Sometimes it feels like we cover the same stories, days in a row – all deserving coverage, but very little new stuff arises. Not today.
Get familiar with the name “Wikistrat,” if for no other reason than the fact that Robert Mueller is intensely familiar with the company and its highly peculiar nature, including the fact that in the fall of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and other key aides to the future president reportedly met in Trump Tower with Joel Zamel, the founder of a company.
The Daily Beast has a must read thorough expose into the company that practically screams “Private Spy Agency for Hire.”
Wikistrat bills itself as a “crowdsourced” geopolitical analysis firm based in Washington, D.C. But interviews with current and former employees and documents reviewed by The Daily Beast tell a different story: that the vast majority of Wikistrat’s clients were foreign governments; that Wikistrat is, for all intents and purposes, an Israeli firm; and that the company’s work was not just limited to analysis. It also engaged in intelligence collection.
Yes, and a company whose chairman held many meetings with the Trump campaign senior aides throughout the fall of 2016. One must repeat that sentence after nearly every paragraph read in the expose, because the picture painted is just so bizarre.
Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Wikistrat and Zamel, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the special counsel’s probe expands into Middle Eastern governments’ attempts to influence American politics….
But despite the firm’s purported commitment to “transparent, open-source methodologies,” the documents provided to The Daily Beast show something different: that the company exploits “in country… informants” as sources.
“Joel ran a very compartmentalized organization,” one former high-ranking staffer said.
“I felt like I had no real visibility into what the company was really doing,” another former senior employee said.
“He was very secretive, everything was highly compartmentalized… It was clear that he kept the entire company in the dark. Even [company executives] didn’t have the whole picture,” a former employee said, adding that if someone took a photo at a company gathering, Zamel would leave the room.
“He never allowed anyone to get near his phone, his laptop, stuff like that.”
“Stuff like that” is the stuff that makes me wonder what the hell they were doing within the Trump campaign. The intersection between the lawless Trumps, Bannon and Cambridge Analytica, the Russians who hacked into many state electoral databases, and now the Middle Eastern angle, Israeli spy agencies and rich oil oligarchs from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and even Qatar makes my head spin. Sometimes I wonder if we’re all babes in the woods, believing that our votes meant anything in the last election.
Remember, Trump won with the precision of a laser scalpel. Just 70,000 votes across three states. It keeps me up at night wondering if I’m a conspiracy theorist, or a naive and oblivious stooge.