Whoops, I Accidentally Helped Start the Offensive Intel Branch of a Foreign Intel Service

Conference:  BlackHat USA 2021



Lessons learned from working in the intelligence community and the importance of being aware of potential manipulation and having an exit strategy when working overseas.
  • Keywords and computational deltas can reveal patterns in online chatter
  • Data science is used to collect information on known targets and their associates
  • Intelligence professionals may be manipulated to perform offensive operations against individuals who are not actual threats
  • Having an exit strategy is important when working overseas, especially with family
  • Vetted leadership is crucial when working in a foreign country
The speaker shared a story about a journalist who was falsely portrayed as a national security threat in the UAE, leading to the use of fake personas to target him and collect information. It was later discovered that the journalist was actually a human rights activist. This highlights the importance of being aware of potential manipulation and questioning the motives behind offensive operations.


When I left the service and the NSA, I was offered a job that seemed WAY too good to be true. Turns out it was. This talk will discuss how I came to work on the UAE's Project Raven, what signs I missed because I was being naive, and how other transitioning intelligence personnel can avoid making the same mistake.Project Raven is discussed in episode 47 on Darknet Diaries, has been reported about extensively by Chris Bing at Reuters and Nicole Perloth in her book "This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends".



Post a comment

Related work