You'd be forgiven for thinking that the story was the paranoid raving of the strangest of conspiracy theorists, but it's true; alleged multiple-rapist and disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein really did hire former agents of Israel's Mossad spy agency to snoop on his accusers and on journalists who were planning to report the story that has rocked the world since the start of October.
In a long and meticulous investigative report published by The New Yorker earlier this month, journalist Ronan Farrow broke the news that Weinstein hired Israel's Black Cube to spy on Rose McGowan – who accuses him of rape – and on Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York magazine whose story on Weinstein was ultimately spiked by his editors.
Hired via Weinstein's lawyer — to ensure the secrecy provided by attorney-client privilege — the Israeli firm went to extreme lengths to get dirt on McGowan. According to The New Yorker report, the firm dispatched a former Israeli military officer to pose as a women's rights activist, whilst hinting to Wallace that she also had an allegation to make against Weinstein.
The women used the false name "Diana Filip" and gained McGowan's trust while pressing her subtly for information. According to the report, her employer, Black Cube, seemed to have obtained half of a draft manuscript of a book on which McGowan was working. Weinstein appeared to be after any information that could discredit McGowan, or that could be used against her in any future court case. The actress first came out publicly with some of her allegations to The New York Times in October.
When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, "it seemed like soap-opera acting," recalled Wallace when speaking to The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow. Over the course of two meetings, Wallace explained, he grew suspicious of the woman's motives. With the journalist, Pechanac used the name "Anna" but he and McGowan both identified her from the same photo shown to them by Farrow.
According to Wallace, "Anna" was pumping him for information "about the status and scope of my inquiry, and about who I might be talking to, without giving me any meaningful help or information."
Black Cube's website advertises the company as a "select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units" and boasts proudly of having former killers and spies as current members of its board, including the former head of Israel's National Security Council, Giora Eiland, and (somewhat bizarrely) "the late Meir Dagan," the former head of the country's Mossad spy agency.
Although The New Yorker reported that documents it had obtained proved that Black Cube invoiced Weinstein for $600,000, the Mail Online claimed that the amount may have been much higher.
For once, words really do fail me. The level of deceit, immorality and mercenary vindictiveness required for this company to agree to such a contract is staggering.
In 2016, well before naming Weinstein in the US press this year, McGowan tweeted information which – without naming him explicitly– identified Weinstein indirectly as "my rapist". It may have been this which prompted him to unleash private investigators onto her.
Once exposed — to much public disapprobation — as having worked for a man alleged to have sexually harassed as many as 100 women – including 18 alleged rapes – Black Cube issued a rather weak non-apology. "In retrospect, it's a shame we took the job," Black Cube board member and former Tel Aviv University Professor Asher Tishler told Israeli news media. However, he defended working with Weinstein, claiming that "the job was taken in a justified manner." He claimed that the money paid to the company for spying on a woman allegedly raped by the Hollywood producer would now be given "to women's groups".
Black Cube's claims of good faith have absolutely no credibility whatsoever. Talk of Weinstein's abuses had reportedly been an "open secret" in Hollywood for decades.
What's more, as journalist Max Blumental points out, Weinstein has a long record of financial and political support for Israeli causes. Indeed, it was former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – once of the Israeli Labour Party and with a prison sentence for fraud and bribery on his record – who first recommended Black Cube to Weinstein and apparently made the introductions.
Black Cube has offices in Tel Aviv, Paris and London. Given the company's admission that it worked on a disgustingly unethical project to protect the man who may well turn out to be Hollywood's biggest sexual predator ever, it is surely time for the British and French authorities to investigate the "business" activities of this mercenary spy agency. What else, we need to know, is Black Cube up to?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.