United Arab Emirates hires former US intelligence agents to build 'its own CIA': Report

Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (L) and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan attend the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, November 8, 2017, on Sa'adiyat island in the Emirati capital. (Photo by AFP)
The United Arab Emirates has hired former CIA agents to teach Emirati recruits “the tools of modern spycraft,” as part of efforts to establish a professional intelligence service, according to a report.
The training sessions are taking place at two locations in Abu Dhabi – in a typical modern villa not far from the northeastern Zayed Port, and at another site outside downtown called “The Academy,” which is equipped with gun ranges, barracks, and driving courses, the Foreign Policymagazine reported.
The trainees learn a range of skills from the basics of intelligence like working in surveillance teams to creating cover identities and how to groom and recruit intelligence assets.
The key figure behind the intelligence training operation is Larry Sanchez, a veteran of the CIA clandestine services who has been assisting the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to build Emirati intelligence for the past six years, FP said, citing multiple sources.
Sanchez is the same former intelligence officer who helped launch a controversial partnership between the CIA and the New York Police Department to monitor Muslims in New York.
But Sanchez is just one of many security professionals who have traveled to the UAE to provide intelligence and security training. They said they were drawn to the Persian Gulf country by the promise of interesting work and good pay.
Then assistant New York City Police Commissioner Larry Sanchez, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on October 30, 2007. (Photo by AP)
“The money was fantastic,” one former agent told FP. “It was $1,000 a day — you could live in a villa or in a five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi.”
The UAE’s reliance on Westerners to build its security and intelligence apparatus is not new, but details of that assistance have always been kept a secret.
Sanchez’s role in the UAE’s intelligence operation indicates just how far private contractors are willing to go in selling skills acquired from decades of working for the US military and intelligence agencies.
This has raised legal questions in the US as Washington struggles to decide how to govern former intelligence officials looking for lucrative careers aboard.
DarkMatter, the government-affiliated UAE company involved in managing the intelligence contract, is currently under investigation by the FBI.
Former US government employees said they believed that having private contractors create a foreign intelligence service was quite unprecedented. “The dream,” one source told the FP, was to help the UAE create "its own CIA."