Cambridge Analytica-linked firm held data-gathering op for foreign intel in Yemen – Max Blumenthal

Cambridge Analytica-linked firm held data-gathering op for foreign intel in Yemen – Max Blumenthal
Cambridge Analytica’s parent company gathered data for Western spy agencies to single out men with jihadist sentiments as a part of “counter-insurgency” operation, journalist Max Blumenthal told RT.

While the Cambridge Analytica scandal is still making waves, it has emerged that its parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), conducted research for foreign intelligence in Yemen in 2009 under its Project Titania. Hired staffers were tasked with making a psychological portrait of “young males who are deemed susceptible for jihadist activity,” Blumenthal said in an interview to RT.

The journalist legally obtained the documents and leaked them, exposing the details of the operation.

“Basically, [the leaked docs] show a counter-insurgency operation where staffers from SCL and a US private intelligence agency called Archimedes enter Yemen through the British embassy and then start partnering with local researchers… [They] conduct research on young males who are deemed susceptible for jihadist activity,” Blumenthal told RT.

The findings were then presented to “whoever their patron was, apparently the British... looks like MI6,” according to the journalist. The British intelligence agency was apparently not alone in resorting to the help of SCL group, further investigation shows. In 2017, the US State Department handed out two “lucrative contracts” to SCL “to carry out what they considered to be a counter-propaganda operation.”

This was also confirmed by US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. In March, she said that the Global Engagement Center started cooperating with SCL “in a very specific way to interview people who we thought were at risk as a part of our way of retraining people’s minds or getting people to not jump into terrorism” in 2016. She also pointed the finger at the UK as one of the other governments doing the same thing. 

“As secretive as MI6 or the CIA can be, it’s often more convenient to turn to private intelligence agencies and outsource your intelligence collection… as well as your influence operations. It’s how the SCL group marketed itself to intelligence agencies and government groups around the world,” Blumenthal said.

The spy agencies are aware that there are plenty of unknown private intelligence firms operating beyond a legal framework. The problem is that they have no accountability for the results of their actions as they can bring instability to a conflict zone where they are operating, according to Blumenthal.

“There is a gigantic web of firms whose names we don’t know, who are operating in the darkness by definition and they are contracted by the governments to not only spy... but to export those methods back to our electoral systems in the West.”

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