The UAE Is Paying Ex-CIA Officers To Construct A Spy Empire In The Gulf

Not removed from the northeastern Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi, in a typical fashionable Gulf villa framed on one facet by a chic swimming pool, Westerners are educating Emiratis the instruments of recent spycraft.

The day begins with the fundamentals: A 10 a.m. seminar on Sunday morning is titled “What’s intelligence?” On Thursday, the recruits learn to function in four- to six-man surveillance groups. Over the course of the primary week, they embark on scavenger hunts supposed to hone their problem-solving expertise. The next weeks get extra superior – college students are schooled on creating cowl identities to make use of when attending galas with diplomats, they’re taught tips on how to groom intelligence belongings, they usually watch skits about recruiting Libyan sources.

The Emirati recruits additionally practice at one other web site about 30 minutes exterior downtown Abu Dhabi known as “The Academy” – full with gun ranges, barracks, and driving programs – harking back to the CIA’s “Farm” at Camp Peary, a coaching facility situated in southeastern Virginia.

The small print of the coaching are contained in an official course schedule reviewed by Overseas Coverage and have been described by former U.S. intelligence officers who’ve been concerned within the effort. The amenities and programs are a part of the United Arab Emirates’ nascent efforts to create knowledgeable intelligence cadre modeled after the West’s.

Former CIA and authorities officers have been drawn to the Gulf nation by the promise of fascinating work and, maybe much more importantly, profitable careers. “The cash was unbelievable,” one former worker instructed FP. “It was $1,000 a day – you would reside in a villa or in a five-star lodge in Abu Dhabi.”

The important thing determine behind this rising intelligence coaching operation, in keeping with a number of sources, is Larry Sanchez, a former intelligence officer who helped kickstart a controversial partnership between the CIA and the New York Police Division that attempted to pre-empt the radicalization of potential terrorists by monitoring folks – a lot of them Muslims – in mosques, bookstores, and different locations round New York. Sanchez, a veteran of the CIA clandestine providers, has been working for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi within the United Arab Emirates for the previous six years to construct giant items of its intelligence providers from the bottom up, six sources with data of the matter inform FP.

However Sanchez is only one of many former Western safety professionals who has made his option to the Gulf nation to supply safety coaching. Erik Prince, the founding father of Blackwater, famously moved to the UAE to create a battalion of international troops serving the crown prince, particulars of which have been first revealed by the New York Instances in 2011. And Richard Clarke, the previous White Home counterterrorism czar, can be a longtime high advisor to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi because the CEO of Good Harbor Safety Danger Administration.

The UAE’s reliance on foreigners to construct its safety establishments just isn’t new, however the Gulf state has often tried to maintain the main points of that assist out of public view, and on the subject of coaching its nascent intelligence operations, particulars have been stored significantly quiet. Nonetheless, using former U.S. intelligence workers to construct up international nations’ spying capabilities continues to be treading into new territory.

Sanchez’s position in offering a blueprint for the UAE’s intelligence operation, making it from entire material, reveals simply how far non-public contractors have gone in promoting expertise acquired from a long time spent working for the U.S. navy and intelligence group. That type of work can be now elevating authorized questions because the U.S. authorities struggles to determine how legal guidelines govern extremely skilled intelligence officers hawking their expertise overseas.

Sanchez declined to touch upon an intensive listing of questions despatched to him by FP.

Six former intelligence officers and contractors described the coaching operation to FP, however they requested anonymity to debate delicate intelligence operations, to defend mates and associates nonetheless working within the UAE, and to guard their future employability.

Two of these interviewed expressed considerations about whether or not the corporate had the right export licenses for the superior coaching, particularly as different worldwide instructors arrived on the scene. Much more regarding for workers was that the government-affiliated UAE firm now concerned in managing the contract, DarkMatter, is at the moment beneath investigation by the FBI.

The FBI instructed FP it doesn’t touch upon ongoing investigations.

Whereas former workers had a variety of views on whether or not the coaching was efficient, authorized, and within the U.S. pursuits, all of them agreed that having non-public contractors create a international intelligence service was doubtless unprecedented.

“The dream” one supply defined, was to assist the UAE create its personal CIA.

Larry Sanchez’s street from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to Abu Dhabi went by means of New York. Throughout a lot of his profession on the CIA, Sanchez labored as an undercover operative working beneath roles in different businesses or organizations. However in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist assaults, George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, despatched Sanchez to work in New York with David Cohen, the deputy commissioner of intelligence on the NYPD.

There was already a casual hyperlink between the CIA and NYPD: Cohen was additionally the previous deputy director of operations on the company. In New York, Sanchez supplied legislation enforcement with real-time intelligence about al-Qaida. The NYPD, in flip, despatched officers to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities, in addition to every other doubtlessly “radicalizing” locations identified by tipsters. The objective was to forestall one other 9/11-type assault.

Whereas Sanchez was on the NYPD, the division additionally had an increasing – and weird – relationship with the UAE. In 2008, the NYPD and the UAE’s authorities struck an intelligence-sharing deal, and New York police arrange a satellite tv for pc workplace in Abu Dhabi. The UAE additionally gave the New York Metropolis Police Basis one million for its intelligence division in 2012, offering funds to allow “the NYPD to station detectives all through the world to work with native legislation enforcement on terrorism associated incidents,” per a public tax submitting.

Throughout his tenure at NYPD, Sanchez developed “an ongoing relationship” with high-level Emirati officers, together with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, in keeping with a former legislation enforcement supply. The Emiratis have been unfamiliar with “the world of intelligence,” the supply defined, and Sanchez went to them and stated, “‘Pay attention, I am not going to be like a few of these different U.S. entities who fly in after which go away, I will likely be right here for you on a regular basis. Name me at three a.m., I am right here.’ . . . He gained them over by his dedication to them.”

Whilst Sanchez constructed up his relationship with the UAE, his work from home was gaining scrutiny. A 2011 CIA inspector common investigation into its officers embedded within the NYPD didn’t discover particular violations of the legislation, however concluded that the notion of coziness between the nation’s high international spy company and a neighborhood home police division was eroding public belief.

The revelation led to main public outcry from civil liberties organizations monitoring privateness after 9/11. The CIA argued its assist didn’t represent spying on Individuals, however civil rights advocates disagreed.

“The CIA just isn’t permitted to interact in home surveillance,” Ginger McCall, then the director of the Digital Privateness Data Middle’s Open Authorities Undertaking, instructed the Instances.

By the point the mud had settled and the CIA determined to finish its program on the NYPD, Sanchez had already made his option to the Center East.

When the Twin Towers fell in New York in 2001, the UAE discovered itself caught up in considerations about worldwide terrorism. The Gulf nation had unknowingly served as a transit hub for the terrorists, and two of the hijackers have been Emiratis. The assaults have been a turning level for the UAE, stated John Alterman, the director of the Center East Program on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research.

“That prompted them to do numerous issues involving non secular organizations throughout the UAE, but in addition on the broad nationwide safety entrance,” he instructed FP. “There was at all times a priority with nationwide safety, however I believe numerous it was actually exacerbated by 9/11.”

The UAE wished to construct up its intelligence infrastructure, and for help it turned to the West. Emirati officers have traditionally aimed to copy the West’s safety buildings as intently as attainable. When formulating their protection technique, the UAE examined Australia, the UK, the USA, and different Western nations.

The draw back of that method, nevertheless, is that the UAE has bought methods, placing them collectively like ill-fitting puzzle items and sometimes missing a central imaginative and prescient and plan, in keeping with these accustomed to their work.

Throughout Sanchez’s time within the UAE, a major Western presence concerned in intelligence coaching was rising. Each Australian and British navy intelligence vets labored there, too. However Sanchez benefited from his private relationship with the ruling household solid throughout his years engaged on counterterrorism in New York Metropolis.

The U.S. authorities has additionally at occasions assisted instantly. In 2010 and 2011, because the Iranians constructed up their cyberattack capabilities, U.S. authorities officers and protection contractors traveled to the UAE and assist practice Emiratis in digital safety and offensive cyber operations. Whereas the U.S. authorities typically embraced the efforts of Gulf nations to construct up their very own cadre with assist from the USA, senior officers drew the road at permitting Americans to take part in offensive cyber operations, i.e., launching assaults.

In late 2011, U.S. authorities advisors and contractors helped arrange the UAE’s equal to the Nationwide Safety Company in the USA, whose title modified to the Nationwide Digital Safety Authority, and now the Indicators Intelligence Company. The USA was concerned in every thing from serving to choose a secure web site with entry to energy and fiber connectivity to figuring out which buildings could be public and which labeled, in keeping with paperwork and slides shared with FP by a former intelligence official.

Round this similar time, Sanchez and his workforce arrived and started educating strategies for home surveillance. As president of the low-profile intelligence contractor CAGN World Ltd., primarily based in Baltimore, Sanchez started manning a workforce of largely former legislation enforcement officers, retired Western intelligence officers, and ex-soldiers to coach the Emiratis on tips on how to be spies and paramilitary operators.

The coaching program, which began as a easy mentorship with the management of the Emirates, grew quicker than anybody concerned may have anticipated. They started to rely closely on Sanchez, to the purpose that they wished him to assemble all its main intelligence businesses.

The programs, some modeled on the CIA’s coaching, are damaged up into completely different segments, together with a “primary intelligence pipeline” involving easy boot camp together with report writing, debriefing, and notice taking, the international intelligence “exterior” program, an FBI/legislation enforcement course, and a paramilitary course, amongst others.

The coaching schedule obtained by FP contains “rabbit runs,” the place the trainer takes college students on a surveillance mission. The scholars are skilled not to attract the eye of one other teacher, who’s attempting to evade them. They’re additionally taught “the artwork of commentary” and tips on how to spot potential targets.

The exterior surveillance programs are practically a precise reproduction of the CIA’s farm coaching. “It is precisely what they train on the farm . . . it is the identical materials,” one former worker of Sanchez’s agency instructed FP. In keeping with a second supply accustomed to the corporate, the trainers’ use of supplies modeled after CIA coaching really drew CIA scrutiny and fury, prompting a overview of this system that finally concluded in Sanchez’s favor.

In a single course, for instance, former Delta Pressure operators train paramilitary expertise, comparable to driving and capturing. “Normally they’re going to go to that course earlier than or after being deployed to a spot like Yemen,” one of many former instructors defined.

Although the talents being taught to Emiratis are just like these taught by the CIA, one former teacher argued the programs have been easier – the type of expertise you’d see on an episode of The Individuals. “The U.S. is operating NASCAR drivers, however we’re educating driver’s ed,” the supply stated.

All these interviewed about their expertise agreed, nevertheless, that whereas the fabric taught ranged in complexity, the scholars themselves have been inexperienced. “It is all extremely new to them,” one of many former instructors stated.

As Sanchez and different former U.S. intelligence contractors expanded their coaching within the UAE, one of many nagging questions for a lot of trainers was over whether or not what they have been doing was utterly authorized. Individuals face restrictions on the type of navy and intelligence coaching they’re allowed to supply overseas, as a result of the U.S. Worldwide Visitors in Arms Laws, a posh algorithm, classifies such coaching as “exports.”

Individuals who run afoul of these laws threat prosecution.

Sanchez’s agency, CAGN World, obtained an export license from the State Division to conduct primary safety and intelligence coaching when it began. But it surely got here beneath overview final yr by a number of authorities businesses, together with the State Division and the CIA. Some instructors have been involved the overview needed to do with the course increasing past its remit, although one supply stated it had extra to do with a missed fee to the State Division and CIA frustration over use of coaching supplies just like its personal. The overview seems to have been resolved.

The State Division declined to touch upon the file.

Sanchez’s work expanded from home intelligence programs centered on inside surveillance and threats like al-Islah, a UAE Islamist group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Within the final six months or so, Sanchez and his workforce have regarded outward within the goals of molding a brand new international intelligence service by an “exterior” course, centered on threats past the Gulf nation’s borders in international locations together with Yemen, Iran, Syria, Qatar, Eritrea, and Libya.

The Emiratis “reside in a foul neighborhood,” one of many sources famous. They see Yemen as a “failed state,” commonly confront al-Qaida leaders, and worry uncertainty in Somalia and Oman. Their battle with Iran is “so deep it is at all times going to be there,” the supply continued.

The Emiratis are mates of the USA, however they’re cautious the West will abandon them sometime, the supply defined. They thought, “We have to begin defending ourselves.”

Even because the UAE produces newly minted spies, deploying them abroad is not assured, two sources accustomed to the coaching program famous. The UAE is not constantly funding embassies in these international locations, so there is not the type of crucial bodily assist to utterly get this system off the bottom, particularly in bigger, extra security-conscious nations like Iran.

Whereas dreaming up a surveillance panopticon in an autocratic nation may appear to be a wierd retirement plan for a former CIA operative, Sanchez shared related safety considerations because the UAE authorities. Potential enemies, whether or not Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, or al-Qaida, have been excessive on the UAE’s listing of potential threats. Equally, Sanchez “at all times had a stage of concern in regards to the Brotherhood and the Iranians,” stated the previous legislation enforcement supply. “He felt he was doing good.”

He was additionally doing properly. Sanchez owns a luxurious fishing boat gifted to him by the crown prince, 4 sources instructed FP.

And it is not simply Sanchez and the UAE management that shares these considerations; high D.C. policymakers are centered on related threats. “Most of our targets are suitable,” one of many former trainers and a former intelligence official instructed FP.

Sanchez’s work within the UAE just isn’t with out considerations, nevertheless. From the beginning, one of many questions amongst some within the intelligence group was whether or not the UAE regime brandishes reliable critics as terrorists or international brokers. “The UAE claims anybody towards the regime is Iranian or Persian-influenced . . . both that or the Muslim Brotherhood,” the previous intelligence official with data of the area instructed FP.

Even because it builds establishments modeled after the West, the UAE additionally has a repute for crushing political dissent. Human rights teams have documented instances of arbitrary detention and torture of activists and dissidents. Most notably, the federal government has used a few of its imported surveillance instruments to focus on Ahmed Mansoor, a distinguished activist who has been detained since March.

However intelligence officers and former trainers interviewed by FP stated the coaching course is concentrated on international threats, not political opponents, and on constructing intelligence expertise, not planning operations. “I by no means noticed them apply the capabilities they’re nonetheless growing to . . . defend the regime,” one supply stated.

“Their human rights file is an issue, however civil liberties aren’t outlined the best way they’re right here,” stated Mark Lowenthal, the proprietor of the Intelligence and Safety Academy, an intelligence consulting firm that advises firms and governments all over the world.

Lowenthal served because the assistant director for evaluation and manufacturing on the CIA within the early 2000s, and he directed the employees of the Home Everlasting Choose Committee on Intelligence. “The thought of different firms or international locations coming to us for assist just isn’t new . . . this has been occurring for a really very long time,” he stated. “Intelligence providers cooperate.”

Intelligence cooperation is probably not new, however using non-public contractors to supply that intelligence coaching continues to be a comparatively new phenomenon, and never one that everybody is snug with. U.S. intelligence workers working within the UAE tended to keep away from direct contact with Sanchez or his firm, the previous legislation enforcement supply famous. They need to keep away from the looks of “impropriety” by working with him, even if CIA and State are instantly concerned in approving export licenses.

Even when CIA workers haven’t got direct contact with Sanchez, the company additionally does not seem to have an issue together with his work. In keeping with three sources, the CIA station chief in Abu Dhabi was properly conscious of Sanchez’s mission – actually, the station chief’s spouse labored for Sanchez for a time.

The CIA declined to remark.

The UAE Embassy in Washington didn’t reply to a number of requests for touch upon any of the problems referring to American intelligence contractors. An electronic mail despatched to a press workplace for the UAE authorities went unanswered.

However they may not want to fret about Sanchez within the UAE anymore, as he might quickly retire or draw again the time he spends there after inside disputes, a number of sources famous – relying on the decision.

There’s been excessive turnover in latest months over management squabbles; this system is bleeding instructors. “There are numerous huge egos on the market and dangerous administration,” one former worker stated. Whereas Sanchez drew numerous high-level former officers, some former CIA chiefs of station included, a lot of these folks didn’t keep lengthy.

One of many largest causes for the excessive turnover, sources instructed FP, was a one other former U.S. intelligence official Sanchez employed accountable for operations. In keeping with two sources, the official has commonly fired instructors and created a poisonous work surroundings. That official didn’t reply to request for remark.

The corporate paying the payments and offering management for the intelligence coaching contract has since modified twice, in keeping with two former workers and one supply with data of the area.

An Emirati firm known as LUAA, manned by a former British Particular Air Service official, took over final spring. A 3rd Emirati agency, a subsidiary of an organization known as DarkMatter, which works for the UAE authorities on cybersecurity and intelligence, is now closely concerned.

LUAA’s possession made some trainers uncomfortable. Since LUAA was an Emirati firm, American workers have been uncertain if it’d complicate their capacity to keep up a safety clearance.

Within the meantime, the intelligence coaching program continues to morph. In keeping with two sources, CAGN World and Sanchez are each on the outs after a falling out with Emirati officers, and DarkMatter, which is beneath FBI investigation, is in cost now. DarkMatter declined to touch upon its ongoing operations however defined that nations and companies searching for “knowledgeable cyber safety and intelligence functionality” are a “good enterprise alternative” for the corporate.

As for the Individuals who helped construct the UAE’s intelligence operations, there’s at all times the subsequent program. Two sources famous that there is been a stalled years-long effort to convey an identical intelligence coaching program to Saudi Arabia.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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