As Rebecca Kahl remembers it, something felt odd about the initial email. It came in May 2017 from a woman named Adriana Gavrilo, who claimed to work for a London-based private equity firm. She was writing to Kahl with an offer: Her firm wanted to support the Washington public school where Kahl sends her daughter and helps lead a fundraising committee.
“I’m not sure how this woman found me,” Kahl said in a recent interview with NBC News. “I wasn’t employed by the school. I was not on the school’s website.”
Kahl responded by connecting Gavrilo with school administrators. But Gavrilo’s reply made it clear that she wanted to meet only with Kahl.
At that point Kahl mentioned the exchange to her husband, Colin, who had been an assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. They agreed that it smelled fishy, and Rebecca stopped responding. The exchange died.
A year later, it turns out that the Kahls were right: Something was amiss. Gavrilo was a fake identity, one of several assumed Black Cube by an operative working for Black Cube, a shadowy Israeli private security firm.
Internal Black Cube documents obtained by NBC News and interviews of sources with direct knowledge of Black Cube’s operations reveal a business intelligence company with governmental contracts and a special department for politically motivated work.
A source familiar with Black Cube’s outreach to the Kahls told NBC News that it was part of an effort to discredit Obama administration officials who had worked on the Iran nuclear deal – and, by extension, the deal itself. Black Cube sought evidence of nefarious behavior, such as financial or sexual impropriety, by the deal’s architects, including Colin Kahl. Operatives hoped to obtain such evidence by befriending their targets or their targets’ associates.
The firm added that it “always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work.”
In the end, Black Cube’s Iran-deal spying yielded no compromising information, and in early May, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the nuclear deal. But the use of the shadowy firm continues to draw scrutiny. On Friday, Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee wrote to the founders of Black Cube requesting documentation related to its Iran work.