By Sam Biddle
Earlier this year, it was reported that Elliott Broidy, a convicted felon in a 2009 bribery case and a top Donald Trump fundraiser, proffered meetings with the president to foreign regimes who were also potential clients of his defense firm Circinus. Little is known about Circinus, but purported company documents obtained by The Intercept contain plans to peddle social media surveillance software to repressive regimes.
The Circinus website paints the contractor as a red-blooded defender of U.S. national security: “Are you a patriot determined to keep our country — both government and private industry — safe?” its careers page reads. Circinus’s executive roster boasts experience in U.S. special forces, Homeland Security, and military intelligence. But the documents, a series of pitch decks, indicate that the company was prepared to sell what’s described as a suite of sophisticated internet-mining tools to the governments of Cyprus, Romania, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates, touting the ability to detect and identify online “detractors.” The recent histories of Tunisia and the UAE are rife with human rights abuses, including crackdowns against political dissent.
It is not clear if the pitches were actually presented to any or all of the countries in question, but the New York Times in March identified Romania, Tunisia, and the UAE as prospective Circinus clients. The newspaper described meetings between Broidy and officials from Romania and Tunisia, as well as reporting that Broidy wrote to others about efforts to win business from the UAE.
The presentations obtained by The Intercept, dated 2016 and 2017, focus on the collection of so-called open source intelligence, referred to as “OSINT” throughout. This is a flashy way of describing information that can be freely accessed online, such as tweets, blog posts, and any other content not locked behind a password. Although typically not as sensitive as the content people keep stored privately, internet users frequently leave trails of “open source” breadcrumbs across the web that can be used for compromising purposes.
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Source: The Intercept_