Former WSJ reporter says law firm used Indian hackers to sabotage his career

Former WSJ reporter says law firm used Indian hackers to sabotage his career
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WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) – A former Wall Street Journal reporter accuses a major US law firm of using mercenary hackers to force him out of his job and ruin his reputation.

in a lawsuit Unveiled Friday night, Jay Solomon, the Journal’s former chief foreign correspondent, said Philadelphia-based Dechert LLP worked with hackers from India to steal emails between him and one of his key sources, Iranian-American aviation executive Farhad Azima.

Solomon said the messages, which showed Azima floating the idea of ​​the two doing business together, were put into a file and circulated in a successful effort to get him fired.

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The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, says Dechert “mistakenly disclosed this file first to Mr. Solomon’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, in its Washington DC office, and then to other media outlets in an attempt to to smear and discredit him.” He said the campaign “effectively caused Mr. Solomon to be censured by the journalistic and publishing community. “

Dechert said in an email that he disputed the claim and would fight it in court. Azima – who introduced his own lawsuit against Dechert on Thursday in New York – had no immediate comment. read more

Solomon’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions following Reuters reports of hackers for hire operating from India. In June, Reuters reported about the activities of various hacking shops, including Delhi-area companies BellTroX and CyberRoot, which were involved in a decade-long series of espionage campaigns targeting thousands of people, including more than 1,000 lawyers at 108 different law firms.

At the time, Reuters reported that people who had become hacking targets while involved in at least seven different lawsuits had launched their own investigations into the cyberespionage campaign.

That number has grown since then.

Azima, Solomon’s previous source, is among those who have gone to court over the alleged hack. His lawyers, like Solomon’s, plead that Dechert worked with BellTroX, CyberRoot, and a host of other private investigators to steal their emails and publish them on the web.

BellTroX and CyberRoot are not parties to the lawsuit and could not be immediately reached. Executives at both firms have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Solomon and Azima allege that Dechert undertook the hacking and leaking operation in the interest of his client, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi, ruler of the Ras Al Khaimah emirate in the Middle East. Reuters reported that lawyers for Ras Al Khaimah’s investment agency RAKIA used the emails to help win a fraud lawsuit brought against Azima in London in 2016.

Azima, who denies the RAKIA fraud allegations, is seeking to have the sentence overturned.

In addition to being deployed in court, the leaked emails also made their way to The Associated Press, which published two articles about Azima in June 2017, including a that revealed that the airline tycoon had offered reporter Solomon a minority stake in a company he was creating. The newspaper switched on Solomon shortly before the AP story was published, citing ethical violations.

Solomon says that he never accepted Azima’s proposal or benefited financially from their relationship. in first person bill of the scandal published in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2018, the former journalist said he never turned down Azima’s talk of business opportunities because he was trying to play along with a man who had been crucial to his reporting on the Middle East. Solomon acknowledged “serious errors in the management of my original relationship with Azima”, including the acceptance of stays on the businessman’s yacht. But he said he had been the target of an “incredibly effective” intelligence operation.

The Journal, which is not a party to the lawsuit, declined to comment. The AP did not immediately return a message.

Solomon said in a statement Saturday that the hack and leak he suffered was an example of “a trend that is becoming a major threat to journalism and the media, as hacking and digital surveillance technologies become more sophisticated and pervasive. This is a huge threat to press freedom.”

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Information from Raphael Satter; Edited by David Gregory

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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