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Why the Ex-Spooks Who Hacked Americans in Project Raven Are Getting Off So Easy

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It’s a classic story of what happens when spies go rogue, but instead of the typically draconian punishments associated with treason, three former U.S. cyberoperatives who worked for the United Arab Emirates after leaving government service are getting off with just a fine.

The three men—Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Dan Gericke—have agreed to pay $1,685,000 to avoid prison time, according to court filings. In doing so, they’ve acknowledged they committed hacking crimes and violated U.S. laws meant to restrict the export of military technology to foreign governments, after they left the intelligence community and military to hack journalists, activists, and dissidents—some of whom were American citizens.

But because they have agreed to pay the fine and “cooperate fully” with investigators—and never again obtain security clearances, which will ostensibly keep them away from classified materials—prosecutors have agreed to drop all charges in three years.

Part of the soft punishment comes from the murkiness that accompanies leaving government service and seeking a new career.

The program the three men worked for was called Project Raven, which was an effort from the United Arab Emirates to hire former U.S. cyberspecialists and use their expertise to hack certain vulnerable targets.

The UAE program, first revealed by a Reuters investigation in 2019, took shape over multiple years, poaching approximately a dozen ex-National Security Agency employees and other contractors and shuffling them between a series of companies that provided the UAE with surveillance and hacking capabilities.

And the activity has raised predictably ethical questions and the eyebrows of lawmakers.

Paul Kurtz, one former participant in an early iteration of the project, said in 2019 that he thought there ought to be more oversight on these kinds of activities where U.S. intelligence community know-how on hacking seeps out into other governments’ hacking operations, according to Reuters. But no law in particular barred them from sharing their offensive cyberoperations knowledge or skills with foreign governments, experts say.

The news of the repercussions for the men is the latest puzzle piece to fall into place about the storied Project Raven. But the dangling promise of no criminal prosecution and a fine that amounts to one or two years of the men’s salaries is leaving some questioning whether the punishment goes far enough.

In the halls of Congress and across the Biden administration, the whole chain of events is leaving some wondering whether the........

© The Daily Beast

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