Dozens of Western former spies, most of them Americans, are being hired by the United Arab Emirates, whose ruling family is trying to create a new spy service modeled after the United States Central Intelligence Agency. According to Foreign Policy magazine’s intelligence reporter, Jenna McLaughlin, Western contractors are paid $1000 a day for their services. They also reside for free in five-star hotels in Abu Dhabi, while helping the UAE “create its own spy empire”. The lucrative compensation makes it difficult for former spooks to turn down invitations to join a handful of Western consulting companies, who are leading the effort to create the UAE’s “professional intelligence cadre modeled after the West’s”, says McLaughlin.
Western instructors provide courses daily at two different locations in Abu Dhabi. In-class instruction takes place at a luxurious villa located in Mina Zayed, a port in the northern outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Field training is conducted at a secret facility located about 45 miles from the UAE capital. The facility is referred to as “The Academy” and is highly reminiscent of Camp Peary, a 10,000-acre US Department of Defense training base that is used to train CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency operations officers. Just like Camp Peary (known informally as “the Farm”), the UAE’s “Academy” features driving course instruction areas, military-style barracks, and gun ranges, among other training elements.
Foreign Policy says it spoke to “six sources with knowledge of the matter” who said that the effort to create a CIA-like agency in the UAE is spearheaded by CAGN Global Ltd., a consultancy company based in Baltimore, MD. The company’s president is Larry Sanchez, a former CIA operations officer, who struck a personal relationship with the UAE’s ruling royal family while working on counterterrorism for the US government in the early 2000s. He has reportedly been living in the UAE for the past six years, helping to build the UAE intelligence services “from the ground up”, says Foreign Policy. At times he has been joined by other high-profile American former ex-spooks, such as Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Richard A. Clarke, who served as National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism under Presidents George Bush, Sr, and Bill Clinton.
According to McLaughlin, the work of CAGN Global Ltd. came under scrutiny last year, as several US government agencies, including the State Department and the CIA, became concerned that the training of Emirati intelligence recruits was too closely modeled after the training provided at the Farm. But a review of the company’s instructional provision in the UAE concluded in its favor and the issue seems to have been resolved said McLaughlin. In researching its story, Foreign Policy reached out to Sanchez, the CIA, the Department of State, and the UAE embassy in Washington, DC, but received no responses.