The US Justice Department reported on 14 September that three former intelligence agents who worked as hackers for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to collaborate with federal prosecutors to avoid going to trial on charges of conspiring to violate hacking laws.
The three defendants, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke, were hired by the UAE after their work contracts with US spy agencies on the clandestine Project Raven came to an end, allowing Abu Dhabi to engage in surveillance of other governments as well as militants and human rights activists critical of the emirates.
Over a dozen former US spies were hired by the UAE to work on the surveillance project.
The US Justice Department announced that the defendants entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, which calls for their complete cooperation to provide “full, complete, and truthful information to the FBI or any other US government organization,” and to provide any documents sought by the government.
They also agreed to pay fines of $1.685 million.
According to a Reuters investigation into Project Raven, the agents used “an arsenal of cyber tools, including a cutting-edge espionage platform known as Karma, in which Raven operatives say they hacked into the iPhones of hundreds of activists, political leaders, and suspected terrorists.”
According to court papers, the Karma hacking tool was acquired from two unnamed US companies.
The documents also describe how the former US spies helped the UAE design, procure, and deploy hacking capabilities over multiple years.
Their victims included US citizens, with the spies alleging their Emirati superiors promised them that Washington had approved their work.