Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein hired a veritable army of spies, including former Mossad agents, to suppress publication of allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted dozens of women for decades, The New Yorker magazine has uncovered.
The New Yorker, which broke the initial story, revealed the web of intrigue and deceit. It commenced in earnest in the latter months of 2016, as reporters began digging into his misconduct.
Learning of their investigations, he enlisted the help of several private security agencies to collect information on the women accusing him of sexual transgressions, and the journalists trying to expose his serial assaults.
According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort itself, firms hired by Weinstein included Kroll, one of the world's largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris.
The firm offers clients the skills of a "select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges."
The contract Weinstein signed with Black Cube explicitly stated the agency's mission — which it chose to accept — was to stop publication of the abuse allegations. Over the course of the next year, the firm targeted dozens of individuals to collect personal information on them, including their sexual histories, to attempt to stop them from coming forward.
Weinstein even went so far as to ask his former employees to join the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to those who received them, were of an intimidating nature.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with actress Rose McGowan, who had accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her.
One pretended to be a women's-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan — and also, using a different identity, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press.
In the latter case, the agent falsely implied she had been abused by Weinstein. Any information gleaned was then fed back directly to the shamed Hollywood mogul, and used to create psychological profiles of the victims.
McGowan was ensnared by the ruse after receiving an email in May 2017, which claimed to hail from literary agent "Diana Filip" — in actuality, a Black Cube agent. "Filip" told McGowan she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace, and asked her to speak at a gala kickoff event later in the year, for a handsome fee of U$60,000.
"Filip" also met Ben Wallace, a journalist at New York magazine pursuing the Weinstein story, on two separate occasions. Identifying herself as "Anna," she suggested she herself had been abused, and wished to make the story public.
The agent's efforts with Wallace were less successful than her gaming of McGowan however, and over the course of their meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives, and felt she was pushing him for information about the status and scope of his inquiry, and who he was talking to, without providing any meaningful information.
On top of his prescience in spotting the scam, Wallace was also lucky in that his personal history was bereft of blemishes or scandal — in a series of e-mails sent in the weeks before Wallace met with the undercover agent, Kroll representatives sent Weinstein preliminary background information on Wallace and other journalists targeted by his legion of private investigators.
Much to their chagrin, the investigators could find no "adverse information" on any of the targets, such as libel and defamation cases, court judgments, outstanding debts, and the like. As such, there were no "promising avenues for personal impeachment" of the journalists.
Ultimately, despite a year of expensive, concerted effort, Weinstein's campaign to track and silence his accusers failed. Nonetheless, several of his victims have spoken of how the use of private security agencies made speaking out even more challenging, and intimidating.