Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies By Barry Meier

characters Ô E-book, or Kindle E-pub ↠ Barry Meier

This book is a mess. Hardcover Focused on Russiagate and some related private investigation/opposition research firms, rather than a really broad or comprehensive study of the intelligence and research industries. Does a great job of making everyone in the industry seem like a scumbag, which is fairly realistic. I'm much more familiar with the counterintelligence and technical signals intelligence/counterintelligence side, and with open source intelligence, but the book seems pretty in line with other information and contacts I've had. The dividing line between an effective journalist and a private spy is really about intent, more than methods. Hardcover A intriguing, if not erratic, look into private spies, coalescing into a story about the Steele Dossier and Trump. Personally, I liked it better when spies had to do the field work (or so it goes in my imagination), coaxing information out of an unsuspecting mark, bantering over martinis in a smoke-shadowed lounge.

We do get some of that! I love when the high-tech meets the low-tech, when an overheard conversation in a restaurant sparks a million rumors on conspiracy theory boards. However, much of private spying has gone online, with hacking, encrypted emails, and killing viral stories. Some Russian dork hacking into my Gmail might be the more reasonable risk to fear, but it's just not sexy.

There are some fascinating tidbits, throughout, about how stories reach us, the average citizen. While I assumed (because I didn't consider the alternatives) that the equation was simple (people make news, reporters report it, with political spin if necessary), that is not always the case. Information is bought on black markets, spies offer confidential leaks under the guise of anonymity, and groupthink is calcified as journalists race to break the story first.

Should you trust this book and its author? I have no idea! Trust is a social construct and none of us can socially construct anymore. Have fun! Hardcover Perfect companion to Kleptopia by Tom Burgis. Hardcover How can I suggest this book? It's well written, well researched and spot on. The problem is, if you distrust the media, this thing is going make you suicidal.

I have ZERO respect for journalists. I find them stupid and not worth listening to. If you think like me, we don't know the half of it. This book makes journalists out to be the scum of the earth.

Hardcover

A Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist’s journey into a billon-dollar secret industry that is shaping our world – the booming business of private spying, operatives-for-hire retained by companies, political parties  and the powerful to dig up dirt on their enemies and, if need be, destroy them. 

For decades, private eyes from Allan Pinkerton, who formed the first detective agency in the U.S., to Jules Kroll, who transformed the investigations business by giving it a corporate veneer, private spies were content to stand in the shadows. Now, that is all changing. High-profile stories grabbing recent headlines – the Steele Dossier, Black Cube, the Theranos scandal, Harvey Weinstein’s attacks on his accusers –  all share a common thread, the involvement of private spies.

Today, operatives-for-hire are influencing presidential elections, the news media, government policies and the fortunes of companies.. They are also peering into our personal lives as never before, using off-the shelf technology to listen to our phone calls, monitor our emails, and decide what we see on social media. Private spying has never been cheaper and the business has never been more lucrative—just as its power has never been more pervasive.
 
Spooked is a fast-paced, disturbing and, at times, hilarious tour through the shadowlands of private spying and its inhabitants, a grab-bag collection of ex-intelligence operatives, former journalists and lost souls. In this hidden world, information is currency, double-crosses are commonplace, and hacking can be standard procedure.  Drawing on his journalistic expertise and unique access to sources, Barry Meier uncovers the secrets private spies want to keep hidden. Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies

Spooked:

Over the past decade, private spies have been utilized by companies & political parties to invade our personal space

This book is a deep dive into the private spying business, which consists of ex-intelligence officers, former journalists and other people in need of a job. These individuals are influencing elections, the news media and the fortunes of companies by uncovering dirt

The author demonstrates the underhanded tactics that these private spies utilize, including hacking personal electronic devices, lying to gain access to documents, misrepresenting themselves, and intimidating witnesses through the threat of lawsuits and blackmail.

The examples used in the book to showcase the power of private spies to tip the scales in favour of their employer are well-known as we have began to realize just how pernicious companies and individuals like Black Cube, the Trump Organization and Harvey Weinstein have been

The book concludes with a call for news media and journalists to provide unbiased information. Reporters must break their pact of secrecy with private spies as we have a right to know when any material was provided by an operative.

Definitely check out this great book! Hardcover Confusing inside-baseball account of private spying

I first became aware of Barry Meier earlier this year (2021) when I watched The Vow, the short TV series about the NXIVM cult. Meier was the reporter who wrote up the story for the New York Times. He has quite a reputation as a reporter. And I will say this for Spooked, it is well documented. Meier backs up virtually every major point he makes with on-the-record quotes from sources or public information, e.g. information presented in trials. The book is not really about politics, not primarily, but because there is a focus on the Trump Dossier, politics plays a large role.

Meier himself doesn't come across as terribly political. He is not a fan of Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s election would mark the start of an unparalleled era of governmental corruption, political cowardice, and social upheaval. Russia’s efforts to meddle in U.S. politics were a real threat to America, one that Trump seemed to care little about. But there were other serious threats emanating directly from the Trump administration: attacks on science, contempt for the rule of law, campaigns to silence critics and intimidate career public servants.


But he is also hard on many of Trump's opponents in the press.

If it's not about politics, what is the book about? It is about the Private Spying Industry, or private investigators. Meier wants us to understand that, unlike their depiction in old movies, private investigators are not typically Bogart-like gumshoes working as individuals. If they ever were that, things have changed. Now there are large-ish corporate enterprises from whom you can buy investigative services. And this industry is unregulated, and, according to Meier, pretty much devoid of quality standards.

That is all pretty convincing. What was less convincing to me was the idea that this is something I should care deeply about. Meier tells us a lot about how private spying intersects with journalism. In fact, he pretty much says that private spies are just journalists without journalistic standards. And he tells us that journalists often rely on private spies.

Meier is of course a journalist himself. Like many books by journalists, Spooked reads as an inside baseball account of something that a journalist should probably care a lot about.

My other main beef with Spooked as that it isn't easy to follow. Fusion GPS and the Trump Dossier are the biggest story told herein, but Meier also has a lot to say about other firms in the private spy industry and other players. There are a lot of names and a lot of scandals, and it isn't always easy to remember who all the players are.

Overall, I found Spooked informative, but not terrifically interesting, nor necessarily the best way to have spent valuable time. Hardcover Intriguing glimpse into the world of private intel business. Readers need some prior knowledge of events Meier describes in this book. 3.5 stars Hardcover I struggle between wanting to lock myself in a bubble and wanting, at all times, to be duly informed as to the inner workings of my country. This one made me want to lock myself in the bubble again.
I have heard so many news stories related to the Dossier, but Mr. Meier's book offered the most solid and detailed explanation I could have ever hoped or asked for.
What we don't know, could, in fact, harm us and certainly harm our collective American futures.
Scary stuff. Hardcover Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies is what I would describe as an informative, thrilling non-fiction novel. Barry Meier discusses the events which took place at the 2016 election, anything from Christopher’s Steels memos on Trump and Russia to the infringement of data. Unlike a lot of non-fiction novels I read, I was able to connect with what Meier was writing. I just finished an Information System University class, with doing so, we discussed topics such as private spies, data infringement, and how easy hacking is. Also, the fact that nothing is safe and anything that is put upon the cloud is essentially available for anyone. That is what Meier was essentially establishing with his non-fiction. Without giving too much away, Private Spies, which is a reoccurring topic throughout the novel gains access to data, which is provided through the cloud, while not illegal, not necessarily “ethical” either.

I cannot give enough praise for Barry Meier’s non-fiction. It has the components which are essential for reading not only for pleasure but for information as well. An easy 5 stars.
Hardcover