Cohn was not given a public position in the Reagan administration, he was not merely a “dirty trickster” who worked in the shadows during the Reagan campaigns. In fact, he worked closely with some of the more visible faces of the campaign, including the then-communications director for Reagan’s 1980 campaign and later CIA director, William Casey. According to Christine Seymour — Cohn’s long-time switchboard operator from the late 1960s up until his death in 1986, who listened in on his calls — Casey and Cohn were close friends and, during the 1980 campaign, Casey “called Roy almost daily.”
Seymour also noted that one of Cohn’s other most frequent phone pals and closest friends was Nancy Reagan and she was also one of his clients. Reagan, whose influence over her husband was well-known, was so close to Cohn that it was largely his death from AIDS that led her to “encourage her husband to seek more funding for AIDS research.”
Prior to Cohn’s death, Nancy and her husband Ronald secured his spot in an exclusive experimental AIDS treatment program, despite the Reagan administration’s well-documented “non-response” to the AIDS crisis of the era. Ronald Reagan was also a friend of Cohn’s and, according to late journalist Robert Parry, “lavished favors on Cohn, including invitations to White House events, personal thank-you notes and friendly birthday wishes” over the course of his presidency.
Given that Reagan heavily courted the evangelical right and promoted “family values” as president, the close ties between not only himself, but his inner circle, with Cohn may seem odd. However, Reagan, like Cohn, had deep ties to the same organized-crime factions that were among Cohn’s clients and affiliates of the same Mafia figures close to Cohn’s own mentor, Lewis Rosenstiel (see Part I).
Not unlike Cohn, Reagan’s own mentor, Lew Wasserman, had close ties to the mob. Wasserman, the long-time president of MCA and the well-known Hollywood mogul, is known for not only making Reagan’s film and television career, but also supporting his successful push to become president of the Screen Actors Guild, which later launched Reagan’s political career. In addition, MCA was a major financier of Reagan’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1966 and, not long after Reagan became president, his administration controversially shut down a massive Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into MCA’s ties to organized crime.
Ronald Reagan, center, with A.C. Lyles and Lew Wasserman, right. Photo | A.C. Lyles
According to Shawn Swords, a documentary filmmaker who explored Reagan’s ties to MCA in Wages of Spin II: Bring Down That Wall:
Ronald Reagan was an opportunist. His whole career was guided by MCA — by Wasserman and [MCA founder] Jules Stein, who bragged that Reagan was malleable, that they could do what they wanted with him…That thing about Reagan being tough on [organized] crime — that’s a fallacy.”
Swords’ characterization of this relationship is supported by an unnamed Hollywood source cited in a declassified DOJ document, who called Reagan “a complete slave of MCA who would do their bidding on anything.”
What elements of organized crime were connected to Wasserman? As a young man, Lew Wasserman joined the Mayfield Road Gang, which was run by Moe Dalitz, a close friend of Meyer Lansky who, per the FBI, was a powerful figure in Lansky’s criminal enterprise, second only to Lansky himself among members of the Jewish mob.
Lew Wasserman would later marry Edith Beckerman, whose father was Dalitz’s lawyer. Wasserman’s closest friend and lawyer, Sidney Korshak, also had close ties to Dalitz and once partnered with Lansky in the Acapulco Towers Hotel. Notably, the magazine New West stated in 1976 that Korshak was the “logical successor to Meyer Lansky.” Korshak, as a lawyer, fit a niche similar to Roy Cohn and gained a reputation as the bridge between organized crime and respectable society.
In addition, the DOJ probe into MCA that the Reagan administration quashed was reportedly spurred after the Justice Department learned that an influential member of the Gambino crime family, Salvatore Pisello, was doing business with the massive entertainment company. At that time, the boss of the Gambino crime family, Paul Castellano, was a client of Roy Cohn.
Cohn, Murdoch and the Contras
Though Cohn’s influence in the Reagan administration and his friendship with the Reagan family and their inner circle has been acknowledged, less well-known is how Cohn aided the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts that were part of the larger scandal known as Iran-Contra.
Cohn, whose influence over the press has already been detailed, forged close ties with the director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, even hosting a luncheon in Wick’s honor that was widely attended by influential figures in the conservative press, as well as senators and representatives. Soon after, then-CIA Director and Cohn friend William Casey was spearheading an extensive PR campaign aimed at shoring up public support for Reagan’s Latin American policies, including support of the Contra paramilitaries.
This domestic propaganda effort was technically illegal and required that the CIA outsource the job to the private sector to minimize the risk of fall-out. As Robert Parry reported in 2015, Wick took the lead in obtaining private funding for the effort and, just a few days after Wick promised to find private support, Cohn brought his close friend, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, to the White House.
Reagan meets with Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, and Roy Cohn in the Oval Office in 1983. Photo | Reagan presidential library
Parry later noted that, after this meeting, “documents released during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and later from the Reagan Library indicate that Murdoch was soon viewed as a source for the private funding” for the propaganda campaign.
After that initial meeting, Murdoch became the top media ally of this Casey-directed propaganda effort, and also became increasingly close to the Reagan White House. Murdoch, as a consequence, benefited greatly from Reagan’s policies and his friendship with the administration, which allowed Murdoch to increase his U.S. media holdings and to create the Fox Broadcasting Corporation in 1987.
“The man in the black tuxedo”
Roy Cohn was not the only one close to the Reagan administration who was simultaneously running sexual blackmail operations that abused and exploited children. In fact, there were several figures, all of whom shared direct connections to CIA Director William Casey and other close friends and confidants of Cohn.
One of these individuals was Robert Keith Gray, the former chairman and CEO of the powerful Washington-based public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, which 60 Minutes once called “an unelected shadow government” due to its influence in the capitol. According to the Washington Post, Gray himself was “one of the most sought-after lobbyists in Washington” and a Post reporter once called him “a kind of legend in this town, …the man in the black tuxedo with snow-white hair and a smile like a diamond.”
Yet, Gray was much more than a powerful PR executive.
Gray, who had previously been a close adviser to both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, was a very successful Republican fundraiser who “collects money in six-figure globs,” according to a 1974 report in the Washingtonian. He first came into close contact with what would become Ronald Reagan’s inner circle during Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign and later as deputy director of communications during Reagan’s campaign in 1980. The latter position would see him work directly under William Casey, who later became CIA director.
Gray would go on to co-chair Reagan’s Inauguration Committee and afterwards would return to the PR business, taking on several clients including Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and hedge fund manager Marc Rich. Both Khashoggi and Rich will be discussed more in detail in Part III of this report — particularly Rich, who was an asset of Israeli intelligence outfit Mossad, and whose later criminal pardon by Bill Clinton was largely orchestrated by members of the Mega Group like Michael Steinhardt and Israeli politicians like Ehud Barak.
The connection between Gray and Casey is particulary telling, as it was later revealed by former Nebraska state senator-turned-investigator John DeCamp that Gray was a specialist in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Cohn and Gray were likely to have known each other well, as during Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign Casey — then Gray’s boss — was calling Roy Cohn “every day,” according to Cohn’s former switchboard operator Christine Seymour.
Gray was a known associate of CIA agent and Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Wilson, having served in the 1970s on the board of Consultants International, an organization that Wilson had founded and that the CIA used as a front company. Though Gray attempted to distance himself from Wilson after the latter was caught illegally selling weapons to Libya in 1983, a Navy review of Wilson’s intelligence career, unearthed by journalist Peter Maas, stated that Gray described Wilson as a man of “unqualified trust” and that Gray and Wilson had been in professional contact “two or three times a month” as early as 1963.
Though Wilson’s main specialty was front companies used to covertly ship and smuggle goods on behalf of U.S. intelligence, he also ran sexual blackmail operations for the CIA, particularly around the time of the Watergate scandal, according to his former partner and fellow agent at the CIA, Frank Terpil.
Terpil later told author and investigative journalist Jim Hougan:
Historically, one of Wilson’s Agency jobs was to subvert members of both houses [of Congress] by any means necessary…. Certain people could be easily coerced by living out their sexual fantasy in the flesh…. A remembrance of these occasions [was] permanently recorded via selected cameras…. The technicians in charge of filming … [were] TSD [Technical Services Division of the CIA]. The unwitting porno stars advanced in their political careers, some of [whom] may still be in office.”
According to Terpil, Wilson ran his operation out of the George Town Club, owned by lobbyist and Korean intelligence asset Tongsun Park. According to the Washington Post, Park set up the club on behalf of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency “as a primary means in an illegal effort to influence U.S. politicians and officials.” The president of the George Town Club at the time of Wilson’s alleged activities at the site was Robert Keith Gray.
DeCamp later reported that Wilson’s activities were a spin-off of the same sexual blackmail operation in which Cohn became involved during the McCarthy era with Lewis Rosenstiel and J. Edgar Hoover.
Father Ritter and his favored youths
The operation allegedly ran by Gray and Wilson was not the only sexual blackmail operation connected to Cohn’s network or to influential American politicians of the era. Another pedophile network that was connected to a close associate of former President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s was run as an affiliate of the Catholic charity Covenant House, which was founded and run by Father Bruce Ritter.
In 1968, Ritter asked his superior — Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York — for permission to take homeless teenagers, boys and girls, into his home in Manhattan. As was noted in Part I of this series, Spellman was accused of pedophilia and ordained known pedophiles while serving as the highest-ranking Catholic priest in the United States. Spellman was also a close associate, client and friend of Roy Cohn, as well as of his law partner Tom Bolan, and Spellman was alleged to have been seen at least one of Cohn’s “blackmail parties.” In addition, Spellman’s nephew, Ned Spellman, worked for Roy Cohn, according to LIFE magazine.
Ritter, like Spellman and other priests who served under Spellman, was eventually accused of having sexual relationships with many of the underaged boys he had taken in, and of spending Covenant House funds on lavish gifts and payments to the vulnerable teenagers he exploited.
One of Ritter’s victims, Darryl Bassile, wrote an open letter to him a year after the priest’s preying on teenage boys was exposed by the press: “You were wrong for inflicting your desires on a 14-year-old . . . I know that someday you will stand before the one who judges all of us and at that time there will be no more denial, just the truth.”
Notably, when Ritter’s activities at Covenant House were exposed in 1989 by the New York Post, Charles M. Sennott, the Post reporter who wrote the story, would later state that “the secular powers more than the archdiocese or the Franciscans protected him [Ritter].” Sennott’s report was attacked viciously by columnists in other New York media outlets, powerful politicians including then-Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, as well as by Cardinal Spellman’s successor, Cardinal John O’Connor.
The likely reason these “secular powers” came to the aid of the embattled Ritter, who was never charged for having sexual relationships with minors and was merely forced to resign from his post, is that Covenant House and Ritter himself were deeply tied to Robert Macauley, Bush Sr.’s roommate at Yale and a long-time friend of the Bush family. Macauley was described by the New York Times as “instrumental” to Covenant House fundraising after he joined its board in 1985 and brought on several “other wealthy or well-connected people,” including former government officials and investment bankers.
George and Barbara Bush meet residents at New York’s Convent House, June 22, 1989. Father Bruce Ritter is seated in the background. Rick Bowmen | AP
Macauley’s organization, the AmeriCares Foundation, which was later accused of funneling money to the Contras in Central America, was one of the main sources of funding of Covenant House. One of the members of AmeriCares advisory board was William E. Simon, former U.S. secretary of the treasury under the Nixon and Ford administrations, who also ran the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund, which sent aid to the Contras.
AmeriCares was also known to work directly with U.S. intelligence. As the Hartford Courantnoted in 1991: “Knowledgeable former federal officials, many with backgrounds in intelligence work, help AmeriCares maneuver in delicate international political environments.”
Furthermore, Ritter was known to have visited Macauley’s Connecticut estate and served as Vice President of AmeriCares until he was forced to resign from Covenant House. Notably, George H.W. Bush’s brother, Prescott, was also on the AmeriCares advisory board. After George H.W. Bush died last year, AmeriCares stated that he had been “instrumental in founding the health-focused relief and development organization.”
Years before Ritter was outed as a pedophile who preyed on the disadvantaged and vulnerable teenagers who sought refuge at his charity, Covenant House was praised heavily by President Ronald Reagan, even earning a mention in his 1984 State of the Union address, which called Ritter one of the country’s “unsung heroes.” From 1985 to 1989, Covenant House’s operating budget grew from $27 million to $90 million and its board came to include powerful individuals including top executives at IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank and Bear Stearns.
It was during this time that Covenant House grew into an international organization, opening branches in several countries, including Canada, Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. Its first branch in Central America was opened in Guatemala and was headed by Roberto Alejos Arzu, a CIA asset whose plantation was used to train the troops used in the CIA’s failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba. Alejos Arzu was also an associate of the former U.S.-backed dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, and a member of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic order to which former CIA Director William Casey and Roy Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan also belonged. Alejos Arzu also worked for AmeriCares and was tied to several Central American paramilitary groups.
Intelligence community sources cited by DeCamp assert that the Alejos Arzu-led branch of Covenant House procured children for a pedophile ring based in the United States. Years later, Mi Casa, another U.S.-run charity in Guatemala that George H.W. Bush had personally toured with his wife Barbara in 1994, was accused of rampant pedophilia and child abuse.
The downfall of “Washington’s Jay Gatsby”
After having left his job as an ABC News correspondent in the 1980s, Craig Spence found success as a prominent conservative Washington lobbyist. Spence would soon find his fortunes shift dramatically when, in June 1989, it was revealed that he had been pimping out children to the power elite in the nation’s capital throughout the 1980s in apartments that were bugged with video and audio recording equipment. Much like Jeffrey Epstein, who ran a similar operation, Spence was often likened to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, wealthy figure from the well-known Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.
A 1982 New York Times article written about Spence said that his “personal phone book and party guest lists constitute a ‘Who’s Who’ in Congress, Government and journalism” and stated that Spence was “hired by his clients as much for whom he knows as what he knows.” Spence was also known to throw lavish parties, which the Times described as “glitter[ed] with notables, from ambassadors to television stars, from senators to senior State Department officials.” Roy Cohn, William Casey and Roy Cohn’s journalist friend William Safire were just some of the other attendees at Spence’s festivities.
“According to Mr. Spence,” the Times article continues, “Richard Nixon is a friend. So is [former Attorney General under Nixon] John Mitchell. [CBS journalist] Eric Sevareid is termed ‘an old, dear friend.’ Senator John Glenn is ‘a good friend’ and Peter Ustinov [British actor and journalist] is ‘an old, old friend.’” Notably, Ustinov wrote for The European newspaper soon after it was founded in 1990 by Robert Maxwell, the father of Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and a known Mossad agent.
It was revealed just seven years after the Times’ published its doting profile of Spence that his “glittery parties for key officials of the Reagan and Bush administrations, media stars and top military officers” had been bugged in order “to compromise guests.” According to the explosive report published by the Washington Times, Spence was linked to a “homosexual prostuition ring” whose clients included “government officials, locally based U.S. military officers, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, congressional aides, media representatives and other professionals.” Spence also offered cocaine to his guests as another means of acquiring blackmail.
According to the report, Spence’s home “was bugged and had a secret two-way mirror, and … he attempted to ensnare visitors into compromising sexual encounters that he could then use as leverage.” One man who spoke to the Washington Times said that Spence sent a limousine to his home, which took him to a party where “several young men tried to become friendly with him.” According to DeCamp, Spence was known to offer young children for sex to attendees at his blackmail parties, along with illegal drugs like cocaine.
Several other sources, including a Reagan White House official and an Air Force sergeant who had attended Spence-hosted parties, confirmed that Spence’s house was filled with recording equipment, which he regularly used to spy on and record guests, and his house also included a two-way mirror that he used for eavesdropping.
The report also documented Spence’s connections to U.S. intelligence, particularly the CIA. According to the Washington Times report, Spence “often boasted that he was working for the CIA and on one occasion said he was going to disappear for awhile ‘because he had an important CIA assignment.’” He was also quite paranoid about his alleged work for the agency, as he expressed concern “that the CIA might ‘doublecross him’ and kill him instead and then make it look like a suicide.” Not long after the Washington Times report on his activities was published, Spence was found dead in the Boston Ritz Carlton and his death was quickly ruled a suicide.
The Washington Times report also offers a clue as to what Spence may have done for the CIA, as it cited sources that had claimed that Spence had spoken of smuggling cocaine into the U.S. from El Salvador, an operation that he claimed had involved U.S. military personnel. Given the timing of these comments from Spence, Spence’s powerful connections, and the CIA’s involvement in the exchange of cocaine for weapons in the Iran Contra scandal, his comments may have been much more than just boasts intended to impress his party guests.
One of the most critical parts of the scandal surrounding Spence, however, was the fact that he had been able to enter the White House late at night during the George H.W. Bush administration with young men whom the Washington Times described as “call boys.”
Spence later stated that his contacts within the White House, which allowed him and his “call boys” access, were “top level” officials and he specifically singled out George H.W. Bush’s then-National Security Advisor Donald Gregg. Gregg had worked at the CIA since 1951 before he resigned in 1982 to become National Security Advisor to Bush, who was then vice president. Prior to resigning from his post at the CIA, Gregg had worked directly under William Casey and, in the late 1970s, alongside a young William Barr in stonewalling the congressional Pike Committee and Church Committee, which investigated the CIA beginning in 1975. Among the things that they were tasked with investigating were the CIA’s “love traps,” or sexual blackmail operations used to lure foreign diplomats to bugged apartments, complete with recording equipment and two-way mirrors.
Barr would later become Bush’s Attorney General, rising to that post yet again under Trump. Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA. Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.
Donald Gregg is also connected to Roy Cohn’s “influence machine” through his daughter’s marriage to Christopher Buckley, the son of conservative journalist William Buckley, close confidant and friend of both Roy Cohn and Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
The Washington Times reports on Spence’s child sex ring also reveal his close ties to none other than the ubiquitous Roy Cohn. One of the Times’ sources for its first story on the scandal alleged that he had attended a birthday party for Roy Cohn that Spence had hosted at his home and that CIA Director William Casey was also in attendance. Spence was also said in the report to often brag about his social companions and regularly mentioned Cohn and claimed to have hosted Cohn at his house on occasions other than the aforementioned birthday party.
“Bodies by God”
The revelation of Craig Spence’s “call boy ring” soon led to the discovery of the infamous Franklin child sex abuse and ritual murder scandal. That sordid operation was run out of Omaha, Nebraska by Larry King, a prominent local Republican activist and lobbyist who ran the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union until it was shut down by federal authorities.
Buried in a May 1989 article in the Omaha World Herald’s probe into King’s Credit Union and sex ring, is a telling revelation: “In the 61/2 months since federal authorities closed Franklin, rumors have persisted that money from the credit union somehow found its way to the Nicaraguan contra rebels.”
The possibility that King’s fraudulent credit union was covertly funding the Contras was supported by subsequent reporting by the Houston Post’s Pete Brewton, who discovered that the CIA, in conjunction with organized crime, had secretly borrowed money from various savings and loans (S&L) institutions to fund covert operations. One of those S&Ls had Neil Bush, George H.W. Bush’s son, on its board and it had done business with King’s organization.
Another link between King and the Iran Contra team is the fact that King had co-founded and subsequently donated over $25,000 to an organization affiliated with the Reagan administration, Citizens for America, which sponsored speaking trips for Lt. Col. Oliver North and Contra leaders. The director of Citizens for America at the time was David Carmen, who simultaneously ran a public relations firm with the former head of covert operations at the Casey-led CIA, his father Gerald, who had also been appointed by Reagan to head the General Services Administration and to a subsequent ambassadorship.
One of the investigative journalists who researched the Craig Spence ring later told DeCampthat Spence’s ring was connected to King:
The way we discovered Larry King and his Nebraska-based call boy ring, was by looking through the credit card chits of Spence’s ring, where we found King’s name.”
It was later revealed that King and Spence were essentially business partners as their child trafficking rings were operated under a larger group that was nicknamed “Bodies by God.”
Exactly how many groups operated under this umbrella group, “Bodies by God,” is unknown. Yet, what is known is that the rings run by both King and Spence were connected to each other and both were also connected to prominent officials in the Reagan and subsequent George H.W. Bush administrations, including officials with ties to the CIA and Roy Cohn and his network.
Indeed Spence, just months before his alleged suicide in the Boston Ritz Carlton, had hinted to Washington Times reporters Michael Hedges and Jerry Seper, who had originally broken the story, that they had merely scratched the surface of something much darker:
All this stuff you’ve uncovered [involving call boys, bribery and the White House tours], to be honest with you, is insignificant compared to other things I’ve done. But I’m not going to tell you those things, and somehow the world will carry on.”
It is also worth noting the role of the FBI in all of this, particularly in the Franklin child sex abuse scandal. Indeed, Larry King’s child sex abuse ring was quickly and aggressively covered up by the FBI, which used a variety of under-handed tactics to bury the reality of King’s sordid operation. Here, it is important to recall the key role former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover played in similar sexual blackmail operations that abused children (See Part I) and the close relationship between Hoover, Roy Cohn and Lewis Rosenstiel, who later employed Hoover’s former right-hand man at the FBI, Louis Nichols.
Years later, documents released by the FBI would show that Epstein became an FBI informant in 2008, when Robert Mueller was the Bureau’s director, in exchange for immunity from then-pending federal charges, a deal that fell through with Epstein’s recent arrest on new federal charges. In addition, former FBI Director Louis Freeh would be hired by Alan Dershowitz, who is accused of raping girls at Epstein’s homes and was once a character witness for Roy Cohn, to intimidate Epstein’s victims. As previously mentioned, Freeh’s past appointment as a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York was orchestrated byCohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
Thus, the FBI’s cover-up of the Franklin case is just one example of the Bureau’s long-standing practice of protecting these pedophile rings when they involve members of the American political elite and provide the Bureau with a steady supply of blackmail. It also makes it worth questioning the impartiality of one of the main prosecutors in the Jeffrey Epstein case, Maurene Comey, who is the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey.
The rot at the top
While there were several sexual trafficking operations connected to both Roy Cohn and the halls of power under the Reagan administration, in a matter of months after Cohn’s death it appears that another individual became a central figure in the powerful network that Cohn had cultivated.
That individual, Jeffrey Epstein, would be recruited, after his firing from the Dalton School, by Alan “Ace” Greenberg, a close friend of Cohn, to work at Bear Stearns. After leaving Bear Stearns and working as an alleged financial “bounty hunter” for clients that are said to have included the Iran-Contra-linked arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, Epstein would come into contact with Leslie Wexner, a billionaire close to the Meyer Lansky-linked Bronfman family, who himself was tied to members of organized crime syndicates once represented by Cohn.
The same year that Wexner would begin his decades-long association with Epstein, another Cohn friend with ties to the Reagan White House and the Trump family, Ronald Lauder, would provide Epstein with an Austrian passport containing Epstein’s picture but a false name.
Lauder, Wexner and the Bronfmans are members of an elite organization known as the Mega Group, which also includes other Meyer Lansky-connected “philanthropists” like hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. While Epstein shares considerable overlap with the network described in this report and Part I of this series, he is also deeply connected to the Mega Group as well as its associates, including Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell.
Part III of this series will focus on the Mega Group and its ties to the network that has been described in Parts I and II. In addition, the role of the state of Israel, the Mossad, and several global pro-Israel lobby organizations will also be discussed in relation to this network of sexual blackmail operations and Jeffrey Epstein.
It is here that the full breadth of the Epstein scandal comes into view. It is a criminal and unconscionable blackmail operation that has been run by influential figures, hidden in plain sight, for over half a century, exploiting and destroying the lives of untold numbers of children in the process. Over the years, it has grown many branches and spread well beyond the United States, as seen by the activity of Covenant House in Latin America and Epstein’s own international effort to recruit more girls to be abused and exploited.
All of this has taken place with the full knowledge and blessing of top figures in the world of “philanthropy” and in the U.S. government and intelligence communities, with great influence over several presidential administrations, particularly since the rise of Ronald Reagan and continuing through to Donald Trump.
The picture painted by the evidence is not a direct Epstein tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.
As billionaire pedophile and alleged sex-trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein sits in prison, reports have continued to surface about his reported links to intelligence, his financial ties to several companies and “charitable” foundations, and his friendships with the rich and powerful as well as top politicians.
While Part I and Part II of this series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” have focused on the widespread nature of sexual blackmail operations in recent American history and their ties to the heights of American political power and the U.S. intelligence community, one key aspect of Epstein’s own sex-trafficking and blackmail operation that warrants examination is Epstein’s ties to Israeli intelligence and his ties to the “informal” pro-Israel philanthropist faction known as “the Mega Group.”
The Mega Group’s role in the Epstein case has garnered some attention, as Epstein’s main financial patron for decades, billionaire Leslie Wexner, was a co-founder of the group that unites several well-known businessmen with a penchant for pro-Israel and ethno-philanthropy (i.e., philanthropy benefiting a single ethnic or ethno-religious group). However, as this report will show, another uniting factor among Mega Group members is deep ties to organized crime, specifically the organized crime network discussed in Part I of this series, which was largely led by notorious American mobster Meyer Lansky.
By virtue of the role of many Mega Group members as major political donors in both the U.S. and Israel, several of its most notable members have close ties to the governments of both countries as well as their intelligence communities. As this report and a subsequent report will show, the Mega Group also had close ties to two businessmen who worked for Israel’s Mossad — Robert Maxwell and Marc Rich — as well as to top Israeli politicians, including past and present prime ministers with deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community.
One of those businessmen working for the Mossad, Robert Maxwell, will be discussed at length in this report. Maxwell, who was a business partner of Mega Group co-founder Charles Bronfman, aided the successful Mossad plot to plant a trapdoor in U.S.-created software that was then sold to governments and companies throughout the world. That plot’s success was largely due to the role of a close associate of then-President Ronald Reagan and an American politician close to Maxwell, who later helped aid Reagan in the cover-up of the Iran Contra scandal.
Years later, Maxwell’s daughter — Ghislaine Maxwell — would join Jeffrey Epstein’s “inner circle” at the same time Epstein was bankrolling a similar software program now being marketed for critical electronic infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad. That company has deep and troubling connections to Israeli military intelligence, associates of the Trump administration, and the Mega Group.
Epstein appears to have ties to Israeli intelligence and has well-documented ties to influential Israeli politicians and the Mega Group. Yet, those entities are not isolated in and of themselves, as many also connect to the organized crime network and powerful alleged pedophiles discussed in previous installments of this series.
Perhaps the best illustration of how the connections between many of these players often meld together can be seen in Ronald Lauder: a Mega Group member, former member of the Reagan administration, long-time donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Likud Party, as well as a long-time friend of Donald Trump and Roy Cohn.
From cosmetics heir to political player
One often overlooked yet famous client and friend of Roy Cohn is the billionaire heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune, Ronald Lauder. Lauder is often described in the press as a “leading Jewish philanthropist” and is the president of the World Jewish Congress, yet his many media profiles tend to leave out his highly political past.
In a statement given by Lauder to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman in 2018, the cosmetics heir noted that he has known Trump for over 50 years, going back at least to the early 1970s. According to Lauder, his relationship with Trump began when Trump was a student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which Lauder also attended.
President-elect Trump walks with Ronald Lauder after meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla. Evan Vucci | AP
Though the exact nature of their early friendship is unclear, it is evident that they shared many of the same connections, including to the man who would later count them both as his clients, Roy Cohn. While much has been said of the ties between Cohn and Trump, Cohn was particularly close to Lauder’s mother, Estee Lauder (born Josephine Mentzer). Estee was even counted among Cohn’s most high-profile friends in his New York Times obituary.
A small window into the Lauder-Cohn relationship surfaced briefly in a 2016 article in Politicoabout a 1981 dinner party held at Cohn’s weekend home in Greenwich, Connecticut. The party was attended by Ronald Lauder’s parents, Estee and Joe, as well as Trump and his then-wife Ivana, who had a weekend home just two miles away. That party was held soon after Cohn had helped Reagan secure the presidency and had reached the height of his political influence. At the party, Cohn offered toasts to Reagan and to then-Senator for New York Alfonse D’Amato, who would later urge Ronald Lauder to run for political office.
Two years later, in 1983, Ronald Lauder — whose only professional experience at that point was working for his parent’s cosmetics company — was appointed to serve as United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs. Soon after his appointment, he served on the Dinner Tribute Committee for a dinner hosted by the Jewish fraternal and strongly pro-Israel organization B’nai B’rith, the parent organization of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in Roy Cohn’s honor. Cohn’s influential father, Albert Cohn, was the long-time president of B’nai B’rith’s powerful New England-New York chapter and Roy Cohn himself was a member of B’nai B’rith’s Banking and Finance Lodge.
The dinner specifically sought to honor Cohn for his pro-Israel advocacy and his efforts to “fortify” Israel’s economy, and its honorary chairmen included media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and then-head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, all of whom are connected to Jeffrey Epstein.
During his time as deputy assistant secretary of defense, Lauder was also very active in Israeli politics and had already become an ally of the then-Israeli representative to the United Nations and future prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Lauder would go on to be one of the most important individuals in Netanyahu’s rise to power, particularly during his upset victory in 1996, and a major financier of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party.
In 1986, the year that Roy Cohn died, Lauder left his post at the Pentagon and became the U.S. ambassador to Austria, where his tenure was shaped by his confrontations with the then-Austrian president and former Nazi collaborator, Kurt Waldheim. Lauder’s interest in Austrian politics has continued well into recent years, culminating in accusations that he sought to manipulate Austrian elections in 2012.
After leaving his ambassadorship, Lauder founded the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in 1987 and later went on to run for Mayor of New York against Rudy Giuliani in 1989. Lauder was encouraged to run by then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato, who had close ties to Roy Cohn and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan, who was D’Amato’s adviser. At the aforementioned 1983 B’nai B’rith dinner honoring Cohn, D’Amato was the featured speaker.
The likely reason was that Giuliani, though once an ally of the “Roy Cohn machine,” was at the time deeply disliked by the late Cohn’s associates for prosecuting Cohn’s former law partner, Stanley Friedman, for racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. Giuliani also had a history of bitter disagreements with D’Amato. Lauder’s primary campaign, though unsuccessful, was noted for its viciousness and its cost, as it burned through more than $13 million.
A few years later, in the early 1990s, Lauder would join a newly formed group that has long evaded scrutiny from the media but has recently become of interest in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein scandal: the Mega Group.
Lauder, Epstein and the mysterious Austrian passport
Before getting to the Mega Group, it is worth noting one particular act apparently undertaken by Lauder while he was U.S. ambassador to Austria that has recently come to light in relation to the arrest in early July of Jeffrey Epstein, a finding first reported by journalist Edward Szall. When police recently discovered an Austrian passport with Epstein’s picture and a fake name after raiding his Manhattan residence, the source and purpose of the passport came under media scrutiny.
According to the Associated Press, Epstein’s defense lawyers specifically argued that “a friend gave it to him [Epstein] in the 1980s after some Jewish-Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.” This claim appears to be related to concerns that followed the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 in 1976 when Israeli and Jewish hostages were separated from other hostages based largely on the passports in their possession.
Given that Epstein was unable to meet the conventional qualifications for an Austrian passport — including long-term residency in Austria (the passport lists him as a resident of Saudi Arabia) and fluency in German — it appears that the only way to have acquired an Austrian passport was by unconventional means, meaning assistance from a well-connected Austrian official or foreign diplomat with clout in Austria.
Ronald Lauder, right, and Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima pose with students from the Lauder Chabad School in Vienna, Austria in 1999. Martin Gnedt | AP
Lauder, then-ambassador to Austria for the Reagan administration, would have been well-positioned to acquire such a passport, particularly for the reason cited by Epstein’s attorneys that Jewish-Americans could be targeted during travel, and in light of Lauder’s very public concerns over threats Jews face from certain terror groups. Furthermore, the passport had been issued in 1987, when Lauder was still serving as an ambassador.
In addition, Lauder was well-connected to Epstein’s former patron — former head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, who had hired Epstein in the late 1970s immediately after the latter was fired from the Dalton School — and Donald Trump, another friend of Lauder and Greenberg who began his friendship with Epstein in 1987, the same year the fake Austrian passport was issued. In 1987, Epstein also began his relationship with his principal financier, Leslie Wexner, who is also closely associated with Lauder (though some sources claim that Epstein and Wexner first met in 1985 but that their strong business relationship was not established until 1987).
Though Epstein’s defense attorney declined to reveal the identity of the “friend” who provided him with the fake Austrian passport, Lauder was both well-positioned to acquire it in Austria and also deeply connected to the Mega Group, which was co-founded by Epstein’s patron Leslie Wexner and to which Epstein has many connections. These connections to both the Austrian government and to Epstein’s mentor make Lauder the most likely person to have acquired the document on Epstein’s behalf.
Furthermore, Epstein and the Mega Group’s ties to the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, also suggest Lauder was involved in procuring the passport, in light of his close ties to the Israeli government and the fact that Mossad has a history of using ambassadors abroad to procure false, foreign passports for its operatives.
Lauder himself has been alleged to have ties to Mossad, as he is a long-time funder of IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university closely associated with Mossad and their recruiters as well as Israeli military intelligence. Lauder even founded IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy.
Furthermore, Lauder co-founded the Eastern European broadcasting network CETV with Mark Palmer, a former U.S. diplomat, Kissinger aide and Reagan speechwriter. Palmer is better known for co-founding the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization often described as an accessory to U.S. intelligence, and one whose first president confessed to the Washington Post that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” A 2001 report in the Evening Standard noted that Epstein once claimed that during the 1980s he worked for the CIA, but Epstein later backed away from that assertion.
The origins of the Mega Group Mafia
The Mega Group — a secretive group of billionaires to which Lauder belongs — was formed in 1991 by Charles Bronfman and Leslie Wexner, the latter of whom has received considerable media scrutiny following the July arrest of his former protege Jeffrey Epstein. Media profiles of the group paint it as “a loosely organized club of 20 of the nation’s wealthiest and most influential Jewish businessmen” focused on “philanthropy and Jewishness,” with membership dues upwards of $30,000 per year. Yet several of its most prominent members have ties to organized crime.
Mega Group members founded and/or are closely associated with some of the most well-known pro-Israel organizations. For instance, members Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt formed Birthright Taglit with the backing of then- and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Steinhardt, an atheist, has stated that his motivation in helping to found the group was to advance his own belief that devotion to and faith in the state of Israel should serve as “a substitute for [Jewish] theology.”
Other well-known groups associated with the Mega Group include the World Jewish Congress — whose past president, Edgar Bronfman, and current president, Ronald Lauder, are both Mega Group members — and B’nai B’rith, particularly its spin-off known as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The Bronfman brothers were major donors to the ADL, with Edgar Bronfman serving as the ADL’s honorary national vice-chair for several years.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres, second from left, listens to Edgar Bronfman during a 1995 lunch thrown in Peres’ honor. From left are: Laurence Tisch, Chairman, President and Chief executive officer of CBS; Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Itamar Rabinowitz and Bronfman. David Karp | AP
When Edgar Bronfman died in 2013, long-time ADL Director Abe Foxman said, “Edgar was for many years Chair of our Liquor Industry Division, Chair of our New York Appeal, and one of our most significant benefactors.” Other Mega Group members that are donors and major supporters of the ADL include Ronald Lauder, Michael Steinhardt and the late Max Fisher. As previously mentioned, Roy Cohn’s father was a long-time leader of B’nai B’rith’s influential New England-New York chapter and Cohn was later a celebrated member of its banking and finance lodge.
In addition, Mega Group members have also been key players in the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. For instance, Max Fisher of the Mega Group founded the National Jewish Coalition, now known as the Republican Jewish Coalition — the main pro-Israel neoconservative political lobbying group, known for its support of hawkish policies, and whose current chief patrons, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, are among Donald Trump’s top donors.
Though the Mega Group has officially existed only since 1991, the use of “philanthropy” to provide cover for more unscrupulous lobbying or business activities was pioneered decades earlier by Sam Bronfman, the father of Mega Group members Edgar and Charles Bronfman. While other North American elites like J.D. Rockefeller had previously used philanthropic giving as a means of laundering their reputations, Bronfman’s approach to philanthropy was unique because it was focused on giving specifically to other members of his own ethno-religious background.
Sam Bronfman, as was detailed in Part I of this series, had long-standing deep ties to organized crime, specifically Meyer Lanksy’s organized crime syndicate. Yet, Bronfman’s private ambition, according to those close to him, was to become a respected member of high society. As a consequence, Bronfman worked hard to remove the stain that his mob associations had left on his public reputation in Canada and abroad. He accomplished this by becoming a leader in Canada’s Zionist movement and, by the end of the 1930s, he was head of the Canadian Jewish Congress and had begun to make a name for himself as a philanthropist for Jewish causes.
Yet even some of Bronfman’s activism and philanthropy had hints of the mobster-like reputation he tried so hard to shake. For instance, Bronfman was actively involved in the illegal shipping of arms to Zionist paramilitaries in Palestine prior to 1948, specifically as a co-founderof the National Conference for Israeli and Jewish Rehabilitation that smuggled weapons to the paramilitary group Haganah.
At the same time Bronfman was abetting the illegal smuggling of weapons to the Haganah, his associates in the criminal underworld were doing the same. After World War II, close aides of David Ben-Gurion, who would later become the first prime minister of Israel and was instrumental in the founding of Mossad, forged tight-knit relationships with Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Mickey Cohen and other Jewish gangsters of the period. They used their clandestine networks to establish a vast arms smuggling network between the United States and Zionist settlements in Palestine, arming both the Haganah and the Irgun paramilitary groups. As noted in Part I of this report, at the same time these gangsters were aiding the illegal arming of ZIonsit paramilitaries, they were strengthening their ties to U.S. intelligence that had first been formally (though covertly) established in World War II.
After Israel was founded, Sam Bronfman worked with future Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to negotiate the sale of Canadian armaments at half-price to Israel and the bargain weapons purchase was paid for entirely by a fundraising dinner hosted by Bronfman and his wife. Many years later, Peres would go on to introduce another future prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, to Jeffrey Epstein.
The rest of the Bronfman family’s march on “the road to respectability” was undertaken by Bronfman’s children, who married into aristocratic families such as the European Rothschildsand the Wall Street “royalty” of the Lehmans and the Loebs.
The Bronfmans’ newfound respectability did not mean that their association with the Lansky-led criminal empire had dissolved. Indeed, prominent members of the Seagrams dynasty came under fire in the 1960s and 1970s for their close association with Willie “Obie” Obront, a major figure in Canadian organized crime, whom Canadian professor Stephen Schneider has referred to as the Meyer Lansky of Canada.
However, Edgar and Charles Bronfman were hardly the only members of the Mega Group with deep and long-standing ties to the Lansky-led National Crime Syndicate. Indeed, one of the group’s prominent members, hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, opened up about his own family ties to Lansky in his autobiography No Bull: My Life in and out the Markets, where he noted that his father, Sol “Red McGee” Steinhardt, was Lansky’s jewel fence of choice and a major player in New York’s criminal underworld. Sol Steinhardt was also his son’s first client on Wall Street and helped him jumpstart his career in finance.
The ties between the Mega Group and the National Crime Syndicate don’t stop there. Another prominent member of the Mega Group with ties to this same criminal network is Max Fisher, who has been described as Wexner’s mentor and is also alleged to have worked with Detroit’s “Purple Gang” during Prohibition and beyond. The Purple Gang were part of the network that smuggled Bronfman liquor from Canada into the United State during Prohibition, and one of its founders, Abe Bernstein, was a close associate of both Meyer Lansky and Moe Dalitz. Fisher was a key adviser to several U.S. presidents, beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as to Henry Kissinger.
Max Fisher, center, and Henry Kissinger, right, meet with leaders of Jewish organizations prior to Kissinger’s 1975 Middle East trip. Henry Burroughs | AP
In addition to Fisher, Mega Group member Ronald Lauder was connected to Roy Cohn and Tom Bolan, both of whom were closely associated with this same Lansky-led crime network (see Part I and Part II) and who regularly represented top Mafia figures in court. Furthermore, another member of the Mega Group, director Steven Spielberg, is a well-known protege of Lew Wasserman, the mob-connected media mogul and long-time backer of Ronald Reagan’s film and later political career, discussed in Part II of this series.
One surprise connection to Cohn involves Mega Group member, and former president of U.S. weapons firm General Dynamics, Lester Crown, whose brother-in-law is David Schine, Cohn’s confidant and alleged lover during the McCarthy hearings, whose relationship with Cohnhelped bring about the downfall of McCarthyism.
Another member of the Mega Group worth noting is Laurence Tisch, who owned CBS News for several years and founded Loews Corporation. Tisch is notable for his work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, where Donald Barr, who hired Epstein at the Dalton School, also served and which forged ties with Lansky’s criminal empire during World War II.
Wexner’s mansions and the Shapiro murder
Leslie “Les” Wexner, the other Mega Group co-founder, also has ties to organized crime. Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein have come under scrutiny following the latter’s recent arrest, as Wexner was the only publicly acknowledged client of Epstein’s suspicious hedge fund, the source of much of this wealth, and the previous owner of Epstein’s $56 million Manhattan townhouse, which Wexner transferred to an Epstein-controlled entity for free.
Before Epstein received the townhouse, Wexner appears to have used the residence for some unconventional purposes, noted in a 1996 New York Times article on the then-Wexner-owned residence, which included “a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink.” The Timesarticle does not speculate as to the purpose of this equipment, though the allusion to famous fictional superspy James Bond suggests that it may have been used to snoop on guests or conduct electronic surveillance.
The 1996 Times article also noted that, after Wexner bought the residence for $13.2 million in 1989, he spent millions more decorating and furnishing the home, including the addition of the electronic equipment in the “James Bond” bathroom, only to apparently never live in it. The Times, which interviewed Epstein for the piece, quoted him as saying that “Les never spent more than two months there.” Epstein told the Times, which identified Epstein as Wexner’s “protege and one of his financial advisers,” that the house, by that time, already belonged to him.
That same year, Epstein was commissioning artwork for Wexner’s Ohio mansion. A recent article from the Times noted that:
In the summer of 1996, Maria Farmer was working on an art project for Mr. Epstein in Mr. Wexner’s Ohio mansion. While she was there, Mr. Epstein sexually assaulted her, according to an affidavit Ms. Farmer filed earlier this year in federal court in Manhattan. She said that she fled the room and called the police, but that Mr. Wexner’s security staff refused to let her leave for 12 hours.”
Farmer’s account strongly suggests that, given the behavior of his personal security staff at his mansion following Epstein’s alleged assault on Farmer, Wexner was well aware of Epstein’s predatory behavior towards young women. This is compounded by claims made by Alan Dershowitz — a former lawyer for and friend of Epstein’s, who has also been accused of raping underage girls — that Wexner has also been accused of raping underage girls exploited by Epstein on at least seven occasions.
The presence of the electronic equipment in his home’s bathroom, other oddities related to the townhouse, and aspects of the links between Epstein and Wexner suggest there is more to Wexner, who has rather successfully developed a public image of a respectable businessman and philanthropist, much like other prominent members of the Mega Group.
Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail tour the “Transfigurations” exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Jay LaPrete | AP
However, bits and pieces of Wexner’s private secrets have occasionally bubbled up, only to be subjected to rapid cover-ups amidst concerns of “libeling” the powerful and well-connected billionaire “philanthropist.”
In 1985, Columbus (Ohio) lawyer Arthur Shapiro was murdered in broad daylight at point-blank range in what was largely referred to as a “mob style murder.” The homicide still remains unsolved, likely due to the fact that then-Columbus Police Chief James Jackson ordered the destruction of key documents of his department’s investigation into the murder.
Jackson’s ordering of the documents’ destruction came to light years later in 1996, when he was under investigation for corruption. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Jackson justified the destruction of one “viable and valuable” report because he felt that it “was so filled with wild speculation about prominent business leaders that it was potentially libelous.” The nature of this “wild speculation” was that “millionaire businessmen in Columbus and Youngstown were linked to the ‘mob-style murder.’”
Though Jackson’s efforts were meant to keep this “libelous” report far from public view, it was eventually obtained by Bob Fitrakis — attorney, journalist, and executive director of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism — after he was “accidentally” sent a copy of the report in 1998 as part of a public records request.
The report, titled “Shapiro Homicide Investigation: Analysis and Hypothesis,” names Leslie Wexner as linked “with associates reputed to be organized crime figures” and also lists the names of businessman Jack Kessler, former Columbus City Council President and Wexner associate Jerry Hammond, and former Columbus City Council member Les Wright as also being involved in Shapiro’s murder.
The report also noted that Arthur Shapiro’s law firm — Schwartz, Shapiro, Kelm & Warren — represented Wexner’s company, The Limited, and states that “prior to his death, Arthur Shapiro managed this account [The Limited] for the law firm.” It also noted that, at the time of his death, Shapiro “was the subject of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service because he had failed to file income tax returns for some seven years prior to his death, and he had invested in some questionable tax shelters.” It also stated that his death prevented Shapiro from his planned testimony at a grand jury hearing about these “questionable tax shelters.”
As to Wexner’s alleged links to organized crime, the report focuses on the close business relationship between Wexner’s The Limited and Francis Walsh, whose trucking company “[had] done an excess of 90 percent of the Limited’s trucking business around the time of Shapiro’s murder,” according to the report. Walsh was named in a 1988 indictment as a “co-conspirator” of Genovese crime family boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, whose long-time lawyer was Roy Cohn; and the Shapiro murder report stated that Walsh was “still considered associates of the Genovese/LaRocca crime family, and Walsh was still providing truck transportation for The Limited.”
Notably, the Genovese crime family has long formed a key part of the National Crime Syndicate, as its former head, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, co-created the criminal organization with his close friend Meyer Lansky. Upon Luciano’s imprisonment and subsequent deportation from the United States, Lansky took over the syndicate’s U.S. operations and his association with Luciano’s successors continued until Lansky’s death in 1983.
The “Mega” Mystery and the Mossad
In May 1997, the Washington Post broke an explosive story — long since forgotten — based on an intercepted phone call made between a Mossad official in the U.S. and his superior in Tel Aviv that discussed the Mossad’s efforts to obtain a secret U.S. government document. According to the Post, the Mossad official stated during the phone call that “Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben Elissar had asked him whether he could obtain a copy of the letter given to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat by [then-Secretary of State Warren] Christopher on Jan. 16, the day after the Hebron accord was signed by Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”
The Post article continued:
According to a source who viewed a copy of the NSA transcript of the conversation, the intelligence officer, speaking in Hebrew, said, ‘The ambassador wants me to go to Mega to get a copy of this letter.’ The source said the supervisor in Tel Aviv rejected the request, saying, ‘This is not something we use Mega for.’”
The leaked communication led to an investigation that sought to identify an individual code-named “Mega” that the Post said “may be someone in the U.S. government who has provided information to the Israelis in the past,” a concern that subsequently spawned a fruitless FBI investigation. The Mossad later claimed that “Mega” was merely a codeword for the U.S.’ CIA, but the FBI and NSA were unconvinced by that claim and believed that it was a senior U.S. government official that had potentially once been involved in working with Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. naval intelligence analyst later convicted of spying for the Mossad.
Almost one year to the day after the “Mega” spy scandal broke, the Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report on the existence of a little-known organization of billionaires that was “informally” called the Mega Group and had been founded years prior in 1991. The report made no mention of the spy scandal that had spread concerns of Israeli espionage in the U.S. only a year prior. However, the group’s distinctive “informal” name and the connections of its members to the Mossad and to high-ranking Israeli politicians, including prime ministers, raise the possibility that “Mega” was not an individual, as the FBI and NSA had believed, but a group.
In 1997, when the “Mega” spy scandal broke, Netanyahu had recently become prime minister of Israel after an upset victory, a victory that was largely credited to one well-connected Netanyahu backer in particular, Ronald Lauder. Beyond being a major donor, Lauder had brought Arthur Finklestein on to work for Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign, whose strategies were credited for Netanyahu’s surprise win. Netanyahu was close enough to Lauder that he personally enlisted Lauder and George Nader to serve as his peace envoys to Syria.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Ronald Lauder in 1997. Photo | Reuters
Nader, who was connected to the Trump 2016 campaign and Trump ally and Blackwaterfounder Erik Prince, was recently hit with federal child sex trafficking charges last month, soon after Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested on similar charges. At the time Nader was picked to work with Lauder on Netanyahu’s behalf, he had already been caught possessing large amounts of child pornography on two separate occasions, first in 1984 and later in 1990.
This strong connection between Netanyahu and Lauder during the time of the 1997 “Mega” spy scandal is important considering Mossad answers directly to Israel’s prime minister.
Another possible connection between the Mega Group and the Mossad owes to the Mega Group’s ties to Meyer Lansky’s criminal network. As was detailed in Part I, Lansky had established deep ties to U.S. intelligence after World War II and was also connected to the Mossad through Mossad official Tibor Rosenbaum, whose bank was frequently used by Lansky to launder money. In addition, Lansky collaborated on at least one occasion with notorious Mossad “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who he helped acquire sensitive electronic equipment possessed only by the CIA but coveted by Israeli intelligence. Eitan is best known in the U.S. for being the Mossad handler of Jonathan Pollard.
Notably, Eitan was the main source of claims that the code-word “Mega” used by the Mossad officials in 1997 referred to the CIA and not to a potential source in the U.S. government once linked to Pollard’s spying activities, making his claims as to the true meaning of the term somewhat dubious.
Given that the organized crime network tied to the Mega Group had ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, the “Mega” codeword could plausibly have referred to this secretive group of billionaires. More supporting evidence for this theory comes from the fact that prominent members of the Mega Group were business partners of Mossad agents, including media mogul Robert Maxwell and commodities trader Marc Rich.
The mysterious Maxwells
The Maxwell family has become a source of renewed media interest following Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, as Ghislaine Maxwell, long described in the media as a British “socialite,” was publicly cited as Epstein’s long-time “on and off” girlfriend, and Epstein’s victims, as well as former wives of Epstein’s friends, have claimed that she was Epstein’s “pimp” and procured underage girls for his sexual blackmail operation. Ghislaine Maxwell is also alleged to have engaged in the rape of the girls she procured for Epstein and to have used them to produce child pornography.
Ghislaine was the favorite and youngest daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. Maxwell, born Jan Ludvick Hoch, had joined the British Army in World War II. Afterwards, according to authors John Loftus and Mark Aarons, he greatly influenced the Czechoslovakian government’s decision to arm Zionist paramilitaries during the 1948 war that resulted in Israel’s creation as a state, and Maxwell himself was also involved in the smuggling of aircraft parts to Israel.
Around this time, Maxwell was approached by British intelligence outfit MI6 and offered a position that Maxwell ultimately declined. MI6 then classified him as “Zionist — loyal only to Israel” and made him a person of interest. He later became an agent of the Mossad, according to several books including Robert Maxwell: Israel’s Superspy by Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon. Furthermore, Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy alleges ties between Maxwell and Israeli intelligence.
According to Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad case officer:
Mossad was financing many of its operations in Europe from money stolen from Maxwell’s newspaper pension fund. They got their hands on the funds almost as soon as Maxwell made the purchase of the Mirror Newspaper Group with money lent to him by Mossad.”
In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, “the service maintained for blackmail purposes.” It was later revealed that the hotel in which he stayed in Israel was bugged with cameras, allowing the Mossad to acquire “a small library of video footage of Maxwell in sexually compromising positions.” As with the CIA, the Mossad’s use of blackmail against both friend and foe is well-documented and known to be extensive.
Maxwell was also a close associate and friend of Israeli “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who, as previously mentioned, was Jonathan Pollard’s handler and who had previously worked directly with Meyer Lansky. Eitan had learned of a revolutionary new software being used by the U.S. government known as “Promis” from Earl Brian, a long-time associate and aide to Ronald Reagan. Promis is often considered the forerunner to the “Prism” software used by spy agencies today and was developed by William Hamilton, who leased the software to the U.S. government through his company, Inslaw, in 1982.
Ariel Sharon (right)meets with Robert Maxwell in Jerusalem on Feb. 20, 1990. Photo | AP
According to author and former BBC investigative journalist Gordon Thomas, Brian was angrythat the U.S. Department of Justice was successfully using Promis to go after organized crime and money-laundering activities and Eitan felt that the program could aid Israel. At the time, Eitan was the director of the now defunct Israeli military intelligence agency Lekem, which gathered scientific and technical intelligence abroad from both public and covert sources, especially in relation to Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
A plan was hatched to install a “trapdoor” into the software and then market Promis throughout the world, providing the Mossad with invaluable intelligence on the operations of its enemies and allies while also providing Eitan and Brian with copious amounts of cash. According to the testimony of ex-Mossad official Ari Ben-Menashe, Brian provided a copy of Promis to Israel’s military intelligence, which contacted an Israeli American programmer living in California who then planted the “trapdoor” in the software. The CIA was later said to have installed its own trapdoor in the software but it is unknown if they did so with a version of the already bugged software and how widely it was adopted relative to the version bugged by Israeli intelligence.
After the trapdoor was inserted, the problem became selling the bugged version of the software to governments as well as private companies around the world, particularly in areas of interest. Brian first attempted to buy out Inslaw and Promis and then use that same company to sell the bugged version.
Unsuccessful, Brian turned to his close friend, then-Attorney General Ed Meese whose Justice Department then abruptly refused to make the payments to Inslaw that were stipulated by the contract, essentially using the software for free, which Inslaw claimed to be theft. Some have speculated that Meese’s role in that decision was shaped, not only by his friendship with Brian, but the fact that his wife was a major investor in Brian’s business ventures. Meese would later become an adviser to Donald Trump when he was president-elect.
Inslaw was forced to declare bankruptcy as a result of Meese’s actions and sued the Justice Department. The court later found that the Meese-led department “took, converted, stole” the software through “trickery, fraud and deceit.”
With Inslaw out of the way, Brian sold the software all over the world. Eitan later recruited Robert Maxwell to become another Promis salesman, which he did remarkably well, even succeeding in selling the software to Soviet intelligence and conspiring with Republican Texas Senator John Tower to have the software adopted by the U.S. government laboratory at Los Alamos. Dozens of countries used the software on their most carefully guarded computer systems, unaware that Mossad now had access to everything Promis touched.
Whereas the Mossad’s past reliance on gathering intelligence had relied on the same tactics used by its equivalents in the U.S. and elsewhere, the widespread adoption of the Promis software, largely through the actions of Earl Brian and Robert Maxwell, gave the Mossad a way to gather not just troves of counterintelligence data, but also blackmail on other intelligence agencies and powerful figures.
Indeed, Promis’ backdoor and adoption by intelligence agencies all over the world essentially provided the Mossad with access to troves of blackmail that the CIA and FBI had acquired on their friends and foes for over half a century. Strangely, in recent years, the FBI has sought to hide information related to Robert Maxwell’s connection to the Promis scandal.
According to journalist Robert Fisk, Maxwell was also involved in the Mossad abduction of Israeli nuclear weapons whistleblower Vanunu Mordechai. Mordechai had attempted to provide the media with information on the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which was eventually published by the Sunday Times of London. Yet, Mordechai had also contacted the Daily Mirror with the information, the Mirror being an outlet that was owned by Maxwell and whose foreign editor was a close Maxwell associate and alleged Mossad asset, Nicholas Davies. Journalist Seymour Hersh alleged that Davies had also been involved in Israeli arms deals.
Per Fisk, it was Maxwell who contacted the Israeli Embassy in London and told them of Mordechai’s activities. This led to Mordechai’s entrapment by a female Mossad agent who seduced him as part of a “honey trap” operation that led to his kidnapping and later imprisonment in Israel. Mordechai served an 18-year sentence, 12 years of which were in solitary confinement.
Then, there is the issue of Maxwell’s death, widely cited by mainstream and independent media alike as suspicious and a potential homicide. According to authors Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon, Maxwell had sealed his own fate when he attempted to threaten top Mossad officials with the exposure of certain operations if they did not help him rescue his media empire from crippling debt and financial difficulties. Many of Maxwell’s creditors, who had grown increasingly displeased with the media mogul, were Israeli and several of them were alleged to be Mossad-connected themselves.
Thomas and Dillon argue in their biography of Maxwell’s life that the Mossad felt that Maxwell had become more of a liability than an asset and killed him on his yacht three months after he demanded the bailout. On the other extreme are theories that suggest Maxwell committed suicide because of the financial difficulties his empire faced.
Ghislaine Maxwell, far right, Robert Maxwell’s daughter, looks on his casket is unloaded from a plane in Jerusalem, Nov. 8, 1991. Heribert Proepper | AP
Some have taken Maxwell’s funeral held in Israel as the country’s “official” confirmation of Maxwell’s service to the Mossad, as it was likened to a state funeral and attended by no less than six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence. During his funeral service in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized him and stated: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said.” Other eulogies were given by future Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert (then Health Minister) and Shimon Peres, with the latter also praising Maxwell’s “services” on behalf of Israel.
Swimming in the same swamp
As he built his business empire — and even became a member of Parliament, Maxwell was also doing work for Israeli intelligence, as several of the Israeli companies in which he invested became fronts for the Mossad. In addition, as he became a media mogul, he developed a bitter rivalry with Rupert Murdoch, a close friend of Roy Cohn and an influential figure in American and British media.
Maxwell also partnered with the Bronfman brothers, Edgar and Charles — key figures in the Mega Group. In 1989 Maxwell and Charles Bronfman partnered up to bid on the Jerusalem Post newspaper and the Post described the two men as “two of the world’s leading Jewish financiers” and their interest in the venture as “developing The Jerusalem Post and expanding its influence among world Jewry.” A year prior, Maxwell and Bronfman had become top shareholders in the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva.
Maxwell also worked with Charles Bronfman’s brother Edgar in the late 1980s to convince the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. Edgar’s efforts in this regard have received more attention, as it was a defining moment of his decades-long presidency of the World Jewish Congress, of which Ronald Lauder is currently president. Yet, Maxwell had also made considerable use of his contacts in the Soviet government in this effort.
Maxwell also moved in the circles of the network previously described in Parts I and II in this series. A key example of this is the May 1989 party Maxwell hosted on his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine — named for his youngest daughter and Epstein’s future “girlfriend.” Attendees of the party included Roy Cohn’s protege Donald Trump and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan. A close friend of Nancy Reagan was also present, journalist Mike Wallace, as was literary agent Mort Janklow, who represented Ronald Reagan and two of Cohn’s closest friends: journalists William Safire and Barbara Walters.
The CEO of what would soon become Time Warner, Steve Ross, was also invited to the exclusive event. Ross’ presence is notable, as he had built his business empire largely through his association with New York crime lords Manny Kimmel and Abner “Longy” Zwillman. Zwillman was a close friend of Meyer Lansky, Michael Steinhardt’s father, and Sam Bronfman, father of Edgar and Charles Bronfman.
Another attendee of the Maxwell yacht party was former Secretary of the Navy and former Henry Kissinger staffer Jon Lehman, who would go on to associate with the controversial neoconservative think tank, Project for a New American Century. Prior to being secretary of the Navy, Lehman had been president of the Abington Corporation, which hired arch-neocon Richard Perle to manage the portfolio of Israeli arms dealers Shlomo Zabludowicz and his son Chaim, who paid Ablington $10,000 month. A scandal arose when those payments continuedafter both Lehman and Perle joined the Reagan Department of Defense and while Perle was working to persuade the Pentagon to buy arms from companies linked to Zabludowicz. Perle had been part of the Reagan transition team along with Roy Cohn’s long-time friend and law partner Tom Bolan (another Maxwell yacht guest).
In addition to Lehman, another former Kissinger staffer, Thomas Pickering was present at Maxwell’s yacht part. Pickering played a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and, at the time of the Maxwell yacht party, he was U.S. ambassador to Israel. Senator John Tower (R-TX), who allegedly conspired with Maxwell in the Mossad-bugged Promis software at the Los Alamos laboratories, was also present. Tower died just months before Maxwell in a suspicious plane crash.
Ghislaine Maxwell was also at this rather notable event. After her father’s mysterious death and alleged murder on the same yacht that bears her name in 1991, she quickly packed her bags and moved to New York City. There, she soon made the acquaintance of Jeffrey Epstein and, a few years later, developed close ties to the Clinton family, which will be discussed in the next installment of this series.
Jeffrey Epstein and the new “Promis”
After it was revealed that Epstein had evaded stricter sentencing in 2008 due to his links to “intelligence,” it was the Mossad ties of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father that have led many to speculate that Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation was sharing incriminating information with the Mossad. Former CBS executive producer and current journalist for the media outlet Narativ, Zev Shalev, has since claimed that he independently confirmed that Epstein was tied directly to the Mossad.
Donald and Melania Trump with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida in 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios
Epstein was a long-time friend of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has long-standing and deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community. Their decades-long friendship has been the source of recent political attacks targeting Barak, who is running in the Israeli elections against current Prime Minister Netanyahu later this year.
Barak is also close to Epstein’s chief patron and Mega Group member Leslie Wexner, whose Wexner Foundation gave Barak $2 million in 2004 for a still unspecified research program. According to Barak, he was first introduced to Epstein by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who eulogized Robert Maxwell at his funeral and had decades-long ties with the Bronfman family going back to the early 1950s. Peres was also a frequent participant in programs funded by Leslie Wexner in Israel and worked closely with the Mossad for decades.
In 2015, a few years after Epstein’s release from prison following his conviction for soliciting sex from a minor in 2008, Barak formed a company with Epstein with the chief purpose of investing in an Israeli start-up then known as Reporty. That company, now called Carbyne, sells its signature software to 911 call centers and emergency service providers and is also available to consumers as an app that provides emergency services with access to a caller’s camera and location and also runs any caller’s identity through any linked government database. It has specifically been marketed by the company itself and the Israeli press as a solution to mass shootings in the United States and is already being used by at least two U.S. counties.
Israeli media reported that Epstein and Barak were among the company’s largest investors. Barak poured millions into the company and it was recently revealed by Haaretz that a significant amount of Barak’s total investments in Carbyne was funded by Epstein, making him a “de facto partner” in the company. Barak is now Carbyne’s chairman.
The company’s executive team are all former members of different branches of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, that is often likened to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem, also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. Leshem now works for a subsidiary of Erik Prince’s company Frontier Services Group, according to the independent media outlet Narativ.
The company also includes several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — an investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board, alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.
Narativ, which wrote the first expose on Carbyne after Epstein’s arrest, noted that the Chinese government uses a smartphone app very similar to Carbyne as part of its mass surveillance apparatus, even though the original purpose of the app was for improved emergency reporting. According to Narativ, the Chinese Carbyne-equivalent “monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations, power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”
Given the history of Robert Maxwell — the father of Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and young-girl-procuring madam, Ghislaine Maxwell — in promoting the sale of Carbyne’s modified Promis software, which was also marketed as a tool to improve government efficacy but was actually a tool of mass surveillance for the benefit of Israeli intelligence, the overlap between Carbyne and Promis is troubling and warrants further investigation.
It is also worth noting that Unit 8200-connected tech start-ups are being widely integrated into U.S. companies and have developed close ties to the U.S. military-industrial complex, with Carbyne being just one example of that trend.
As MintPress previously reported, Unit 8200-linked outfits like Team8 have recently hired former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers as a senior advisor and gained prominent Silicon Valley figures, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as key investors. Many American technology companies, from Intel to Google to Microsoft, have merged withseveral Unit 8200-connected start-ups in recent years and have been moving many key jobs and operations to Israel with backing from key Republican donors like Paul Singer. Many of those same companies, particularly Google and Microsoft, are also major U.S. government contractors.
Who was Epstein really working for?
Even though Jeffrey Epstein appears to have had ties to the Mossad, this series has revealed that the networks to which Epstein was connected were not Mossad-exclusive, as many of the individuals close to Epstein — Lesie Wexner, for instance — were part of a mob-connected class of oligarchs with deep ties to both the U.S. and Israel. As was discussed in Part I of this series, the sharing of “intelligence” (i.e., blackmail) between intelligence agencies and the same organized crime network connected to the Mega Group goes back decades. With Leslie Wexner of the Mega Group as Epstein’s chief patron, as opposed to a financier with direct ties to the Mossad, a similar relationship is more than likely in the case of the sexual blackmail operation that Epstein ran.
Given that intelligence agencies in both the U.S. and elsewhere often conduct covert operations for the benefit of oligarchs and large corporations as opposed to “national security interest,” Epstein’s ties to the Mega Group suggest that this group holds a unique status and influence in both the governments of the U.S. and of Israel, as well as in other countries (e.g., Russia) that were not explored in this report. This is by virtue of their role as key political donors in both countries, as well as the fact that several of them own powerful companies or financial institutions in both countries. Indeed, many members of the Mega Group have deep ties to Israel’s political class, including to Netanyahu and Ehud Barak as well as to now-deceased figures like Shimon Peres, and to members of the American political class.
Ultimately, the picture painted by the evidence is not a direct tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.
Though this series has so far focused on the ties of this network to main Republican Party affiliates, the next and final installment will reveal the ties developed between this web and the Clintons. As will be revealed, despite the Clintons’ willingness to embrace corrupt dealings during the span of their political careers, their mostly friendly relationship with this network still saw them use the power of sexual blackmail to obtain certain policy decisions that were favorable to their personal and financial interests but not to the Clintons’ political reputation or agendas.
Editor’s note | The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Rafi Eitan was interested in repurposing the American-made Promise software to restore his standing in Israel’s intelligence community caused by the fall-out from the Pollard Affair. The Pollard Affair occurred three years after Eitan had succeeded in repurposing the software and MintPress has removed that incorrect information from the article and regrets the error.
This article also originally neglected to mention that Eitan, at the time of his collaboration with Earl Brian to repurpose the Promis software, was the director of the now-defunct Israeli military intelligence agency Lekem at the time of those events and that information has been added to the story.
Seymour Hersh’s book The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy does not call Robert Maxwell an “agent” of the Mossad, as was stated originally in this report, but does allege clear links and cooperation between Maxwell and the Mossad. This report was updated to reflect this more accurate description.
Following another catastrophic mass shooting or crisis event, Orwellian “solutions” are set to be foisted on a frightened American public by the very network connected, not only to Jeffrey Epstein, but to a litany of crimes and a frightening history of plans to crush internal dissent in the United States.
Following the arrest and subsequent death in prison of alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a little-known Israeli tech company began to receive increased publicity, but for all the wrong reasons. Not long after Epstein’s arrest, and his relationships and finances came under scrutiny, it was revealed that the Israeli company Carbyne911 had received substantial funding from Jeffrey Epstein as well as Epstein’s close associate and former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist and prominent Trump backer Peter Thiel.
Carbyne911, or simply Carbyne, develops call-handling and identification capabilities for emergency response services in countries around the world, including the United States, where it has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and has partnered with major U.S. tech companies like Google. It specifically markets its product as a way of mitigating mass shootings in the United States without having to change existing U.S. gun laws.
Yet, Carbyne is no ordinary tech company, as it is deeply connected to the elite Israeli military intelligence division, Unit 8200, whose “alumni” often go on to create tech companies — Carbyne among them — that frequently maintain their ties to Israeli intelligence and, according to Israeli media reports and former employees, often “blur the line” between their service to Israel’s defense/intelligence apparatus and their commercial activity. As this report will reveal, Carbyne is but one of several Israeli tech companies marketing themselves as a technological solution to mass shootings that has direct ties to Israeli intelligence agencies.
In each case, these companies’ products are built in such a way that they can easily be used to illegally surveil the governments, institutions and civilians that use them, a troubling fact given Unit 8200’s documented prowess in surveillance as a means of obtaining blackmail and Israel’s history of using tech companies to aggressively spy on the U.S. government. This is further compounded by the fact that Unit 8200-linked tech companies have previously received U.S. government contracts to place “backdoors” into the U.S.’ entire telecommunications system as well as into the popular products of major American tech companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, many of whose key managers and executives are now former Unit 8200 officers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it no secret that placing Unit 8200 members in top positions in multinational tech companies is a “deliberate policy” meant to ensure Israel’s role as the dominant global “cyber power”, while also combating non-violent boycott movements targeting Israel’s violations of international law and stifling the United Nations’ criticisms of Israeli government policy and military operations abroad.
As Jeffrey Epstein’s links to intelligence in both the United States and Israel — the subject of a recent four-part series exclusive to MintPress — began to be revealed in full, his financing of Carbyne came under scrutiny, particularly for the company’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence as well as to certain Americans with known connections to U.S. intelligence. Ehud Barak’s own role as both financier and chairman of Carbyne has also added to that concern, given his long history of involvement in covert intelligence operations for Israel and his long-standing ties to Israeli military intelligence.
Another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has his own company that, like Carbyne, is set to profit from the Trump administration’s proposed hi-tech solutions to mass shootings. Indeed, after the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas, President Trump — who received political donations from and has been advised by Thiel following his election — asked tech companies to “detect mass shooters before they strike,” a service already perfected by Thiel’s company Palantir, which has developed “pre-crime software” already in use throughout the country. Palantir is also a contractor for the U.S. intelligence community and also has a branch based in Israel.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, whatever technological solution is adopted by the Trump administration, it is set to use a controversial database first developed as part of a secretive U.S. government program that involved notorious Iran-Contra figures like Oliver North as a means of tracking and flagging potential American dissidents for increased surveillance and detention in the event of a vaguely defined “national emergency.”
As this report will reveal, this database — often referred to as “Main Core” — was created with the involvement of Israeli intelligence and Israel remained involved years after it was developed, and potentially to the present. It was also used by at least one former CIA official on President Reagan’s National Security Council to blackmail members of Congress, Congressional staffers and journalists, among others.
Given recent reports on the Trump administration’s plan to create a new government agency to use “advanced technology” to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” using data collected by consumer electronic devices, the picture painted by the technology currently being promoted and implemented under the guise of “keeping Americans safe” is deeply Orwellian. In fact, it points directly to the genesis of a far-reaching surveillance state far more extensive than anything yet seen in American history and it is being jointly developed by individuals connected to both American and Israeli intelligence.
Carbyne911, which will be referred to simply as Carbyne in this report, is an Israeli tech-startup that promises to revolutionize how calls are handled by emergency service providers, as well as by governments, corporations and educational institutions. Not long after it was founded in 2014 by veterans of Israeli military intelligence, Carbyne began to be specifically marketed as a solution to mass shootings in the United States that goes “beyond the gun debate” and improves the “intelligence that armed emergency responders receive before entering an armed shooter situation” by providing video-streaming and acoustic input from civilian smartphones and other devices connected to the Carbyne network.
Prior to Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest in July, Carbyne had been receiving high praise from U.S. and Israeli media, with Fox News hailing the company’s services as the answer to the U.S.’ “aging 911 systems” and the Jerusalem Post writing that the company’s platform offers “hi-tech protection to social workers and school principals.” Other reports claimed that Carbyne’s services result in “a 65% reduction in time-to-dispatch.”
Carbyne’s call-handling/crisis management platform has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and the company has offices not only in the U.S. but also in Mexico, Ukraine and Israel. Carbyne’s expansion to more emergency service provider networks in the U.S. is likely, given that federal legislation seeks to offer grants to upgrade 911 call centers throughout the country with the very technology of which Carbyne is the leading provider. One of the main lobby groups promoting this legislation, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), has a “strong relationship” with Carbyne, according to Carbyne’s website. In addition, Carbyne has also begun marketing its platform for non-emergency calls to governments, educational institutions and corporations.
Yet, what seemed like the inevitability of Carbyne’s widespread adoption in the U.S. hit a snag following the recent arrest and subsequent death of sex trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who exploited underage girls for the purpose of obtaining “blackmail” on the rich and poweful, an operation that had clear ties to intelligence. Epstein, after his first arrest and light sentence for soliciting sex from a minor in 2007, was tapped by former Israeli Prime Minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence Ehud Barak, to become a key financial backer of Carbyne.
Ehud Barak, center, poses with Carbyne co-founders Alex Dizengof, Amir Elichai and Lital Leshem. Photo | Yossi Seliger
As a result of increased scrutiny of Epstein’s business activities and his ties to Israel, particularly to Barak, Epstein’s connection to Carbyne was revealed and extensively reported on by the independent media outlet Narativ, whose exposé on Carbyne revealed not only some of the key intelligence connections of the start-up company but also how the architecture of Carbyne’s product itself raises “serious privacy concerns.”
MintPress detailed many of Carbyne’s main intelligence connections in Part III of the investigative series “Inside the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail.” In addition to Barak — former Israeli prime minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence — serving as Carbyne’s chairman and a key financer, the company’s executive team are all former members of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, which is often compared to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander and current board member of AIPAC Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem, also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. The only Carbyne co-founder that didn’t serve in Unit 8200 is Alex Dizengof, who previously worked for Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.
As MintPress noted in a past report detailing Israeli military intelligence’s deep ties to American tech giant Microsoft, Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”
Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware. In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies, to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Both of those companies, Verint and Narus, have top executives with ties to Israeli intelligence and one of those companies, Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), has a history of aggressively spying on U.S. government facilities. Unit 8200 is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americans via an intelligence-sharing agreement with the NSA.
Unlike many other Unit 8200-linked start-ups, Carbyne also boasts several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — another investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board, alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.
Yet, privacy concerns with Carbyne go beyond the company’s ties to Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence contractors like Peter Thiel. For instance, Carbyne’s smartphone app extracts the following information from the phones on which it is installed:
Device location, video live-streamed from the smartphone to the call center, text messages in a two-way chat window, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Carbyne app and ESInet, and any information that comes over a data link, which Carbyne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out.” (emphasis added)
According to Carbyne’s website, this same information can also be obtained from any smartphone, even if it does not have Carbyne’s app installed, if that phone calls a 911 call center that uses Carbyne or merely any other number connected to Carbyne’s network.
Carbyne gathers data points from users’ phones as well as a myriad of other web-connected devices.
Carbyne is a Next-Generation 9-11 (NG911) platform and the explicit goal of NG911 is for all 911 systems nationwide to become interconnected. Thus, even if Carbyne is not used by all 911 call centers using an NG911 platform, Carbyne will ostensibly have access to the data used by all emergency service providers and devices connected to those networks. This guiding principle of NG911 also makes it likely that one platform will be favored at the federal level to foster such interconnectivity and, given that it has already been adopted by several counties and has ties to the Trump administration, Carbyne is the logical choice.
Another cause for concern is how other countries have used platforms like Carbyne, which were first marketed as emergency response tools, for the purpose of mass surveillance. Narativnoted the following in its investigation of Carbyne:
In May, Human Rights Watch revealed Chinese authorities use a platform not unlike Carbyne to illegally surveil Uyghurs. China’s Integrated Joint Operations Platform brings in a much bigger data-set and sources of video, which includes an app on people’s phones. Like Carbyne, the platform was designed to report emergencies. Chinese authorities have turned it into a tool of mass surveillance.
Human Rights Watch reverse-engineered the app. The group discovered the app automatically profiles a user under 36 “person types” including “followers of Six Lines” which is the term used to identify Uyghurs. Another term refers to “Hajj,” the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The app monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations [and] power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”
Such technology is currently used by Israeli military intelligence and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet to justify “pre-crime” detentions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As will be noted in greater detail later in this report, Palestinians’ comments on social media are tracked by artificial intelligence algorithms that flag them for indefinite detention if they write social media posts that contain “tripwire” phrases such as “the sword of Allah.”
Carbyne’s platform has its own “pre-crime” elements, such as it’s c-Records component, which stores and analyzes information on past calls and events that pass through its network. This information “enables decision makers to accurately analyze the past and present behavior of their callers, react accordingly, and in time predict future patterns.” (emphasis added)
Concerns have recently been raised that “pre-crime” technology may soon become more widely adopted in the U.S., after President Trump stated that one of his planned solutions to mass shootings in the wake of the recent tragedy in El Paso was for big tech companies to detect potential shooters before they strike.
Israeli intelligence, Blackmail and Silicon Valley
Though many of the individuals involved in funding or managing Carbyne have proven ties to intelligence, a closer look into several of these players reveals even deeper connections to both Israeli and U.S. intelligence.
One of Carbyne’s clearest connections to Israeli intelligence is through its chairman and one of its funders, Ehud Barak. Though Barak is best known for being a former prime minister of Israel, he is also a former minister of defense and the former head of Israeli military intelligence. He oversaw Unit 8200’s operations, as well as other units of Israeli military intelligence, in all three of those positions. For most of his military and later political career, Barak has been closely associated with covert operations.
Prior to the public scrutiny of Barak’s relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, following the latter’s arrest this past July and subsequent death, Barak had come under fire for his ties to disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Indeed, it was Ehud Barak who put Weinstein in contact with the Israeli private intelligence outfit Black Cube, which employs former Mossad agents and Israeli military intelligence operatives, as Weinstein sought to intimidate the women who had accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan led Black Cube’s board until his death in 2016 and Carbyne co-founder Lital Leshem is Black Cube’s former director of marketing.
After Barak put him in contact with Black Cube’s leadership, Weinstein, according to The New Yorker, used the private spy firm to “‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.” In addition, The New Yorker noted that “Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally” and “also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.”
Yet, more recently, it has been Barak’s close relationship to Epstein that has raised eyebrows and opened him up to political attacks from his rivals. Epstein and Barak were first introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 2002, a time when Epstein’s pedophile blackmail and sex trafficking operation was in full swing.
Barak was a frequent visitor to Epstein’s residences in New York, so often that The Daily Beastreported that numerous residents of an apartment building linked to Epstein “had seen Barak in the building multiple times over the last few years, and nearly half a dozen more described running into his security detail,” adding that “the building is majority-owned by Epstein’s younger brother, Mark, and has been tied to the financier’s alleged New York trafficking ring.” Specifically, several apartments in the building were “being used to house underage girls from South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union,” according to a former bookkeeperemployed by one of Epstein’s main procurers of underage girls, Jean Luc Brunel.
Barak is also known to have spent the night at one of Epstein’s residences at least once, was photographed leaving Epstein’s residence as recently as 2016, and has admitted to visiting Epstein’s island, which has sported nicknames including “Pedo Island,” “Lolita Island” and “Orgy Island.” In 2004, Barak received $2.5 million from Leslie Wexner’s Wexner Foundation, where Epstein was a trustee as well as one of the foundation’s top donors, officially for unspecified “consulting services” and “research” on the foundation’s behalf.
In 2015, Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel for the explicit purpose of investing in Carbyne (then known as Reporty) and invested millions of dollars in the company, quickly becoming a major shareholder and subsequently the company’s public face and the chairman of its board. At least $1 million of the money invested in this Barak-created company that was later used to invest in Carbyne came from the Southern Trust Company, which was owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
In July, Bloomberg reported that Epstein’s Southern Trust Company is identified in U.S. Virgin Islands filings as “a DNA database and data mining” company. Given Carbyne’s clear potential for data-mining and civilian profiling, Epstein’s investment in Carbyne using this specific company suggests that Carbyne’s investors have long been aware of this little advertised aspect of Carbyne’s product.
In a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Barak asserted:
I saw the business opportunity and registered a partnership in my control in Israel. A small number of people I know invest in it…Since these are private investments, it wouldn’t be proper or right for me to expose the investors’ details.”
However, Barak later admitted that Epstein had been one of the investors.
MintPress’ recent series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal noted in detail Epstein’s ties to CIA/Mossad intelligence assets, such as Adnan Khashoggi; CIA front companies, such as Southern Air Transport; and organized crime, through his close association with Leslie Wexner. In addition, Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, has family links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell. While it appears that Epstein may have been working for more than one intelligence agency, Zev Shalev, former executive producer for CBS News and journalist at Narativ, recently stated that he had independently confirmed with two unconnected sources “closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know” that Epstein had “worked for Israeli military intelligence.”
Notably, Epstein, who was known for his interest in obtaining blackmail through the sexual abuse of the underaged girls he exploited, also claimed to have “damaging information” on prominent figures in Silicon Valley. In a conversation last year with New York Times reporter James Stewart, Epstein claimed to have “potentially damaging or embarrassing” information on Silicon Valley’s elite and told Stewart that these top figures in the American tech industry “were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs.” Epstein also told Stewart that he had “witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex” and claimed to know “details about their supposed sexual proclivities.”
In the lead-up to his recent arrest, Jeffrey Epstein appeared to have been attempting to rebrand as a “tech investor,” as he had done interviews with several journalists including Stewart about technology investing in the months before he was hit with federal sex trafficking charges.
Jessica Lessin, editor-in-chief of The Information, told Business Insider that a journalist working for The Information had interviewed Epstein a month before his recent arrest because “he was believed to be an investor in venture capital funds.” However, Lessin claimed that the interview was not “newsworthy” and said the site had no plans to publish its contents. Business Insider claimed that the way the interviews with Epstein had been arranged “suggests that someone in Silicon Valley may have been trying to help Epstein connect with reporters.”
Though it is unknown exactly which Silicon Valley figures were most connected to Epstein and which tech executives were potentially being blackmailed by Epstein, it is known that Epstein associated with several prominent tech executives, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
Last year, Epstein claimed to be advising Tesla and Elon Musk, who had been previously photographed with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell. A few years ago, Epstein also attended a dinner hosted by LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, where Musk had allegedly introducedEpstein to Mark Zuckerberg. Google’s Sergey Brin is known to have attended a dinner hosted by Epstein at his New York residence where Donald Trump was also in attendance.
Elon Musk with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell at an Oscars after-party on March 2, 2014. Kevin Mazur | VF14
These associations suggest that the person in Silicon Valley who was trying to boost Epstein’s image as a tech investor before his arrest may have been Peter Thiel, whose Founders Fund had also invested in Carbyne. Thiel was an early investor in Facebook and is still on its board, connecting him to Zuckerberg; he is also a funder of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a former colleague of Musk’s through PayPal. In addition, Thiel has ties to Reid Hoffman and both Thiel and Hoffman are prominent backers of Facebook.
It is unknown whether Epstein’s “damaging information” and apparent blackmail on notable individuals in the American technology industry were used to advance the objectives of Carbyne, which recently partnered with tech giants Google and Cisco Systems — and, more broadly, the expansion of Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies into the American tech sector, particularly through the acquisition of Israeli tech start-ups linked to Unit 8200 by major U.S. tech companies.
The latter seems increasingly likely given that the father of Ghislaine Maxwell — one of Epstein’s chief co-conspirators in his intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation involving minors — was a Mossad operative who helped sell software that had been bugged by Israeli intelligence to government agencies and sensitive facilities around the world, including in the United States.
As will be noted later in this report, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to whom all of Israel’s intelligence agencies answer by virtue of his position — has stated on more than one occasion that the acquisition of Israeli intelligence-linked start-ups by foreign tech giants, especially in Silicon Valley, is a current and “deliberate policy” of the state of Israel.
Carbyne’s ties to U.S. intelligence
While Epstein and Barak are the two financiers of Carbyne whose ties to intelligence are clearest, another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has ties to U.S. intelligence and a history of investing in other companies founded by former members of Unit 8200. Thiel co-founded and still owns a controlling stake in the company Palantir, which was initially funded with a $2 million investment from the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel and quickly thereafter became a contractor for the CIA.
After the success of its contract with the CIA, Palantir became a contractor for a variety of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and the military’s Special Operations Command, among others. Last year, it won a contract to create a new battlefield intelligence system for the U.S. Army. Palantir is also in demand for its “pre-crime technology,” which has been used by several U.S. police departments. According to the Guardian, “Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters, child traffickers and what they refer to as ‘subversives’… it is all done using prediction.”
Thiel has gained attention in recent years for his support of President Trump and for becoming an adviser to Trump following the 2016 election, when he was “a major force in the transition,” according to Politico, and “helped fill positions in the Trump administration with former staff.” One of those former staffers was Trae Stephens, who is also on Carbyne’s board of advisers. Thiel also has business ties to Trump’s son-in-law and influential adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as to Kushner’s brother Josh. A senior Trump campaign aide told Politico in 2017 that “Thiel is immensely powerful within the administration through his connection to Jared.”
Thiel has also backed some prominent Israeli tech start-ups connected to Unit 8200, such as BillGuard, which Thiel funded along with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors. BillGuard was founded by Raphael Ouzan, a former officer in Unit 8200, who serves on the board of directors of Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) alongside neoconservative American hedge fund manager Paul Singer, neoconservative political operative and adviser Dan Senor, and Terry Kassel, who works for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management.
Peter Thiel greets Netanyahu during a 2017 meeting in Israel. Photo | Israel PM
SUNC is an organization founded by Paul Singer, who has donated heavily to both President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Since it was founded in 2012, SUNC has sought to integrate Unit 8200-connected Israeli tech start-ups into foreign companies, primarily American companies, and has helped oversee the shift of thousands of high-paying tech jobs from the U.S. to Israel.
Another Carbyne-connected individual worth noting is the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who serves on Carbyne’s board of advisers. In addition to Chertoff’s ties to DHS, Chertoff’s company, The Chertoff Group, employees several prominent former members of the U.S. intelligence community as principals, including Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and former director of the NSA; and Charles Allen, former assistant director of Central Intelligence for Collection at the CIA, who worked at the agency for over 40 years.
The Chertoff Group has a long-standing and lucrative contract with the company OSI Systems, which produces full-body scanners and markets itself as a solution to mass shootings and crisis events, not unlike Carbyne. While Chertoff’s company was advising OSI Systems, Chertoff went on a media blitz to promote the widespread use of the machines produced by OSI Systems and even called on Congress to “fund a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems.” Chertoff did not disclose his conflict of interest while publicly promoting OSI’s full-body scanners.
Some have also alleged that Chertoff’s mother, Livia Eisen, had links to Israeli intelligence. According to her 1998 obituary, cited by both researcher/author Christopher Bollyn and journalist Jonathan Cook, Eisen participated in the Mossad operation code-named “Magic Carpet” while working for Israel’s El Al Airlines. Both Bollyn and Cook have suggested that Eisen’s participation in this covert Israeli intelligence operation strongly indicates that she had ties to the Mossad.
Melding into Silicon Valley
Beyond its troubling connections to Silicon Valley oligarchs, Israeli military intelligence and the U.S.-military industrial complex, Carbyne’s recent partnerships with two specific technology companies — Google and Cisco Systems — raise even more red flags.
Carbyne announced its partnership with Cisco Systems this past April, with the latter announcing that it would begin “aligning its unified call manager with Carbyne’s call-handling platform, allowing emergency call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and nearby government-owned IoT [Internet of Things] devices.” A report on the partnership published by Government Technology magazine stated that “Carbyne’s platform will be integrated into Cisco Kinetic for Cities, an IoT data platform that shares data across community infrastructure, smart city solutions, applications and connected devices.” The report also noted that “Carbyne will also be the only 911 solution in the Cisco Marketplace.”
As part of the partnership, Carbyne’s President of North American Operations Paul Tatro told Government Technology that the Carbyne platform would combine the data it obtains from smartphones and other Carbyne-connected devices with “what’s available through nearby Cisco-connected road cameras, roadside sensors, smart streetlamps, smart parking meters or other devices.” Tatro further asserted that “Carbyne can also analyze data that’s being collected by Cisco IoT devices … and alert 911 automatically, without any person making a phone call, if there appears to be a worthy problem,” and expressed his view that soon most emergency calls will not be made by human beings but “by smart cars, telematics or other smart city devices.”
A few months after partnering with Cisco Systems, Carbyne announced its partnership with Google on July 10, just three days after Carbyne funder Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on federal sex trafficking charges. Carbyne’s press release of the partnership described how the company and Google would be teaming up in Mexico “to offer advanced mobile location to emergency communications centers (ECCs) throughout Mexico” following the conclusion of a successful four-week pilot program between Carbyne and Google in the Central American nation.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt meets Netanyahu at his Jerusalem office. Israel PM | YouTube
The press release also stated:
Carbyne will provide Google’s Android ELS (Emergency Location Service) in real time from emergency calls made on AndroidTM devices. Deployment for any ECC in the country won’t require any integration, with Carbyne providing numerous options for connection to their secure ELS Gateway once an ECC is approved. The Carbyne automated platform, requiring no human interaction, has the potential to save thousands of lives each year throughout Mexico.”
The reason Carybne’s partnerships with Cisco Systems and Google are significant lies in the role that Cisco and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have played in the creation of a controversial “incubator” for Israeli tech start-ups with deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, American neoconservative donor Paul Singer, and the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA).
This company, called Team8, is an Israeli company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. Two of the company’s other three co-founders are also “alumni” of Unit 8200. Among Team8’s top investors is Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who also joined Peter Thiel in funding the Unit 8200-linked BillGuard, as well as major tech companies including Cisco Systems and Microsoft.
Last year, Team8 controversially hired the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Retired Admiral Mike Rogers, and Zafrir stated that his interest in hiring Rogers was that Rogers would be “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) hacking unit, told CyberScoop:
Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”
Team8 has also been heavily promoted by Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC). SUNC prominently features Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website and also sponsored a talkby Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.
SUNC itself has deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, with former Unit 8200 officer Raphael Ouzan serving on its board of directors. Another example of SUNC-Unit 8200 ties can be seen with Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel, alongside Team8. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC and several other top SUNC staffers are also connected to Israeli military intelligence.
Thus, Google and Cisco’s connections to Team8 suggests that their partnerships with another Israeli military intelligence-connected firm like Carbyne is a deepening of those two companies’ links to the growing bi-national security state that is uniting key players in the U.S. military-industrial complex and Israeli intelligence.
Mossad-backed Panic Buttons, coming to a school near you
Carbyne is hardly the only Israeli intelligence-linked tech company marketing itself in the United States as a solution to mass shootings. Another Israeli start-up, known as Gabriel, was founded in 2016 in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in the United States, which took place just days apart.
Created by Israeli-American Yoni Sherizen and Israeli citizen Asaf Adler, Gabriel is similar to Carbyne in the sense that elements of its crisis response platform require installation on civilian smartphones as well as devices used by crisis responders. The main difference is that Gabriel also installs one or a series of physical “panic buttons,” depending on the size of the building to be secured, that also double as video and audio communication devices connected to the Gabriel network.
As with Carbyne, the ties between Gabriel and Israeli intelligence are obvious. Indeed, Gabriel’s four-person advisory board includes Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad and former director-general of Israel’s intelligence ministry; Yohanan Danino, former chief of police for the state of Israel; and Kobi Mor, former director of overseas missions for the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet. The only American on the advisory board is Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland shooting victim and friend of former Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Gabriel’s only disclosed funder is U.S.-based MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator non-profit. Gabriel is funded by MassChallenge’s Israel branch, which was opened six months prior to Gabriel’s creation and is partnered with the Israeli government and the Kraft Group. The Kraft Group is managed by Robert Kraft, who is currently embroiled in a prostitution scandal and is also a close friend of President Trump.
Notably, one of MassChallenge Israel’s featured experts is Wendy Singer, the executive director of SUNC, the organization created and funded by neoconservative Trump backer Paul Singer with the explicit purpose of promoting Israel’s tech start-ups and their integration into foreign, chiefly American, businesses. As was noted in a recent MintPress report on SUNC, Wendy Singer is the sister of neoconservative political operative Dan Senor, who founded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative with Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, and was previously the director of AIPAC’s Israel office for 16 years.
Gabriel’s founders have been quite upfront about the fact that the uptick in shootings in the U.S. has greatly aided their company’s growth and success. Last November, Sherizen told The Jerusalem Post that new mass shootings in the U.S. not only increased U.S. demand for his company’s product but also were opportunities to show the effectiveness of Gabriel’s approach:
Unfortunately every month there seems to be another high-profile event of this nature. After the Vegas shooting, we were able to show [that] our system would have managed to identify the location of the shooter much quicker.”
The Jerusalem Post noted that Gabriel is set to make considerable profits if concern over mass shootings continues to build in the U.S., writing:
With more than 475,000 soft targets across the US and amid increasing security fears, the potential market for Gabriel is huge. The company could gain revenues of almost $1 billion if only 10% of soft targets were to invest around $20,000 in its alert systems.”
Sherizen told the Jerusalem Post:
Our starter kit costs $10,000. Depending on the size and makeup of the community building, it would cost between $20-30,000 to fully outfit the location. We have made it very affordable. This is a game-changer for the lock-down and active shooter drills that are now a standard part of any child’s upbringing in the States.”
Much more than just a start-up
While it is certainly possible that numerous former officials and commanders of elite Israeli intelligence agencies may have no ulterior motive in advising or founding technology start-up companies, it is worth pointing out that top figures in Israel’s military intelligence agencies and the Mossad don’t see it that way.
Last March, Israeli media outlet Calcalist Tech published a report entitled “Israel Blurs the Line Between Defense Apparatus and Local Cybersecurity Hub,” which noted that “since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose.” (emphasis added)
The article notes that beginning in 2012, Israel’s intelligence and military intelligence agencies began to outsource “activities that were previously managed in-house, with a focus on software and cyber technologies.” (emphasis added)
In some cases, managers of development projects in the Israeli military and intelligence arms were encouraged to form their own companies, which then took over the project,’ an Israeli venture capitalist familiar with the matter told Calcalist Tech.”
Notably, Calcalist Tech states that the controversial company Black Cube was created this way and that Black Cube had been contracted, and is likely still contracted, by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The private security agency Black Cube is known to have two separate divisions for corporations and governments. The firm was recently caught attempting to undermine the Iran nuclear deal — then also a top political objective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — by attempting to obtain information on the “financial or sexual impropriety” (i.e., blackmail) of top U.S. officials involved in drafting the accord. NBC News noted last year that “Black Cube’s political work frequently intersects with Israel’s foreign policy priorities.” As previously mentioned, one of Carbyne’s co-founders — Lital Leshem, also a veteran of Unit 8200 — worked for Black Cube prior to starting Carbyne.
The entrance to Black Cube’s offices on the 26th floor of a Tel Aviv high rise, Feb. 8, 2019. Raphael Satter | AP
One of the main companies profiled in the Calcalist Tech report appeared to be a front for Israeli intelligence, as its registered owner was found not to exist: even high-level employees at the company had never heard of him; his registered addresses were for nonexistent locations in Israel’s capital of Tel Aviv; and the three people with that name in Tel Aviv denied any association with the business.
This company — which Calcalist Tech was unable to name after the Israeli military censor determined that doing so could negatively impact Israeli “national security” — was deliberately created to service the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence. It is also “focused on cyber technologies with expertise in research and development of advanced products and applications suitable for defense and commercial entities.” (emphases added) In addition, the company’s management consists largely of “veterans of Israeli military technology units.”
Notably, a former employee of this company told Calcalist Tech that “crossing the lines between military service and employment at the commercial outfit was ‘commonplace’ while he was working at the company.”
It’s not exactly clear why Israel’s military intelligence and other intelligence agencies decided to begin outsourcing its operations in 2012, though Calcalist Tech suggests the reasoning was related to the difference in wages between the private sector and the public sector, with pay being much higher in the former. However, it is notable that 2012 was also the year that Paul Singer — together with Netanyahu’s long-time economic adviser and former chair of the Israeli National Economic Council, Eugene Kandel — decided to create Start-Up Nation Central.
As MintPress noted earlier this year, SUNC was founded as part of a deliberate Israeli government effort to counter the nonviolent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to make Israel the dominant global “cyber power.” This policy is aimed at increasingIsrael’s diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.
Last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin whether the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector, specifically tech start-ups, was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”
Netanyahu again outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech Conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.”
The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Israel’s government and the successful effort led by SUNC and other companies and organizations to place former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major multinational technology companies reveal that this “deliberate policy” has had a major and undeniable impact on the global tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley.
Mossad gets its own In-Q-Tel
This “deliberate policy” of Netanyahu’s also recently resulted in the creation of a Mossad-run venture capital fund that is specifically focused on financing Israeli tech start-ups. The venture capital fund, called Libertad, was first announced by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and was created with the explicit purpose of “increasing the Israeli intelligence agency’s knowledge base and fostering collaboration with Israel’s vibrant startup scene” It was modeled after the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel, which invested in several Silicon Valley companies turned government and intelligence contractors — including Google and Palantir — with a similar goal in mind.
Libertad declines to reveal the recipients of its funding, but announced last December that it had chosen five companies in the fields of robotics, energy, encryption, web intelligence, and natural language processing and text analysis. In regard to its interest in web intelligence, a Mossad employee told the Jerusalem Post that the intelligence agency was specifically interested in “innovative technologies for [the] automatic identification of personality characteristics – personality profiling – based on online behavior and activity, using methods based on statistics, machine learning, and other areas.” (emphasis added)
According to Libertad’s website, in return for its investment, now set at NIS 2 million (~$580,000) per year per company, “the Mossad will receive access to the IP [initial product] developed during R&D [Research and Development] while under contract, and a non-commercial, non-exclusive license to use it. Libertad’s contract with the company will not provide it with any additional rights.” In an interview with Calcalist Tech, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen told the paper that the Mossad’s partnership with civilian companies in Israel is “excellent” and that the agency will continue to strengthen those ties.
Israeli intelligence has a documented history in placing “backdoors” into technology products for the purpose of surveillance, with one well-known case being Israel’s repurposing of the PROMIS software, discussed in Part III of MintPress’ series on Jeffrey Epstein. Furthermore, given that U.S. intelligence, specifically the NSA, had “backdoors” placed into the products of major Silicon Valley companies (a service performed by Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies no less), Mossad may very well plan on doing the same with the technology products of companies it backs through Libertad.
Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, told MintPress that the Mossad’s continuation of such practices through Libertad was definitely plausible, especially given what Shorrock described as the “unusual” choice of Libertad choosing not to release the identities of the companies in which it invests.
“The Mossad is trying to hide what they are investing in,” Shorrock stated, adding that Libertad’s secrecy “raises a lot of questions” particularly given that it was modeled after the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. Shorrock noted that In-Q-Tel and other venture capital funds with ties to U.S. intelligence or the U.S. military rarely, if ever, hide the identities of the companies they finance.
However, Libertad is merely the latest and most public expression of the Mossad’s interest in Israeli tech start-ups, the lion’s share of which are created by veterans of Unit 8200 or other Israeli intelligence agencies. Indeed, former Mossad Director Tamir Pardo stated in 2017 that “everyone” in the Israeli cybertechnology sector is an “alumni” of either Israeli intelligence, like the Mossad, or Israeli military intelligence, like Unit 8200. Pardo even went as far as to say that the Mossad itself is “like a start-up.”
Pardo himself, after leaving his post as Mossad director in 2016, dove straight into the world of Israeli tech start-ups, becoming chairman of Sepio Systems, whose two CEOs are former Unit 8200 officers. Sepio Systems’ advisory board includes the former chief information security officer of the CIA, Robert Bigman; former member of the U.S. Military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Geoff Hancock; and former head of the Israel National Cyber Bureau and veteran of Israeli military intelligence, Rami Efrati. Sepio Systems’ cybersecurity software has been adopted by several banks, telecom and insurance companies, including in the U.S. and Brazil.
Pardo is not the only prominent figure in Israel’s intelligence community to compare Israeli intelligence agencies to tech start-ups. Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman described Israel’s domestic spy agency in similar terms. “The Shin Bet is like an evolving start-up, with unmatched strength,” Argaman stated in a June 2017 speech, as he extolled the agency’s use of “pre-crime” technology to detain Palestinians based on their social media activity.
Argaman, at the time, claimed that more than 2,000 Palestinians, whom he described as “potential lone-wolf terrorists,” had been arrested as a result of these “breakthrough technological advances” that use artificial-intelligence algorithms to monitor the social media accounts of Palestinians, especially younger Palestinians, for the use of “tripwire” phrases that have been used by Palestinians who later committed acts of violence. In the case of those who use such terms, “their phones are tracked to see if they meet other suspects, or leave their districts to move towards potential Israeli targets. In such cases, security forces detain the suspect,” according to a 2017 report on the practice by The Economist.
The road to fascism, paved by a corrupted PROMIS
Though Israeli intelligence’s interest in tech companies goes back several years, there is a well-documented history of Israeli intelligence using bugged software to surveil and gain “backdoor” access to government databases around the world, particularly in the United States.
As was mentioned in Part III of MintPress’ Epstein series, a sinister yet cunning plan was executed to place a backdoor for Israeli intelligence into the Prosecutor’s Management Information System (PROMIS) software, which was then being used by the U.S. Department of Justice and was the envy of government agencies, particularly intelligence agencies, around the world. This bugged version of PROMIS — born out of the collusion between Earl Brian, Ronald Reagan’s then-envoy to Iran, and Rafi Eitan, then-director of the now-defunct Israeli intelligence agency Lekem — was seeded around the world by Brian’s company Hadron as well as by Mossad-linked media mogul Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time girlfriend and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell.
After this first PROMIS “backdoor” was discovered, Israel would again gain access to sensitive U.S. government communications, as well as civilian communications, thanks to the collusion between Israeli intelligence and Israeli telecom and tech companies, especially Amdocs and Comverse Infosys (now Verint), that were operating throughout the United States. Today, Unit 8200-linked start-ups appear to have taken up the torch.
While the PROMIS software is perhaps best known for offering Israeli intelligence a backdoor into as many as 80 intelligence agencies and other sensitive locations around the world for nearly a decade, it was also used for a very different purpose by prominent officials linked to Iran-Contra.
One key Iran-Contra figure — Lt. Col. Oliver North, then serving on the National Security Council — decided to use PROMIS neither for espionage nor for foreign policy. Instead, North turned PROMIS’ power against Americans, particularly perceived dissidents, a fact that remained unknown for years.
Beginning in 1982, as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, North used the PROMIS software at a 6,100-square-foot “command center” in the Department of Justice, as well as at a smaller operations room at the White House, to compile a list of American dissidents and “potential troublemakers” if the COG protocol was ever invoked.
According to a senior government official with a high-ranking security clearance and service in five presidential administrations who spoke to Radar in 2008, this was:
A database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.”
In 1993, Wired described North’s use of PROMIS in compiling this database as follows:
Using PROMIS, sources point out, North could have drawn up lists of anyone ever arrested for a political protest, for example, or anyone who had ever refused to pay their taxes. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s enemies list or Sen. Joe McCarthy’s blacklist look downright crude.”
The COG program defined this “time of panic” as “a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent, or national opposition to a US military invasion abroad,” whereby the government would suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and incarcerate perceived dissidents and other “unfriendlies” in order to prevent the government’s (or then-serving administration’s) overthrow.
This secretive database has often been referred to as “Main Core” by government insiders and, most troubling of all, it still exists today. Journalist Christ Ketcham, citing senior government officials, reported in 2008 that, at that time, Main Core was believed to contain the names of as many as 8 million Americans. Eleven years later, it is highly likely that the number of Americans included in the Main Core database has grown considerably.
Author and investigative journalist Tim Shorrock also covered other disturbing aspects of the evolution of Main Core back in 2008 for Salon. At the time, Shorrock reported that the George W. Bush administration was believed to have used Main Core to guide its domestic surveillance activities following the September 11 attacks.
Citing “several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations,” Shorrock further noted that Main Core — as it was 11 years ago at the time his report was published — was said to contain “a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies.”
Bill Hamilton, former NSA intelligence officer and the original creator of the PROMIS software, told Shorrock at the time that he believed that “U.S. intelligence uses PROMIS as the primary software for searching the Main Core database” and had been told as much by an intelligence official in 1992 and an NSA official in 1995. Dan Murphy, former deputy director at the CIA, had told Hamilton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS was “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem.” “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core,” Hamilton had told Shorrock.
Though most reporting on Main Core, from the time its existence was first revealed to the present, has treated the database as something used by the U.S. government and U.S. intelligence for domestic purposes, MintPress has learned that Israeli intelligence was also involved with the creation of the Main Core database. According to a former U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community’s use of PROMIS and Main Core from the 1980s to 2000s, Israeli intelligence played a role in the U.S. government’s deployment of PROMIS as the software used for the Main Core domestic surveillance database system.
Israeli intelligence remained involved with Main Core at the time of the August 1991 death of journalist Danny Casolaro, who was investigating not only the government’s misuse of the stolen PROMIS software but also the Main Core database. This same official, who chose to remain anonymous, told MintPress that, shortly before his death, Casolaro had obtained copies of computer printouts from the PROMIS-based Main Core domestic surveillance database system from NSA whistleblower Alan Standorf, who was found murdered a few months before Casolaro’s lifeless body would be found in a West Virginia hotel room.
The source also stated that Main Core’s contents had been used for the political blackmail of members of Congress and their staff, journalists, and others by Walter Raymond, a senior CIA covert operator in psyops and disinformation who served on President Reagan’s National Security Council during and after Main Core’s creation. If used for this purpose by Raymond in the 1980s, Main Core has also likely been used by other individuals with access to the database for blackmailing purposes in the years since.
Given that Israeli intelligence was known to have placed a backdoor into the PROMIS software, before it was marketed and sold around the world by Earl Brian and Robert Maxwell, its role in the U.S. government’s decision to use PROMIS in the creation of Main Core suggests that Israeli intelligence likely advocated for the version of PROMIS containing this backdoor, thereby giving Israeli intelligence access to Main Core. Given that Reagan aides and officials colluded with Israeli “spymaster” Rafi Eitan in his efforts to create a backdoor into the software for Israeli military intelligence, the use of this version of PROMIS in the Main Core database is certainly plausible.
Furthermore, the fact that Israeli intelligence was known to be involved in Main Core nearly a decade after its creation suggests that Israeli intelligence may have played a role in certain aspects of the database, such as the criteria used to flag Americans as “unfriendly,” and — like Walter Raymond — may have used information in the database to blackmail Americans. In addition, the fact that the cooperation between U.S. and Israeli intelligence, particularly between Unit 8200 and the NSA, has only grown since 1991 further suggests that Israeli involvement in Main Core continues to the present.
While Main Core’s very existence is troubling for many reasons, the alleged involvement of a foreign intelligence service in the creation, expansion and maintenance of a database with personal details and potentially damaging information on millions of Americans targeted for detention or increased surveillance in times of crisis is chilling. It is especially so considering that the Trump administration’s latest proposals to prevent mass shootings before they occur are likely to use Main Core to flag certain Americans for increased surveillance or potentially detention, as was done by the George W. Bush administration following the September 11 attacks.
It appears that Main Core serves a dual purpose; first as a mass targeted surveillance system to crush dissent during times of “national crisis” — whether spontaneous or engineered — and, second, as a massive blackmail database used to keep every potential opponent in line during non-emergencies.
Peter Thiel’s Seeing Stone
As was mentioned earlier in this report, Palantir — the company co-founded by Peter Thiel — is set to profit handsomely from the Trump administration’s plans to use its “pre-crime” technology, which is already used by police departments throughout the country and also used to track Americans based on the company’s integrative data-mining approach. Palantir, named for the “seeing stones” in the Lord of the Rings novels, also markets software to foreign (and domestic) intelligence agencies that predicts the likelihood that an individual will commit an act of terrorism or violence.
Aside from its “pre-crime” products, Palantir has come under fire in recent years as a result of the company’s contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where it created an intelligence system known as Investigative Case Management (ICM). The IB Times describedICM as “a vast ‘ecosystem’ of data to help immigration officials in identifying targets and creating cases against them” and also “provides ICE agents with access to databases managed by other federal agencies.” ICM further gives ICE access to “targets’ personal and sensitive information, such as background on schooling, employment, family relationships, phone records, immigration history, biometrics data, criminal records as well as home and work addresses.” In other words, Palantir’s ICM is essentially a “Main Core” for immigrants.
Notably, part of Oliver North’s original intentions in “Main Core” was to track immigrants then coming from Central America as well as Americans who opposed Reagan era policy with respect to Central America. At that time, Main Core was believed to be controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
VICE News reported in July that the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which is run by DHS, “serves around 300 communities in northern California and is what is known as a ‘fusion center,’ a Department of Homeland Security intelligence center that aggregates and investigates information from state, local, and federal agencies, as well as some private entities, into large databases that can be searched using software like Palantir. “ VICE further noted that this center alone used Palantir to surveil as many as 8 million Ameicans. There are many more such DHS “fusion centers” throughout the United States.
If the Trump administration moves forward with its proposal of employing technology to detect potential mass shooters before they strike, Palantir’s technology is set to be used, given that it has already been used by U.S. law enforcement and U.S. intelligence to determine which people run “the highest risk of being involved in gun violence,” according to an investigation of Palantir by The Verge. Furthermore, Palantir’s close ties to the Trump administration make the company’s role in a future nationwide “pre-crime” prevention system based on technology appear inevitable.
Palantir founder Peter Thiel listens to Trump during a meeting at Trump Tower in New York, Dec. 14, 2016. Evan Vucci | AP
Worse still is the apparent overlap between Palantir and Main Core. Palantir — which has obvious similarities to PROMIS — is already known to use its software to track potential terror threats, including domestic terror threats, and a category of people it refers to as “subversives.” Palantir’s tracking of these individuals “is all done using prediction.” Palantir’s close ties to the U.S. intelligence community suggest that Palantir may already have access to the Main Core database. Tim Shorrock told MintPress that Palantir’s use of Main Core is “certainly possible,” particularly in light of the company’s use of the term “subversive” to describe a category of people that its software tracks.
Palantir also has alleged ties to Israeli intelligence, as there have long been suspicions that Israeli intelligence has used Palantir as part of its AI “pre-crime” algorithms targeting Palestinians after Palantir opened a research and development (R&D) center in Israel in 2013. The current head of Palantir Israel, Hamultal Meridor, previously founded a brain-machine interface organization and was senior director of web intelligence at Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), which has deep connections to Unit 8200, a history of espionage in the United States and was one of the two companies contracted by the NSA to insert a “backdoor” into the U.S. telecommunications system and popular products of major American tech companies.
Given the above, Peter Thiel’s 2018 decision to fund Carbyne, the Unit 8200-linked start-up that markets itself as a technological solution to mass shootings in the U.S., strongly suggests that Thiel has been anticipating for some time the now-public efforts of the Trump administration to employ “pre-crime” technology to track and target Americans who show signs of “mental illness” and “violent tendencies.”
A nightmare even Orwell could not have predicted
In early August, in the wake of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart, President Trump called on big tech companies to collaborate with the Justice Department in the creation of software that “stops mass murders before they start” by detecting potential mass shooters before they cnm act. Though Trump’s ideas were short on specifics, there is now a new proposal that would create a new government agency that will use data gathered from civilian electronic devices to identify “neurobehavioral” warning signs, thereby flagging “potential shooters” for increased surveillance and potentially detention.
This new agency, as proposed by the foundation led by former NBC Universal president and vice chairman of General Electric Robert Wright, would be known as the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) and would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Per the proposal, recently detailed by the Washington Post, the flagship program of HARPA would be “Safe Home” (Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes), which would use “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” specifically “advanced analytical tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
The program would cost an estimated $60 million over four years and would use data from “Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home” and other consumer electronic devices, as well as information provided by health-care providers to identify who may be a threat.
The Washington Post reported that President Trump has reacted “very positively” to the proposal and that he was “sold on the concept.” The Post also noted that Wright sees the president’s daughter, Ivanka, as “the most effective champion of the proposal and has previously briefed her on HARPA himself.” Ivanka has previously been cited as a driving force behind some of her father’s policy decisions, including his decision to bomb Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack in 2017.
Liz Fed — president of the Susan Wright Foundation, which is led by Robert Wright and created the proposal for HARPA and “Safe Home” — told The Post that the proposal emulated DARPA because “DARPA is a brilliant model that works. They have developed the most transformational capabilities in the world for national security…We’re not leveraging the tools and technologies available to us to improve and save lives.” Fed further asserted that DARPA’s technological approach had yet to be applied to the field of healthcare.
For anyone familiar with DARPA, such claims should immediately sound loud alarm bells, especially since DARPA is already developing its own solution to “mental health” issues in the form of a “brain-machine interface” as part of its N3 program. That program, according to reports, involves “noninvasive and ‘minutely’ invasive neural interfaces to both read and write into the brain,” help distance soldiers “from the emotional guilt of warfare” by “clouding their perception” and “to program artificial memories of fear, desire, and experiences directly into the brain.” Though N3 is intended to improve the prowess of American soldiers, it is also set to be used as a means of pursuing DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) project, which aims to “to develop a tiny, implanted chip in the skull to treat psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, PTSD and major depression.”
Given that HARPA’s lead scientific adviser is Dr. Geoffrey Ling, former director and founder of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), which “merges biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security,” it seems likely that DARPA’s neurological-focused research programs, like SUBNETS and N3, would be folded into HARPA’s portfolio, making the proposed agency’s approach to mental health very questionable indeed.
Aside from the dystopian nature of both DARPA and potentially HARPA’s approach to mental health, there is grave cause for concern regarding the Trump administration’s moves to address U.S. mass shooting events by implementing pre-crime technology based on artificial intelligence, data-mining and mass surveillance, technologies already laying in wait thanks to companies like Palantir and numerous Israeli tech start-ups led by former Unit 8200 officers.
With companies like Carbyne — with its ties to both the Trump administration and to Israeli intelligence — and the Mossad-linked Gabriel also marketing themselves as “technological” solutions to mass shootings while also doubling as covert tools for mass data collection and extraction, the end result is a massive surveillance system so complete and so dystopian that even George Orwell himself could not have predicted it.
Following another catastrophic mass shooting or crisis event, aggressive efforts will likely follow to foist these “solutions” on a frightened American public by the very network connected, not only to Jeffrey Epstein, but to a litany of crimes and a frightening history of plans to crush internal dissent and would-be dissenters in the United States.