The Cradle: UK trains Jordan to spy on citizens
The purpose of the training sessions was to aid “evidence gathering agencies in Jordan to effectively extract data from digital devices” to strengthen investigative skills and prosecution procedures with the aim of "increased operational cooperation.”
The Cradle has exposed, through leaked documents, that Jordanian security services were secretly trained by the UK in strategies used by the infamous British cyber agency GCHQ, known to shower the British government with intelligence and information.
The training sessions, funded by the Foreign Office and taken between June 2019 and March 2020, included members of the Public Security Directorate’s Special Branch who were carefully selected by the British Embassy in Amman.
The purpose of the training sessions, titled "digital media exploitation" was to aid “evidence gathering agencies in Jordan to effectively extract data from digital devices” to strengthen investigative skills and prosecution procedures in terrorist cases - with the aim of "increased operational cooperation.”
Using Israeli technology to carry it all out
This is not Britain's first run-in with espionage. The Cradle previously reported on how the British used the disguise of teaching digital forensic tools to Lebanon’s intelligence services in order to monitor both Lebanese intelligence and Lebanese citizens.
All of these so-called "digital teaching" programs are provided by UK government contractor Torchlight, whose staff is comprised of British military and intelligence veterans carrying high-level security clearances who were “satisfactorily equipped in terms of hardware and software” to undergo “digital media exploitation.” The activities of activists, journalists and dissidents have been monitored through what Torchlight offers.
Torchlight did not however feel they were “adequately trained to fully exploit the potential of the equipment they possess.”
One instance includes Torchlight's notice that Special Branch uses Cellebrite, an Israeli company, for their collection of digital intelligence products. Cellebrite manufactures advanced technology made to decode encrypted devices and extract all data in them.
The training sessions of Jordanian intelligence were led by Torchlight's Head of Digital Intelligence, Andy Tremlett, who specializes in cyber and electronic warfare, and enjoyed senior positions at GCHQ for more than 10 years.
Tremlett was responsible for "the provision of support to the most specialized and discreet areas” of British Special Forces, alongside expanding the agency’s “overseas footprint” and “potential delivery platform.” These, in turn, gifted him “vast experience in how to use and exploit digital material,” which facilitated the integration of those skills into a wider target of espionage projects.
Falling into the honey trap
Tremlett is said to have “spent a significant portion of his career within the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG)” which was later exposed by the famous US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2014.
Shockingly, its aim is to use a set of dirty tricks to “destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt” enemies and “discredit” them through the method of planting “negative information” about them online on internet forums and social media.
JTRIG’s undercover operations extend to altering someone's social media profile pictures or deactivating their online account, even writing anonymous blog posts “purporting to be [by] one of their victims” to damage reputations. The JTRIG goes lower to even emailing and texting someone's work colleagues and friends, and arranging “honey trap” stings.
A honey trap is an operation through which an appealing and attractive person uses sexual and romantic ways to get information out of someone.
A leaked presentation of the JTRIG claims it is a “great option. Very successful when it works,” adding, “Get someone to go somewhere on the internet, or a physical location to be met by a ‘friendly face.’ JTRIG has the ability to ‘shape’ the environment on occasions.”
Criticism of King Abdullah II who is a British Army veteran himself, is a gravely serious crime, which explains why journalists are frequently harassed, arrested, and prosecuted by authorities for even slightly critical reporting or social media posts.
The Cybercrime Law, limiting digital freedom of expression and citizens’ right to privacy, is proving to be just the perfect breeding ground for British discreet espionage.
Proof of that goes even beyond Jordanian land, while using Jordanian land. When the war on Syria began, the UK was training fighters in a site 45 minutes away from Amman in an operation whose leaked files show that the project predicted that these fighters would later go on to join ISIS and Al-Nusra. Despite this, the British Foreign Office was unconcerned about this prediction, likely because it was thought that the program would not be exposed.