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The New Arab

UAE hiring ex-US spooks for Gulf spy office

The Gulf state has long relied on Western countries to develop its intelligence infrastructure. [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 December, 2017

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The UAE has long relied on Western countries to develop its intelligence infrastructure, but the use of former US intelligence employees to boost its spying capabilities is breaking new ground.

The UAE is recruiting former CIA and US government officials in a bid to create a professional intelligence body modelled on leading Western agencies.

The Gulf state has long relied on Western countries to build up its intelligence infrastructure, but are now paying big bucks to hire former US intelligence employees to build its spying capabilities.

Details of the training were reviewed by Foreign Policy and show daily seminars, scavenger hunts and training exercises in four-to-six man surveillance teams.

The following weeks provide advanced training on creating undercover identities when attending embassy functions and how to groom intelligence assets.

Emirati recruits train at a site around close to downtown Abu Dhabi called "The Academy", which resembles the CIA's "Farm" at Camp Peary in Virginia.

Former CIA and US government officials are drawn to the promise of a lucrative career, with instructor salaries of up to $1,000 a day funding an extravagant lifestyle, Foreign Policy reported.

The key figure behind the growing training operation is Larry Sanchez, an ex-intelligence officer who pioneered a controversial partnership between the CIA and New York's Police Department to monitor American-Muslims.

Sanchez is reportedly one of many former Western intelligence professionals recruited to provide security training in the UAE.

One source said that "the dream" was to help the UAE create its very own CIA.

The use of former US employees in building the UAE's intelligence infrastructure shows the extent to which private contractors are selling skills acquired through years in the field.

It has raised legal questions about how Washington should control former agents looking for highly paid opportunities abroad, having undergone intensive and expensive training at the cost of the US taxpayer.

While former instructors told Foreign Policy that the training courses are focused on foreign threats, there are also worries that the spy network could be used domestically to crack down on political dissent.

DarkMatter, the government-affiliated UAE company managing the intelligence contract, is currently under investigation by the FBI.

The FBI told the media outlet it does not comment on ongoing investigations. 

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