Political firm fears sheikh’s files were hacked
In a mysterious case of cyber-espionage, a leading California political consulting firm has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate what it says appears to be computer hacking involving a high-profile client, an ousted Middle Eastern sheikh, which the firm says could compromise “sensitive information relating to U.S. and Iranian security issues.”
Jason Kinney, who heads California Strategies, made the request to Holder and the U.S. attorney’s office last week after it appeared hackers had accessed the Sacramento consulting firm’s computer files relating to their client, Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
Kinney and two other leading Democratic strategists, former White House spokesman Chris Lehane and Peter Ragone, the former spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, represent the royal client.
The sheikh – the legally recognized deputy ruler and crown prince of Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates – was deposed from power in 2003 by more conservative factions, including his brother, after being criticized as too friendly to the United States.
The crown prince, who considers himself an ally of the White House, was an overnight guest there during the Clinton administration and attended the inauguration of President Obama last year. News reports said he was ousted for expressing strident opposition to Iran and was considered too supportive of efforts to allow women to participate more fully in his country’s society.
His more conservative brother, Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, assumed power. Dubbed the “perfumed prince” by some tabloids, Sheikh Saud was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female housekeeper while on a medical stay at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota; charges were later dropped.
Saud later made headlines when his bid to host the 2010 America’s Cup in Ras al Khaimah was rebuffed after reports suggested the emirate was a “hot spot” of trouble for terrorists and smugglers suspected of moving illegal weapons and components for Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.
Sheikh Khalid, who lives in the Middle East and hopes to return to power, hired the California firm, which mounted a campaign that has included full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and other newspapers; banner ads on Web sites including Politico and the Drudge Report; and bus ads in the U.S. capital, as well as a Web site, RAKforthepeople.com.
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So my obvious choice for who might be behind the hack would be the Sheikh’s brother in power. I mean, wouldn’t it be your choice given the history and situation? After all, he is all pal’ed up Iran and all the unsavory types as well as has that stellar reputation of maybe being a rapist.
Now I have not heard so much on the street as to the capabilities of Iran in the world of hacking or cyber warfare, but I assume there must be some capability there if not the funds to hire some hackers to do the job. I guess my biggest question though is exactly what this “data” was that is so important. What dirty laundry is there left that that kid who was leaking to Wikileaks didn’t already release?
I should think though, that perhaps a more appropriate agency to look into this might be CIA or more to the point NSA. Sure, FBI can look into it, but, the machinations here might be more along the geopolitical lines of some folks with higher pay grades…
Keep an eye out on this one…