British-run spy tech powers Ukraine proxy war, putting civilians at risk

Tuesday, 3 January 2023 — Grayzone UK

Leaked files reveal the Anomaly 6 spy firm is providing intelligence to the British military through a cut-out involved in the Kerch Bridge bombing and other acts of dangerous sabotage in the Ukraine conflict.

On December 6th, The Grayzone revealed how British military and intelligence agencies were deploying technology created by shadowy private intelligence firm Anomaly 6 to illegally spy on citizens across the globe.

The company’s technology effectively transforms every individual on Earth into a potential target for surveillance and/or asset recruitment by monitoring the movements of their smartphone. Anomaly 6 embeds tracking software in popular applications, then slices through layers of theoretically anonymous data to uncover a wealth of sensitive information about a device’s owner.

Anomaly 6’s services are provided to Britain’s soldiers and spies through Prevail Partners, a private military company which The Grayzone has exposed as Whitehall’s arm’s-length cutout for prosecuting its proxy war in Ukraine. The firm has constructed a secret partisan terror army on Kiev’s behalf, and helped plan the Kerch Bridge bombing by Ukraine’s services.

Now, the Grayzone can reveal that Prevail is exploiting Anomaly 6 to provide “decision-enabling intelligence to the UK’s defence and security architecture.”

Files anonymously leaked to this outlet reveal that Britain’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) has used Anomaly 6’s technology to monitor and track the movements of Russian military and intelligence personnel in real-time, on both a group and individual basis. Through aggressive harvesting of data, the technology has enabled the planning of military offensives and artillery attacks, assassinations, asset recruitment, and other measures.

The leaked files raise serious questions about whether Anomaly 6’s technology has been used throughout the Ukraine conflict in an array of targeted operations against specific individuals and infrastructure. If it has, Britain bears ultimate responsibility for the outcome of these disturbing actions, which in some cases amount to crimes against humanity.

As The Grayzone has already demonstrated, Anomaly 6 markets its technology as impeccably precise, while it hoovers up massive amounts of private data and targeting innocent individuals, falsely painting them as national security risks. The firm’s ham-handed approach raises the obvious risk of Russian and Ukrainian citizens being misidentified by Britain’s military intelligence apparatus, with dangerous if not deadly consequences.

British military intelligence tracks Russians ‘in realtime’

By the time Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Anomaly 6 was already providing its surveillance services to the British Home Office through Prevail. Over the course of several months, the firm racked up a multi-million dollar tab.

Anomaly 6 sold its technology to Britain as an innovative means for tracking movements of newly-arrived refugees to the country. Without the migrants’ knowledge or consent, they were steered through “passive data collection gates” as soon as they registered at immigration centres. Their phones were then tagged for monitoring in the hope they could lead authorities to criminal gangs and human traffickers.

This connivance is likely to have been completely illegal under data protection laws, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

As soon as Moscow launched its military operation, the British government deepened its involvement with Anomaly 6. London’s Defence Intelligence Agency instigated what it called “Project MATTERHORN”, a six week trial in which Prevail provided Anomaly 6-sourced “location-based commercial telemetry data” in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

Six weeks later, Prevail wrote to the DIA outlining the costs of three and six-month-long extension packages. The Agency apparently took them up on the second offer; two days after receiving Anomaly 6’s pitch, the company provided a detailed proposal and contract to Prevail.

For $708,750 over the half-year period, Anomaly 6 was contracted to provide “a data feed of country specific data containing harvested first party commercial telemetry data and delivered to client directed cloud-based infrastructure.” Should the DIA require it, “additional countries, regions or queries” could be added at any point during the contract.

It’s not hard to see why Anomaly 6’s services were considered so valuable by the DIA. Files reviewed by The Grayzone include case studies showing how the company’s technology was used both before and after the Russian invasion “to gain a realtime/near realtime understanding of the disposition” of Russian “troops, equipment, and lethal materials.”

For example, Anomaly 6 tracked Moscow’s pre-invasion military buildup, starting in April 2021. By harvesting smartphone data signals generated at a Russian Military training area south of Voronezh, the company identified over 100 devices that had been used at the facility, and was able to determine a clear “pattern of life,” including home addresses (or “bed down locations”), areas and sites frequently visited and workplaces for each user.

This information, Anomaly 6 suggested, could be used for “observing troop movements into a potential conflict zone,” and much more: “combining this data with other open source and classified data sets further enables and empowers the client to permit successful mission outcomes.”

Anomaly 6’s spyware has also been deployed to “corroborate” reports of “Russian trained Syrians” in the conflict, cross-referencing data to find smartphones active in Syria in 2021 that were supposedly detected in Ukraine in March 2022. Some were tracked to the Voronezh training facility, which the company speculated “could be a staging post to integrate Syrians into Russian forces on the Kharkiv axis.”

“This is mostly individual devices, but it is highly likely that these are indicative of larger groups. Additional Syrians at these locations are highly likely,” Anomaly 6 surmised.

However, the firm did not consider the possibility that it had in fact tracked the devices of Russian military advisors posted in Damascus before heading to Ukraine. Even mainstream Western think tanks have dismissed the proposition that Syrian fighters have been active in the Ukrainian theatre. It was only in the final months of this year that Russia formally deployed such forces.

Anomaly 6 fumbles targets’ identities, putting innocents at grave risk

In other cases, Anomaly 6 claims to have achieved highly precise target identification capability. For example, the company tracked the device of a lone “Chechen militia fighter,” and pinpointed “a hardware device associated with the GRU Aerospace and Geo-intelligence Centre.”

“Prior to the Russian invasion the device visited a GRU location in Rostov-on-Don, the Kremlin in Moscow, and an unidentified location in Unecha,” an Anomaly 6 presentation asserted. “The device was then active in Donetsk, Ukraine having crossed the border at an unknown time and date.”

This individual appeared keenly aware of the risk of being tracked through their cellphone. Anomaly 6 found it difficult to adequately identify their “pattern of life,” which are said to potentially signify “some tradecraft or communications security awareness.” Nonetheless, what data could be harvested highlighted one location in Donetsk they had visited “more than any other,” leading the company to speculate it was “linked to Russian GRU or Advanced Force activity.”

Anomaly 6 had more luck in tracking another individual whose device pointed to a “pattern of life” consistent with someone “conducting invasion related activity.” Their movements indicated they lived and worked in Moscow, which made their travel to Ukraine “interesting compared to regular force movements” in the eyes of the firm’s analysts. Anomaly 6 identified an area of Donetsk they had visited that was “possibly used for Command and Control, liaison, and governance,” speculating the device in question was “diplomatic or intelligence related.”

Though this level of detail seems impressive, Anomaly 6 could well have misidentified at least some of its targets, and even the locations they apparently visited. A leaked Anomaly 6 case study exposed by The Grayzone purports to document the company’s identification of the smartphone of a US-based nuclear physics expert who conducted “multiple trips to North Korea” between March and August of 2019.

Anomaly 6 outlined how it unearthed the academic’s name, address, marital status, employer, and photos of their children, along with the schools and universities they attended, by linking their smartphone to sites they visited across the US. The company believed the academic’s supposed trips to Pyongyang made them either a major counterintelligence hazard, or an intelligence asset ripe for recruitment.

When The Grayzone contacted the academic, however, they fervently denied they or their smartphone had ever been to North Korea. They may well have been sincere – smartphone geolocation data can be highly imprecise. If so, the academic and their family were placed in the crosshairs of Anomaly 6’s clients on the basis of a badly bungled analysis. In an active war zone, an error like this is likely to cost innocent lives.

Britain stiffens US resolve at all levels”

On August 20th, Ukraine’s CIA-trained Security Service (SBU) assassinated Daria Dugina, the daughter of nationalist Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, deploying a car bomb to kill her as she travelled through a Moscow suburb. The targeted killing was intended as a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been falsely portrayed in Western media as an avid student of Dugin, despite having never met him.

Given what is known about the operation to assassinate Aleksandr and Daria Dugin, the nature of Anomaly 6’s spyware, and Prevail’s relationship with the SBU, the question of whether the firm’s technology was used to track the pair is ineluctable.

Whether it also informed the SBU’s Odessa branch when to trigger the truck bombing of Kerch Bridge must be considered as well. The attempt to assassinate Russian State Space Corporation leaders Dmitry Rogozin and Artyom Melnikov while they dined at a Donetsk restaurant appears to have relied on tracking technology much like the kind spun out by Anomaly 6.

Then there are the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s death squads which hunt frantically for “collaborators” in formerly Russian-occupied territory. Have they too been granted use of Anomaly 6’s spyware?

These are only a few of the countless scenarios in which Anomaly 6’s technology could have executed. And it is not only London’s DIA that can exploit the company’s wares, courtesy of Prevail. So too can Britain’s Permanent Joint Headquarters, assorted elite military spying units, special forces such as the SAS and SBS, the GCHQ, MI5, and MI6.

Prevail’s involvement in the Kerch Bridge bombing plot amply demonstrates the company’s utter lack of compunction about civilian casualties and clear interest in terrorist acts. It originally proposed going further than what actually transpired, blowing up a ship packed with ammonium nitrate beneath the structure. The company approvingly cited the carnage caused by the 2020 Beirut Blast, which killed hundreds, injured thousands, and inflicted billions in damage, as an example to emulate.

As such, it seems inconceivable the British special forces veterans running Prevail would be anything other than enthusiastic about guiding Kiev’s most violent undertakings, or shy from carrying out such acts themselves.

Washington’s sharing of intelligence with Ukraine is well known, and has proven pivotal to the execution of an array of successful operations and counter-offensive actions. However, the White House claims to observe rigid limits on what it discloses and when, in order to prevent a wider war with Moscow. This has included a ban against providing precision targeting intelligence for senior Russian officials by name.

No such reservations or restrictions appear to exist in London’s case. In fact, the position of much of the British government, intelligence services, and Army appears to be that the proxy war must be escalated as much and as often as possible. Within London’s military-intelligence circles, any exercise of prudence by the Biden administration is seen as a reflection of cowardice.

On December 16th, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demanded an audit of the progress of the war in Ukraine to date. The disclosure piqued intense fears within Whitehall that the new premier could emulate and thus exacerbate the “caution” of the Biden administration. A nameless source revealed to the BBC at the time London had “stiffened the US resolve at all levels,” via “pressure.”

“We don’t want Rishi to reinforce Biden’s caution. We want him to [keep] pushing in the way Boris did,” they explained.

Senior British military-intelligence veteran Chris Donnelly echoed this perspective in a chilling email sent to Brigadier Julian Buczacki of the British Army’s elite 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade just hours after the Kerch Bridge assault. Donnelly was a driving force behind that attack, directing his underlings to draw up blueprints for it. He is also the mastermind of Prevail’s secret Ukrainian terror army.

Invited to serve as an “expert” high-level advisor in “escalation” to London’s Chief of Defence Staff, Donnelly condemned Biden’s supposedly careful approach to the conflict as “so unwise as to beggar belief,” and “the opposite word to ‘deterrence’.”

With the political leadership in London under unrelenting pressure to accept Donnelly’s radical view of the conflict, it appears almost certain the UK will seek new and more brazen means of provoking Russia into escalating. The forces gathered around Prevail are determined to throw caution to the wind, even if it means tempting a nuclear winter.

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions.

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