How Harvey Weinstein's army of lawyers and spies failed


Harvey Weinstein will never forget the month of October 2017.

It began on October 5, when the New York Times published a piece detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

On October 7, Weinstein’s lawyer Lisa Bloom resigned.

On the 8th, he was sacked by the board of his own company.

On the 10th, the New Yorker magazine published a piece with 13 more allegations.

That same day, his wife announced a separation. On the 12th, actress Rose McGowan claimed Weinstein had raped her.

By the end of October, there were over 80 women accusing him of misconduct.

Soon, celebrities and women all over the world were tweeting #MeToo stories of sexual harassment and a MeToo Congress Bill was proposed.

Although it seems Harvey’s career and prominence crumbled within the span of days, messy social problems usually unravel slowly over time behind the scenes.

Harvey had seen this coming from a mile away. And he did everything he could to prevent it.

For years, he relied on an aggressive team of lawyers, confidentiality agreements, financial settlements, and scare tactics to silence his victims.

In 2016, Weinstein had caught wind of two key developments that could shatter his public image.

First, he became aware of a certain New York newspaper working on a piece about his sexual exploits. He wanted to do everything possible to stop the publication. 

Second, a memoir by actress Rose McGowan was in the works that might shed further light on incidents he preferred be kept private. He wanted details about her book.

In the fall of 2016, he engaged private intelligence agencies, Kroll and Black Cube, to target a list of actresses and journalists and keep the situation under control.

Image from Black Cube's website

Image from Black Cube's website

Black Cube promotes itself  as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units including former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies.”

They promised Weinstein, who they referred to as “Mr. X”, a dedicated team of “expert intelligence officers” including avatar operators who would create fake identities on social media as well as operations experts skilled in social engineering.

Weinstein’s dealings with the private investigators were handled by law firms to help ensure protection under attorney-client confidentiality privileges. Ideally, the investigative materials they dug up wouldn’t even have to be presented in courts.

The intelligence agencies took an elaborate approach using tactics outlined in the Social Intelligence Blueprint.

One persuasion framework used by the CIA is the MICE model. MICE suggests appealing to four basic human motivators - Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego.

Weinstein’s team would use all four on actresses and journalists as appropriate.

Money was a relatively straightforward one. But victims with greater clout and financial standing could not be easily paid off.

Ideology works by appealing to goals that already motivate the victim. The agents would pose as allies sympathetic to the victims to get them talking.

Coercion involved a threat such as dangling negative consequences if someone does not cooperate. Weinstein’s team would acquire private information to construct detailed profiles of their targets for potential blackmail.

Ego involved giving people a sense of self-importance and superiority. Working for The Harvey Weinstein could be very validating. It also involved appealing to motivations for revenge. Befriend a target’s enemy, and cooperate to take her down.

One of the key targets was Rose McGowan, whose memoir Brave was slated for release in January 2018. She had wanted to shine a light on how the business of Hollywood was built on systemic misogyny.

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Weinstein’s agents conducted a psychological profile of McGowan to identify her motivations, weaknesses, and enemies. The report detailed her lies, past lovers, and potential negative character witnesses.

The next step was to build rapport. People tend to like those who look like them, listen to them, and want the same things they want.

McGowan was a vocal woman’s rights advocate, so in May 2017, an agent by the name of “Diana Filip” was introduced to Rose McGowan under the pretext of wanting to combat discrimination against women.

In reality, Diana Filip was a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces now working for Black Cube.

Filips used Money, and an aligned Ideology. She presented herself as a representative for a wealth-management firm, Reuben Capital Partners, and invited McGowan to speak about discrimination against women for a fee of $60,000.

The two met several times between Los Angeles and New York, depending on McGowan’s whereabouts. McGowan remembers Filip to be “very kind”. Four conversations were recorded without her knowledge. 

These interactions would lead to delivering over a hundred pages of transcripts and descriptions about McGowan’s upcoming book to Weinstein.

Weinstein’s team also approached McGowan’s enemies. One of these women was Elizabeth Avellan.

Avellan had been married to director Robert Rodriguez for 18 years before he left her for the younger star of his movie, Rose McGowan.

Playing to Avellan’s lingering resentment, they were able to reach her and record her making unflattering statements about McGowan.

But not every one would be a pawn in Harvey’s game.

In another assignment, “Diana Filip” became “Anna” and posed as a sexual harassment victim in order to build rapport with the reporter Ben Wallace at New York magazine.

But Wallace was suspicious of Anna from early on. She was purposefully evasive about how she got his contact information, and asked too many questions about the other women he had been interviewing.

There was also the actress Annabella Sciorra, who would accuse Weinstein of harassment. She received a phone call from a “journalist” in August 2017 but found the conversation suspicious and cut the line. 

Then after keeping silent for 19 years, Weinstein’s former assistant, Zelda Perkins, spoke up and broke a nondisclosure agreement regarding a monetary settlement for sexual harassment.

The Weinstein debacle demonstrates that no amount of money, power, and spy talent can guarantee a victory in the game of social dynamics.

But these covert tactics will not go away. His powerful army of lawyers and spies utilized techniques that have been around for ages, and will continue to be demanded, refined, and employed on unsuspecting individuals.

The MICE model isn’t limited to spies or harassment situations. They can be employed by anyone with a deviant agenda on anyone by pulling the right levers.

But people can develop their social intelligence and defend themselves against predators and problematic characters wherever they encounter them.


And to learn how to protect yourself against problematic predators, we encourage you to download a free copy of The Social Intelligence Blueprint.

Because inside, you'll learn the strategies social engineers use to hack humans.