An Israeli private spy company attempted to influence a local US election as part of a larger attempt to infiltrate American politics, according to a report from The New Yorker.
They used fake websites, social-media posts, and staged interactions as part of an effort to influence the public perception of specific targets, the report said.
The group tried numerous times to work with Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 and engaged in other efforts that targeted the US State Department, the report said.
Psy-Group, a defunct private intelligence agency staffed with former Israeli spies, attempted to influence at least one local US election and other domestic affairs, according to a report from The New Yorker’s Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow. The company even courted President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and is now under investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the report said.
The company attempted to pitch to the Trump campaign through advisers Newt Gingrich, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr., but was eventually rebuffed by the campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale.
But according to the report, Psy-Group wasn’t finished there. The company went on to use fake websites, online avatars, and staged in-person interactions as part of an effort to influence the results of local elections or change the perception of certain events in the US, at the behest of a series of private clients.
The revelation shows that the disturbing efforts to influence US elections weren’t limited to the 2016 presidential election and that state actors weren’t the only perpetrators.
Psy-Group was reportedly paid $230,000 to influence the election of a California hospital board
The Tulare Local Healthcare District board election in Tulare, California, in 2017 was the primary subject of Farrow and Entous’ investigation and was the focus of a $230,000 campaign by Psy-Group.
Psy-Group was paid by the physician Yorai Benzeevi, who ran the Tulare hospital, to conduct “a coordinated intelligence operation and influence campaign” that would stop a recall bid on the board member Parmod Kumar, according to The New Yorker.
Psy-Group, owned by the wealthy, well-connected Israeli son of a mining magnate, dug up information on the opposition candidate, Senovia Gutiérrez, and smeared her on a series of newly created websites, including Tularespeaks.com, Tulareleaks.com, and Draintulareswamp.com, The New Yorker report said.
According to Gutiérrez, in-person operations were conducted as well. She said that one day, a stranger knocked on her door and handed her an envelope while someone standing next to an SUV across the street was taking pictures. The pictures reportedly ended up online accompanied with accusations of bribery.
The day before the election, Gutiérrez’s son’s house burned down. He suspected foul play, but authorities said there wasn’t evidence to support that, The New Yorker report said.
According to the report, the campaign prompted Psy-Group to pitch more than 50 other political groups and campaigns at similar price points, but nothing stuck.
But the one election wasn’t the full extent of their activities.
Psy-Group is said to have targeted anti-Israel college activists at the behest of concerned parents
Psy-Group’s other notable domestic campaign, according to the report, was …read more
Source:: Businessinsider – Politics