More than a year before accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein went public, the disgraced movie producer used private intelligence agencies to try and squash the allegations. According to a report from The New Yorker, Weinstein was trying to find out which women planned to go forward with their stories, and he wanted to know the details of what the accusers were sharing with journalists.
One of Weinstein’s intelligence agency contracts specifically sought out to halt stories in the works by The New York Times and the New Yorker that would eventually become the first two articles to come out against Weinstein.
“Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies ‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories,” The New Yorker reported. “Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.”
“I discovered that it had nothing to do with right and wrong and everything to do with money and power,” former Weinstein assistant Zelda Perkins said.
One investigator befriended Rose McGowan, who accused Weinstein of rape, and posed as a women’s rights advocate; the same woman spoke with a journalist and pretended she had possible allegations against Weinstein, attempting to get information about other women who were coming forward.
Citing “dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort,” The New Yorker reports that Weinstein hired at least two intelligence agencies beginning in 2016: Kroll, based in New York City, and Black Cube, which is headquartered in Israel. Black Cube is said to be ran largely by former Israeli intelligence operatives.
Weinstein tried to manipulate the investigations by putting contracts through his attorneys. Attorney-client privilege could therefore keep the investigations out of a courtroom.
The investigator who contacted McGowan identified herself as Diana Filip. She asked McGowan if she would help launch a women’s rights effort.
“I understand that we have a lot in common,” Filip said to McGowan ahead of their first meeting. Over the next several months the women met a few times and talked about women’s rights issues. McGowan later described her to The New Yorker as “very kind.”
“The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done.'” Not anymore; #MeToo takes its grip on society.
Filip was actually an investigator for Black Cube — and a former Israeli Defense Forces officer, according to The New Yorker.
Filip also contacted several journalists who were working on the Weinstein story. She identified herself as Anna and pretended to have allegations against Weinstein. At least one journalist, Ben Wallace, met with her. Wallace said her behavior made him suspicious and he believes their second meeting was recorded.
According to The New Yorker, Weinstein’s contract with Black Cube stated the goal was to prevent the accusations against Weinstein from going public in The New York Times and from McGowan’s upcoming memoir, scheduled for release in January.
Weinstein allegedly obtained portions of McGowan’s book through her conversations with Filip, a claim Weinstein denied to The New Yorker through a spokesperson.
“No New Yorker should be forced to walk into a workplace ruled by sexual intimidation, harassment, or fear,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.
According to the report, in October 2016 Weinstein’s attorney’s law firm wired $100,000 to Black Cube “toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice.” It is unclear how much of the total was actually paid, The New Yorker notes.
The Black Cube contract also guaranteed an investigative journalist would conduct ten interviews a month for $40,000. The journalist contacted several reporters, as well as McGowan and Annabella Sciorra, another actress who accused Weinstein of rape.
McGowan spoke with the man, who reported their conversations back to Black Cube. Sciorra was skeptical and hung up the phone.
“It struck me as B.S.,” Sciorra told The New Yorker. “And it scared me that Harvey was testing to see if I would talk.”
Weinstein’s efforts ultimately failed, as women still chose to come forward — but his attempts to instill fear in his victims were successful at first.
Sciorra told The New Yorker she was fearful “because I knew what it meant to be threatened by Harvey. I was in fear of him finding me.”
“It was like the movie ‘Gaslight,'” McGowan told the publication. “Everyone lied to me all the time.” Throughout her ordeal, she said, “I’ve lived inside a mirrored fun house.”
Weinstein has denied the allegations against him. He has not yet been charged with a crime, although the New York Police Department has publicly said they hope to charge him in the near future.
“I came of age in the 60s and 70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” Weinstein offers as reasoning for allegedly harassing women over a period of three decades.
Meanwhile, intelligence agency Black Cube has been involved with several high-profile incidents. According to The New Yorker:
“The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S. that led to successful legal judgments against business rivals. But the firm has also faced legal questions about its employees’ use of fake identities and other tactics. Last year, two of its investigators were arrested in Romania on hacking charges. In the end, the company reached an agreement with the Romanian authorities, under which the operatives admitted to hacking and were released.”
Globes, an Israeli business publication, described Black Cube as “The Old Boys’ Club of the [Israel Defense Forces] Military Intelligence.”
Black Cube’s first notable client was British millionaire Vincent Tchenguiz. Globes reported:
“According to Tchenguiz, dozens of investigators from the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) raided his house and his brother Robert’s house in March 2011 and arrested them on suspicion of a complex deception that led to the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank. Both brothers were released the same day and immediately claimed that the information that led to their arrest was untrue. They hired the services of Black Cube and managed to prove their case.”
The Financial Times described Black Cube as “a different breed of investigative company.”
“It does not just gather information for its clients, the company builds a body of evidence focused on a particular lawsuit, corporate attack or threat, and is known for its tenacity,” the outlet wrote.