In the massive national conversation about sex crimes that has ensued as a result of the remarkable investigative reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s decades of misconduct, one question recurs: Why do women so often keep silent about having been the target of a sexual offense?
Even if they haven’t personally suffered an attack, many women can supply an answer. Because you don’t know whom to trust. Because you fear that anything you reveal about your attack or yourself may be used against you.
In the latest in his deep-dive reporting on the disgraced former Hollywood studio head, Ronan Farrow, writing in the New Yorker, has provided a mind-boggling account of just how well-founded those fears are.
According to Farrow, ex-spies were hired for hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to ferret out information about the women cautiously trying to make known what Weinstein allegedly did to them. The operations reportedly involved ex-spies from operations like Black Cube, which describes itself as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.” Black Cube reportedly made contact with McGowan, who has publicly alleged that Weinstein raped her, and others. Mossad is Israel’s national intelligence agency.
A woman who identified herself as “Diana Filip,” and described herself as the deputy head for responsible investment at a London wealth management firm, approached McGowan, and met with her several times, apparently seeking to establish a friendship. She secretly recorded some of her meetings with McGowan.
“Filip” appeared to be fishing for information, according to a reporter who had also researched accusations against Weinstein, and who was contacted by the same woman. Farrow later showed photos of a woman sources told him was an investigator employed by Black Cube to McGowan and others. They identified her as “Diana Filip.” These operations resulted in over a hundred pages of transcripts.
Agencies hired on behalf of Weinstein also collected information on dozens of people, which included personal and sexual histories. A report compiled on McGowan by a different firm included the subhead “Past lovers.”
Black Cube told Farrow that it couldn’t comment on the specifics of its work. It also said that it complies with the law and operates to high moral standards. It said the same to Quartz in response to a request for comment. Describing its work, it said it “supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the US, gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. The company does not get involved in family disputes or sexual harassment cases.”
Other investigative firms used included Kroll and PSOPS. In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said “it is a fiction” to suggest that efforts were made to suppress people; earlier, she said that Weinstein denies any allegations of non-consensual sex.
The efforts also reportedly included trying to secure advance material from McGowan’s upcoming book, “Brave,” to be published by HarperCollins in January. Hofmeister, Weinstein’s spokesperson, told Farrow this is “among the many inaccuracies and wild conspiracy theories promoted in this article.”
This story was updated on Nov. 7 with comment from Black Cube.