Mark Baer, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gerrick were part of a secret unit that helped the United Arab Emirates spy on its enemies
Washington – Three former US intelligence operatives who worked as hackers for hire United Arab EmiratesThe Justice Department said on Tuesday, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors to pay a fine of $1.685 million and avoid trial.
Defendants Mark Baer, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gerrick were part of a secret unit called Project Raven, first reported by Reuters, that helped the United Arab Emirates spy on its enemies.
The Justice Department said in court documents filed Tuesday that the three reached a settlement known as the Deferred Prosecution Agreement with US prosecutors, who accused them of conspiring to violate hacking laws.
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The trio also agreed to grant foreign or US security clearance and face future employment sanctions.
They agreed to “cooperate fully” and “provide complete, complete and true information to the FBI or any other US government organization” and to provide documents as demanded by the government.
Acting US Assistant Attorney General Mark Jay Lesco said in a news release: “This agreement is the first of its kind to investigate two different types of criminal activity: providing unlicensed export-controlled defense services in the support of computers. A commercial company that manufactures, supports and manufactures operating systems specifically designed to allow others to access data without authorization from computers around the world, including network exploitation, and the United States.”
Reuters previously reported that Baer was a program manager for Project Raven. Adams and Gerike were the operators in this effort, helping UAE hack its targets.
Text messages sent to Baird and Adams requesting comment remained unanswered. A social media message to Garrick also did not elicit an immediate response.
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Lawyers for the three defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The court document states: “The defendants used illegal, fraudulent and criminal means, including the use of advanced covert hacking systems, using computer exploits obtained from the United States and elsewhere, the United States of America.” and elsewhere to gain unauthorized access to protected computers and to obtain information illegally.”
Lori Stroud, a former US National Security Agency analyst who worked on Project Raven and then as a whistleblower, said on Tuesday: “The Bureau’s dedication to justice is commendable, and the responsibilities of the agents assigned to this case are commendable.” I have great respect for that.”
“However, the most important catalyst for bringing this issue to light was investigative journalism – timely, technical know-how created awareness and momentum to ensure justice,” she said.
Court documents detail how the three men helped the UAE design, procure and deploy hacking capabilities over several years. His victims reportedly included US citizens, which Reuters previously reported based on information provided by Stroud.
Former program handlers told Reuters they believed they were abiding by the law because senior officials had promised them that the US government had approved the work.
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The documents describe how Project Raven operatives acquired and operated an elite hacking tool called Karma, which Reuters reported was used to remotely break into iPhones. The Justice Department said the hacking tool was obtained from two unnamed US companies.
Karma was used to break into the iPhones of prominent activists who spoke out against the UAE’s human rights record, Reuters reported.