Israeli ex-spies hacked into phones in Kenya **They waged an intelligence-gathering and disinformation campaign against William Ruto, investigators allege
Days before Kenya’s 2022 election, a hacker “gave a demonstration of his capabilities, showing how he could use hacking techniques to infiltrate the messages of political advisers”
Undercover reporters, posing as potential clients, were given “a guided tour of the hacked Telegram and email accounts of five different targets in Kenya” including Dennis Itumbi, who was a political adviser for William Ruto, then vice president
They also targeted Davis Chirchir, the former chief of Staff
Team of reporters reveal Kenya is not the only African team where this group of clandestine political operatives has engaged in extensive electoral interference
Leaked messages show failed plan to discredit Muhammadu Buhari and get Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan re-elected in 2015
Ultimately, the disinformation service provided by Team Jorge failed in both countries – Ruto was elected same as Buhari
Israeli hackers allegedly hacked into the private conversation of two aides to Kenya’s President William Ruto during presidential election held in August 2022, a new investigation has claimed.
The investigation carried out by a consortium of journalists that includes reporters from 30 outlets including Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País and published in outlets including Israel’s Haaretz, Observer and The Guardian of the UK.
The project, part of a wider investigation into the disinformation industry, has been coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a French nonprofit whose mission is to pursue the work of assassinated, threatened or jailed reporters.
The report claims that days before Kenya’s last election, a hacker “gave a demonstration of his capabilities, showing how he could use hacking techniques to infiltrate the messages of political advisers”.
The undercover reporters, posing as potential clients, were given “a guided tour of the hacked Telegram and email accounts of five different targets in Kenya” including Dennis Itumbi, who was a political adviser for William Ruto, then vice president, and Davis Chirchir, the former chief of Staff.
The report identifies the alleged hackers as former Israeli special forces led by an operative called Tal Hanan.
Hanan is quoted as saying that he had led a team called “Team Jorge” to access Davis Chirchir and Dennis Itumbi’s accounts as part of “an intelligence-gathering and disinformation campaign against Ruto and campaign team”.
Dennis Itumbi has since said via his Twitter account that he was aware of “increased activity” on his Telegram account towards the end of last year’s campaign and he stopped using his Telegram for any communication.
While the investigation does not reveal who hired the hacking team, the alleged attempt at interference did not prevent Ruto from being declared president.
Following the announcement of Ruto as the winner of the August election, the main opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the results on grounds that the final results were manipulated in favor of Mr Ruto, but his petition was thrown out by the courts because of insufficient evidence.
The undercover team of reporters reveals that Kenya is not the only African team where this group of clandestine political operatives has engaged in extensive electoral interference.
Team Jorge’ demos modus operandi the secret disinformation team who distort reality
Back in 2015, ‘Team Jorge’ and Cambridge Analytica meddled in Nigeria’s presidential election. Leaked emails Leaked messages show failed plan to discredit challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, of the African Peoples Congress [APC], the UK Guardian reports.
The aim was to get President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], re-elected. Four weeks before a pivotal presidential election in Nigeria, an Israeli private operative specializing in political “black ops” was preparing his trip to the country.
The Israeli contractors who claim to have manipulated more than 30 elections around the world using hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media is led by 50-year-old Tal Hanan, CEO of Demoman International, aka ‘Jorge’ or ‘J’, reportedly, has been involved in the ‘dark’ political arts across the globe without being detected, since 1999, purveying election-influencing services that Team Jorge could deliver to anyone willing to pay the price for their services.
One of their key services is a sophisticated software package, ‘Advanced Impact Media Solutions’, [AIMS], which controls a vast army of fake social media profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Telegram, Gmail, Instagram and YouTube in the thousands.
Some avatars even have Amazon accounts with credit cards, bitcoin wallets and Airbnb accounts.
Undercover footage recorded Hanan brag about having worked extensively in Africa, especially referencing his activities preceding the 2015 Nigerian election.
In January 2015 Jorge emailed Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy he was coordinating with on a covert plan to manipulate Nigeria’s impending presidential election:
“Friends, hi, I will be on the ground tomorrow for couple days … Who is best to meet there[?]” he asked. “Low profile as we came in on a special visa and we are watched closely [which is part of our plan], anyway we need better understanding of the current status, improve communication and coordinate plans, we want to run by you a couple things that we might execute if the stars align. so plz, in very limited circulation, who is best to meet, and whats his/her position, and contact info.”
Jorge, or “J”, as he signed off many of his emails, was ran an operation separate but complimentary to the efforts of Cambridge Analytica. Jorge was coordinating and working alongside the British political consultancy, which shared a secret mission to help re-elect Nigeria’s then president, Goodluck Jonathan.
On Wednesday, Jorge was unmasked as Tal Hanan, a 50-year-old hacking and disinformation specialist operating from an industrial park 20 miles outside Tel Aviv.
He calls his group “Team Jorge”, and claims it has worked covertly on more than 33 “presidential-level” election campaigns on behalf of clients.
The reply to Hanan’s email asking who to meet in Nigeria was sent by Brittany Kaiser, a young Cambridge Analytica employee who later featured prominently in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, about the company’s Facebook data scandal.
She copied in the firm’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, and several other internal and external partners who would be coordinating with one another on the covert campaign to re-elect Jonathan and discredit his rival, the then opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari. “If you are on the ground please meet with SCL [Cambridge Analytica] Nigeria team,” she told Hanan.
Kaiser, who was 26 and based in London, was far from the only person at Cambridge Analytica involved in email exchanges with Team Jorge over the Nigeria campaign. She told the Guardian that her “sales” role at the company meant that she was not involved in any “operational matters with Jorge” in Nigeria in 2015.
Cambridge Analytica and Team Jorge were, she said, working “separately but in parallel” in Nigeria for the same client. “I sent some emails to put everyone in contact with each other and sort out who was doing what as time was short.”
The exchange was one of dozens of emails leaked to the Guardian and Observer that shed light on the covert coordination between two arms of the disinformation machinery – Cambridge Analytica and Team Jorge – in Nigeria.
The services provided to get Cambridge Analytica or Team Jorge to get Jonathan reelected for what would have been an unconstitutional third term ultimately failed, same as their efforts in te Kenya Elections. Come May 21, Muhammadu Buhari will be handing over after completing his second term.
Question is – what did Goodluck Jonathan know about these efforts to get him reelected?
There is no suggestion that Jonathan knew of either Cambridge Analytica or Team Jorge were providing services backup for his campaign.
Still, the emails reveal the covert methods that were used to boost his electoral fortunes and the ways in which two teams specializing in the dark arts of political persuasion liaised with one another, with meetings in London, the Swiss resort of Davos and the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Communications appear to have occurred on encrypted Hushmail accounts, or special devices used for secure phone calls. Perhaps most significantly, they provide the answer to a mystery that has endured since 2018, when the Guardian and Observer first reported how an “Israeli contractor” had supplied Cambridge Analytica staff working on the Nigerian election with confidential material apparently stolen from the Buhari campaign.
The report was subsequently discussed at length during a UK parliamentary inquiry.
The identity of the unnamed Israeli contractor who stole candidate Buhari’s confidential data has, until now, remained unknown.
In a slideshow titled “What we do” he showed a slide with the heading “Wrecking havoc during African election day”, followed by a screengrab from a newspaper article that appeared in a Nigerian newspaper, Vanguard, which reported how media blackout of the opposition on election day key players in the opposition All Progressives Congress party discovered their phones were rendered useless because they were being spammed with calls.
Lai Mohammed, APC chief spokesperson during the 2015 election, now a minister for information said he was a target. Recalling the incident the minister and his aide said: “We were at the party’s situation room in the morning of the presidential election, only to discover that his phone line had been blocked,” the aide said.
“He could neither receive nor make calls, and that was very serious because he was the live wire of the opposition.”
During his presentation, ‘Jorge’ Hanan showed the undercover reporters another slide featuring an image of women in Muslim attire who were sitting outside a Nigerian polling station, suggesting his team had secured the publication of a story about women being excluded from the polling station.
Hanan told the reporters he had “created a big scandal”, adding: “They extended the election, which was our objective.”
The Nigerian presidential election, which had been due to be held on February 14, 2015, was postponed. The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC], announced the six-week postponement on February 8, due to ‘security concerns’ over the Boko Haram insurgency.
However, emails between Hanan and Cambridge Analytica suggests he had advance information about that postponement. “I have received strong indication that the elections will not take place on the 14th, and that plans are made to postponed them in few weeks,” Jorge wrote on February 7, the day before the official announcement, noting that the information came from “a top source”, he wrote, “Plz be carful circulating it.”
Other emails suggest Team Jorge produced YouTube video content to support Jonathan’s campaign and shared it with Cambridge Analytica, which in turn asked the Israeli outfit to help promote its videos on the platform.However, it is the elliptical references to Team Jorge sourcing “information” for use by Cambridge Analytica that raise most questions.
The different roles for Cambridge Analytica and Team Jorge in Nigeria are laid out in the emails.
The British consultancy Analytica was tasked with securing coverage by international media.
Team Jorge was responsible for “opposition research”, or finding the material that could be leveraged to undermine Buhari.
In one memorable instance they showed Analytica a video from inside Buhari’s campaign meetings recording the candidate himself, his campaign manager and other high-level individuals on the campaign, apparently filmed by a mole planted by the Israeli team Jorge.