Meet Ghislaine: Daddy’s Girl


by Whitney Webb, Unlimited Hangout:

Absent from mainstream discourse on Ghislaine Maxwell’s ongoing trial is any mention of the ties, not only of herself, but her family, to Israeli intelligence. Those ties, forged by Ghislaine’s father Robert Maxwell, are critical to understanding Ghislaine’s history and her role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual blackmail and trafficking network.


The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged madam of Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual blackmail and sex trafficking network, has attracted considerable mainstream and independent media attention, though not as much as one might expect given the level of media attention that surrounded Epstein’s 2019 arrest and death or given the public interest in the Epstein/Maxwell scandal and its broader implications.

Unsurprisingly, the broader implications of the Epstein/Maxwell scandal have been largely, if not entirely absent, from mainstream media (and some independent media) coverage of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial as well as absent from the case itself. For example, despite physical evidence of sexual blackmail stored at Epstein’s residences being shown by the prosecution (with the names of those incriminated being notably redacted), the prosecution chose not to mention even the potential role of blackmail in Ghislaine Maxwell’s activities and motives as it related to her involvement in sex trafficking activities alongside Jeffrey Epstein. Not only that, but the names of Ghislaine’s close contacts and even some of her defense witnesses, along with considerable information about her role in Epstein’s network that is very much in the public interest, is due to be filed under seal and forever hidden from the public, either due to “deals” made between the prosecution and the defense in this case or due to rulings from the judge overseeing the case.

Going hand in hand with the blackmail angle of this case is the specter of Ghislaine Maxwell’s family ties to intelligence agencies, as well as the intelligence ties of Jeffrey Epstein himself. Given that blackmail, particularly sexual blackmail, has been used by intelligence agencies – particularly in the US and Israel – since the 1940s and beyond, it is deeply troubling that neither the blackmail or intelligence angle has played any role in the prosecution’s case or in the mainstream media’s coverage of the trial.

To remedy this lack of coverage, Unlimited Hangout is publishing a 2-part investigative report entitled “Meet Ghislaine”, which is adapted from this author’s upcoming book on the subject. This investigation will detail key aspects of Ghislaine Maxwell’s links to intelligence agencies and sexual blackmail activities that are relevant to the case against her and perhaps explain the silence from the prosecution and their interest in sealing potentially incriminating evidence against Ghislaine from public scrutiny. Part 1 of this article will focus on Ghislaine’s father, Robert Maxwell, a “larger than life” figure who straddled the worlds of both business and espionage and whose daughters inherited different aspects of his espionage contacts and activities as well as his influence empire following his 1991 death.

The Making of a Maxwell

To understand Ghilaine Maxwell’s history, one must start with a hard look at the rise of her father, Robert Maxwell. Born in what is now part of Ukraine, “Robert Maxwell” was the last in a series of names he used, with Abraham Hoch, Jan Ludvick, and Leslie Du Marier among his earlier aliases. The name Robert Maxwell emerged at the behest of one of his superiors in the British military. Maxwell had joined the British military during World War II, having left the village of his birth prior to the war, when the Third Reich began its expansion. Maxwell’s parents and his siblings are believed to have died in the Holocaust.

Robert and Betty Maxwell pose at their 1945 wedding; Source

Robert Maxwell was involved with the British intelligence service MI6 during the war and, after the war, was befriended by Count Frederich vanden Huevel, who had worked closely with Allen Dulles during the war. Dulles went on to be the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and, during the war, was busy running interference for prominent Nazis and actively undermining FDR’s “total surrender” policy for senior Nazi leadership.

The chaos of postwar Europe allowed Maxwell to plant the seeds for what would become his future media empire. Thanks to his contacts with Allied Forces in postwar Berlin, he was able to acquire the publishing rights for prominent European scientific journals and, in 1948, those interests were folded into the British publishing company Butterworth, which had long-standing ties to British intelligence. In the early 1950s, the company was renamed Pergamon Press, and this company became the cornerstone of Maxwell’s media empire.

Pergamon’s access to prominent academics, scientists, and government not only led to Maxwell acquiring great wealth but also attracted the interest of various intelligence agencies— British, Russian, and Israeli among them—all of which attempted to recruit Maxwell as an asset or as a spy. When MI6 attempted to recruit Maxwell for the service, it concluded, after conducting an extensive background check, that Maxwell was a “Zionist—loyal only to Israel.” His subsequent relationship with MI6 was choppy and largely opportunistic on both sides, with Maxwell later laying some of the blame for his financial troubles on MI6’s alleged attempts to “subvert” him.

Maxwell was not officially recruited to work for Israeli intelligence until 1961, but his critical role in securing weapons and airplane parts for the 1948 war that created the state of Israel suggests a strong relationship with prominent politicians and military figures in the nation from its beginning, as this was certainly the case with other prominent businessmen who had helped arm Zionist paramilitaries before and during 1948. In the early 1960s, Maxwell was formally approached by Israeli intelligence to make use of his access to the variety of prominent businessman and world leaders that he had cultivated while growing his media empire.

A few years after being officially recruited as an asset of Israeli intelligence, Maxwell ran for public office, becoming a member of the British Parliament for the Labour Party in 1964. His bid for re-election failed, which left him out of office by 1970. Around that same time, he also lost control of Pergamon Press, though he reacquired it a few years later.

Having nearly lost everything, Maxwell devoted his time to consolidating control over his ever-growing web of interlocking companies, trusts, and foundations that now encompassed much more than media concerns, while also developing his ties to prominent politicians, businessmen, and their fixers, a group that Maxwell proudly referred to as his “sources.” Among these early “sources” were soon-to-be UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher; Israel’s biggest arms dealer and one of its powerful oligarchs, Saul Eisenberg; financial behemoths such as Edmund Safra; and master manipulators such as Henry Kissinger. Another early “source” was George H. W. Bush, who was then part of the Nixon administration and soon served as CIA director before becoming Reagan’s vice president and then US president himself.

Maxwell’s sources and influence extended well beyond the West, with many of his most prominent contacts found in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union. He had cozy relationships with dictators, intelligence officials, and even organized crime lords such as Semion Mogilevich, sometimes referred to as the “boss of the bosses” of the Russian mafia. It was none other than Robert Maxwell who orchestrated the entry of Mogilevich-connected companies into the United States, a move that was accomplished after Maxwell successfully lobbied the state of Israel to grant Mogilevich and his associates Israeli passports, thereby allowing them easier access to US financial institutions.

The expansion of Maxwell’s prominent contacts paralleled the growth of his media empire. By 1980, he had acquired the British Printing Corporation, which he renamed the Maxwell Communication Corporation. Just a few years later, he bought the Mirror Group, publisher of the British tabloid the Daily Mirror. This was followed by his acquisition of US publishers Prentice Hall and MacMillan and later the New York Daily News. Much of the money Maxwell used to acquire the Mirror Group and several of these other companies came from financial backers of Israeli intelligence. Money “borrowed” from Maxwell-owned media outlets such as the Mirror Group and its pension fund was used to finance Mossad activities in Europe and elsewhere; then, the funds were restored before the absence was noticed by company employees not privy to these operations. Maxwell later derailed this well-oiled system by dipping into these same funds to finance his own ostentatious and salacious habits.

Robert Maxwell poses with the first edition of “The European” newspaper he founded in 1990; Source

During this period, Maxwell’s ties to Israeli intelligence deepened in other ways, particularly during the time when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister. Shamir, previously a leader of the Zionist terrorist group known as Lehi or the Stern Gang, deeply loathed the United States, a sentiment he confided to Maxwell during one of Maxwell’s visits to Israel. Shamir told Maxwell that he blamed the Americans for the Holocaust because of US failure to support the transfer of European Jews to Palestine prior to the war. Shamir’s views on the US likely informed Israel’s more aggressive espionage targeting the US that emerged during this time and in which Maxwell prominently figured.

Maxwell and the PROMIS Affair

Maxwell’s prominent roles in the PROMIS software scandal and the Iran-Contra affair during the 1980s were facilitated by his purchase of numerous Israeli companies, several of which were either fronts or “providers of services” for Israeli intelligence. The most notable of these was Scitex, where Yitzhak Shamir’s son Nachum was a major executive throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and Degem, a computer company with a large presence in Central and South America as well as Africa.

Even before Maxwell’s purchase of Degem, it had been used by Mossad as a cover for agents, and particularly assassins, who would use its offices as a cover before conducting kidnappings and murders of individuals linked to groups with ties to or sympathies for Israel’s enemies, particularly the PLO. Some of the most notable events occurred in Africa, where Mossad assassins used Degem as cover to launch killings of members of the African National Congress. In Latin America, Degem was also used as cover for the Mossad to infiltrate terrorist and nacroterrorist organizations such as Peru’s Sendero Luminoso (known in English as the Shining Path) and Colombia’s National Liberation Army or ELN.

After Maxwell’s purchase of Degem, it served as the main vehicle through which Israel conducted what was arguably its most brazen and successful espionage operation of the era—the bugging and then mass marketing of the stolen software program known as PROMIS.

Rafi Eitan, the notorious Israeli spymaster who served as Jonathan Pollard’s handler and who played a key role in the creation of the Talpiot program, was serving as the head of the (now defunct) Israeli intelligence service known as Lekem when he heard of a revolutionary new software program being used by the US Department of Justice. The program was known as the Prosecutors Information Management System, better known by its acronym PROMIS.

Rafi Eitan with Israeli politician Ariel Sharon in 1987; Source

Eitan had learned of PROMIS from Earl Brian, a longtime associate of Ronald Reagan who had previously worked for the CIA. PROMIS is often considered to be the forerunner of the PRISM software used by US and allied spy agencies today and was developed by former NSA official Bill Hamilton. Hamilton had leased the software to the US Department of Justice through his company, Inslaw Inc., in 1982.

Eitan and Brian hatched a plan to install a “trapdoor” into the software and then sell PROMIS throughout the world, providing Israel with invaluable intelligence on the operations of its enemies and allies while also netting Eitan and Brian massive profits. According to the testimony of former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, Brian provided a copy of PROMIS to Israeli military intelligence, which contacted an Israeli American programmer living in California. That programmer then planted a trapdoor or back door into the software.

Once the back door was installed, Brian attempted to use his company Hadron Inc. to market the bugged PROMIS software around the world. Having been unsuccessful at trying to buy out Inslaw, Brian turned to his close friend Attorney General Ed Meese, whose Justice Department abruptly refused to make payments to Inslaw that were stipulated by contract, essentially using the software for free. Hamilton and Inslaw claimed that this was theft. Some have speculated that Meese’s role in that decision was shaped not only by his friendship with Brian but also by the fact that his wife was a major investor in Brian’s business ventures.

Meese’s actions forced Inslaw into bankruptcy, and Inslaw subsequently sued the Justice Department, with the court finding that the Meese-led department “took, converted, [and] stole” the software through “trickery, fraud and deceit.” Meanwhile, with Inslaw seemingly out of the way, Brian sold the bugged software to Jordan’s intelligence service, which was a major boon for Israel, and to a handful of private companies. Eitan, nevertheless, was unsatisfied with Brian’s progress and quickly turned to the person he thought could most effectively sell PROMIS to governments of interest all over the world—Robert Maxwell.

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