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The Unintelligent Design of SureFire Intelligence

October 30, 2018

By Aric Toler

Translations: Русский

On October 30th, the far-right site Gateway Pundit published documents alleging that Robert Mueller, who is heading up the investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, sexually assaulted a woman in 2010. The firm that produced this “investigation” was quickly revealed to be SureFire Intelligence, which has a tiny digital footprint prior to the Mueller allegations.

Jacob Wohl, a 20-year-old conservative activist who is most well known for his reports from “hipster coffee shops in downtown LA” about how Trump is secretly popular among young liberals, tweeted about the allegations against Mueller a day before they surfaced on Gateway Pundit, which he also writes for.

DNS Ties

The “intelligence firm” that prepared the allegation, SureFire Intelligence, was linked to Wohl due to DNS registration records saved on CuteStat.com. These records show that someone using the email jacob.wohl@nexmanagement.com was involved with the domain registration for surefireintelligence.com.

Jacob Wohl previously worked at Nex Management, as is clear from their account tweeting a photograph of him with Trump, naming him as “CEO”.

A SureFire Miss

The “intelligence” firm itself seems legitimate at first glance, with over a dozen employees working there according to LinkedIn, a somewhat professional-looking website at surefireintelligence.com, a Twitter page, and a few posts on Medium [note: deleted, archived here] referencing it. However, under any actual scrutiny, all of these facades fall apart.

When searching for the various employees who list their employment as SureFire Intelligence, nearly all of them use stolen profile photographs. In particular, many of these photographs use the sepia-toned filter that was likely used to disrupt reverse image search algorithms.

Their “Tel Aviv Station Chief” uses a photograph of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.

One of their “Investigators” from Boston uses a stock photograph with extra filters added on.

An LA-based “Private Investigator” at SureFire Intelligence bears a strong resemblance to Nick Hopper, a British model and photographer.

A woman who describes herself as the “Head of Government Relations” at SureFire Intelligence either does not exist, or is actually a stock photo model.

The “Deputy Director of Operations” at SureFire is also fake, unless he moonlights as a minister from Michigan.

Other “employees” at SureFire Intelligence also stole their profile pictures from others, but perhaps the most brazen is their Zurich-based “Financial Investigator” — Christoph Waltz.

Few, if any, of these profile photographs produced results when running a reverse Google Image search. However, Jacob Wohl, or whoever else created these LinkedIn profiles, was probably not aware that when they were plugged into Yandex Image Search — which is far more powerful with facial recognition — all of the LinkedIn photographs will bring back surefire results.

 

Update: The Medium user “Evan Goldman”, who claimed to be an Israeli analyst specializing in writing on private intelligence, used a profile picture stolen from a model named Oran Katan, as discovered by Byron Kittle. “Goldman” wrote a glowing profile on SureFire Intelligence, claiming to visit their headquarters and speaking with their analysts. He deleted his Medium profile today, but his Twitter is still active [archive] as of this update.

Aric Toler

Aric Toler has written with Bellingcat since 2015 and currently leads the Eurasia/Eastern Europe team. Along with his research into topics in the former Soviet Union, he organizes and leads Bellingcat's Russian-language workshops for journalists and researchers. He graduated with an MA in Slavic Languages & Literatures from the University of Kansas in 2013, focusing on Russian literature and intellectual history. After graduation, he worked for two years as an intelligence specialist in the private sector. If you have any questions, or have a story idea related to eastern Europe or Eurasia, you can contact him at arictoler@bellingcat.com

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86 Comments

  1. Johanna

    First mistake: Most corporate employees don’t look like models and actors.

    The internet makes it harder and harder to run a good scam.

    Reply
  2. beachdrifter

    I don’t live in the US, so perhaps someone can explain this to me. If you did all of the things that Wohl/Burkman did over here, you’d face a shitload of charges and be in real trouble.

    Yet it appears in the US you can come up with the most outlandish claims, and nothing ever seems to happen?

    Reply
    • Vimes79

      Oh have no doubt that these two (Wohl more so) have committed multiple federal criminal crimes plus a bunch of slander and lies that could easily be prosecuted in law suits by those people who they attempted to smear and the people dragged into this in a lot of cases unknowingly. They are currently under criminal investigation by the FBI and likely local law enforcement too for state crimes and will inevitably be arrested and charged very soon.

      Reply
  3. beachdrifter

    Does anyone have a link to the made-up allegations that were supposedly posted somewhere and then pulled?

    Reply
  4. Bambibones

    A proposal:

    All three women – “Parsons,” Taup, and Cass – are real people and were recruitment targets of Wohl/Burkman/Surefire – and there was a different outcome for each of the three women.

    • Taup responsibly forwarded the email to the Special Counsel.

    • Cass* at least considered the “offer” and then backed out at some point. She was to have been today’s witness.

    • Parsons is a pseudonym for a real person who wanted to report what happened without committing herself to what would be (and probably still will be ) a life-changing ordeal in an inevitable investigation. I can absolutely see someone in this dilemma testing the waters using an assumed identity. I predict that the FBI has already found her (email address and phone number) and is talking to her. Wohl and Burkman clearly knew about “Parsons” before the story became public. I don’t think they invented her as a false flag; that just doesn’t make sense in terms of what we know they DID do.

    And there may be other women who were targeted for recruitment who the FBI is interviewing, or who will come forward later on. Wohl and Burkman promised further accusers, which tells me that they think they have more women willing to perjure themselves – and I predict they will also be no-shows.

    *Carolyne A. Cass actually IS a self-proclaimed designer. She’s online. She’s also probably the Carolyne Cass who has an Etsy shop selling jewelry and unusual clothing. And her picture perfectly matches the joint selfie with Wohl that he provided (without the face cover-up). I’d be really amazed if the FBI isn’t talking to her now, and a little surprised if she isn’t trying to negotiate immunity in exchange for spilling the beans on Wohl and Burkman.

    The Wohl and Burkman claim that she didn’t show up because she had received death threats is total nonsense: nobody even knew her name therefore nobody could have threatened her.

    Finally, let’s not forget that Burkman has pulled this kind of stunt before: this is his third “no show witness” press conference, and the last one also involved accusations from a less-than-credible reporter of sexual abuse.

    Reply
  5. Someone

    SurefireIntelligence@gmail.com is the email attached to SurefireIntelligenc’s twitter account.

    1. The phone number attached to the gmail account provided above ends with 01. So does the number attached to Jacob Wohl’s Twitter account.
    2. Check the following number on Truecaller:
    +1-949-228-4701
    3. The number leads to a Facebook account under the name of Matthew Cohen (Matthew.Cohen.566148).
    4. Guess what is the cover photo of this account?

    Reply
  6. Charles

    It’s amazing how an intelligence corporation has been able to hire so many international models and actors into senior management positions!
    It is, of course, just what a global intelligence organisation would do, judging by the documentary “Team America: World Police”.
    In my considered view, it all just adds to the company’s credibility.
    Thanks for your work.

    Reply
  7. Scampolice Group

    That is what fraudulent, clickbait, and scam websites do all the time and you name it, we have seen it. It should under normal circumstances be fairly easy to close it down or get it dampened somewhat. However we at SPG like this post and the advice it gives

    Reply

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