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

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (Reuters) – A former Wall Street Journal reporter accuses a major US law firm of using hire hackers to oust him from his job and ruin his reputation.

In a lawsuit filed late Friday, Jay Solomon, the Journal’s former chief foreign correspondent, said Philadelphia-based Dechert LLP teamed up with hackers from India to steal emails between him and one of his key sources, the Iranian-American aviation director Farhad Azima.

Solomon said the messages showing Azima were going to do business together were put in a file and distributed in a successful bid to get him fired.

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The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, said Dechert falsely disclosed this file first to Mr. Solomon’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, at his Washington DC desk, and then to other media outlets in an attempt to to defame and discredit. It said the campaign “basically caused Mr Solomon to be blacklisted by the journalism and publishing community”.

Dechert did not immediately return a message asking for comment. Azima – who filed his own lawsuit against Dechert in New York on Thursday – did not immediately return a message. read more

Solomon’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions following Reuters’ coverage of hired hackers operating out of India. In June, Reuters reported on the activities of several hack-for-hire outlets, including the Delhi companies BellTroX and CyberRoot, which were involved in a decade-long series of spy campaigns targeting thousands of people, including more than 1,000 lawyers in 108 different countries. law firms.

At the time, Reuters reported that people who had been targeted by hackers while involved in at least seven different lawsuits had each launched their own investigation into the cyber-espionage campaign.

That number has grown since then.

Azima, Solomon’s former source, is among those who have gone to court over the alleged hacking. His lawyers, like Solomon’s, allege that Dechert teamed up with BellTroX, CyberRoot, and a slew of private investigators to steal his emails and publish them on the web.

BellTroX and CyberRoot are not parties to the lawsuit and were not immediately contactable. Executives of both companies have previously denied doing anything.

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

Azima, who denies the allegations of fraud by RAKIA, tries to quash the verdict.

The leaked emails were not only taken to court but also ended up with The Associated Press, which published two articles about Azima in June 2017, including one that revealed that the aviation magnate had offered reporter Solomon a minority stake in a company he owned. used to be. Setting up. The Journal fired Solomon shortly before the AP’s story was published, citing ethical violations.

Solomon says he never took Azima’s proposal or benefited financially from their relationship. In a first-person account of the scandal published in 2018 in the Columbia Journalism Review, the ex-journalist said he never turned back Azima’s talk about business opportunities because he tried to touch a man who had been pivotal to his coverage of the Middle East. Solomon acknowledged “serious mistakes in managing my resource relationship with Azima”, but said he had been the target of an “incredibly effective” intelligence operation.

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

Solomon won several awards for his work as a foreign correspondent before being fired. He declined to make an on-the-record comment about the lawsuit, but in his 2018 account, he called the episode a warning to journalists.

“Leaks and hacks of emails and correspondence can blow up complicated reporting and derail months if not years of work,” he said.

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Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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