The revelations come only months after US contractors in the UAE were reportedly helping to spy on US citizens, according to a January report from Chris Bing, a cybersecurity reporter at Reuters.
“In the Spring of 2017, as America’s closest gulf allies launched into conflict, blockading Qatar, Project Raven sprang into action. In this operation, a team of former American spies – turned mercenaries – directly undermined U.S. national security interests in the Middle East,” Bing tweeted today.
The goal in targeting Arab media figures, including Al Jazeera’s Faisal al-Qassem and Beruit-based BBC talk show host Giselle Khoury, was to determine whether Qatar was using the Qatar-funded Al Jazeera network to foment civil and political unrest in the Middle East.
A former Project Raven operative told Bing that their objective “was to find material showing that Qatar’s royal family had influenced the coverage of Al Jazeera and other media outlets, and uncover any ties between the influential TV network and the Muslim Brotherhood. Reuters couldn’t determine what data Raven obtained.”
The news prompted concern from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which reported that when CPJ attempted to contact the UAE Embassy in Washington, it was told that questions should be submitted via email.
“What we’ve learned about Project Raven raises significant concerns over the lengths to which the UAE will go in targeting journalists, and the involvement of former US intelligence officials is also disturbing,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour in Washington, D.C.
“Emirati officials must stop targeting the press at home and abroad, and the US must make it clear to their allies that hacking journalists’ phones is not a legitimate counter-terror strategy.”