CEO Travis Kalanick, addresses a gathering at an event in New
Delhi, India, December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
There are a lot of explosive claims in a recently
unsealed letter written by a lawyer for a former Uber
One claim is that Uber contracted with ex-CIA
operatives to bug hotels, infiltrate WhatsApp groups, and
obtain sensitive information.
In one example cited in the letter, these operatives
were able to record executives at a competitor holding a
business meeting at a hotel reacting to news that Uber had
receieved billions in funding from the Saudi
A lot of this espionage was conducted by actual CIA-trained “case
officers,” who posed as legitimate businessmen and businesswomen,
but collected intelligence on the side for Uber, according to the
letter. Uber called these operatives “LATs.”
Uber hasn’t verified all the claims in the so-called
“Jacobs letter,” a spokesperson told Business Insider on
Here’s the footnote from the letter describing Uber’s LAT
Here’s what it says:
“LAT operatives are CIA-trained case officers fielded by Gicinto.
They are capable of collecting foreign intelligence in priority
locations for Uber. They are commercially covered, deeply
back-stopped business persons with established reasons to travel
to high priority locations important to Uber on little notice.
They conduct business meetings, but collect intelligence for Uber
on the side. Around early-to-mid 2016, they quickly became Uber’s
stable of non-official cover operatives. These independent
contractors were given the meaningless acronym “LAT” to protect
discussions about this resource and poke fun at Tal Global, a
former vendor who provided intelligence collection support to
Uber. LATs were seen as the opposite of Tal, who Uber had
discontinued work with due to their low quality work.”
Uber exec allegedly said that its CIA-trained spies were “Boy
contractors used to work at the CIA, according to the Jacobs
“Gicinto,” in the above passage, refers to Nick Gicinto, who was
in charge of Uber’s “Strategic Services Group.” The group was
responsible for collecting sensitive information using in-house
Uber employees and outside vendors, according to the
The letter claims Gicinto said that although the LAT operatives
had conducted espionage in their previous careers, they were “all
Boy Scouts now.”
These LATs show up several times in the narrative presented in
the 37-page letter, which alleges that LAT operatives
impersonated actual people to access closed social media groups,
placed recording devices, and collected information on political
figures and parties.
One claim in the letter is that an Uber LAT operative had found a
“new technical capability” in a redacted foreign country that
allowed it to collect mobile-phone metadata, including call logs
with the time and date of various communications, likely
phone calls and texts.
“The subsequent link-analysis of this metadata occurred on U.S.
soil and revealed previously unknown, non-public relationships
between Uber opposition figures, politicians, and regulators with
unfavorable views on Uber and the ride-sharing industry,”
according to the letter, which claims the LATs conducted “foreign
espionage” against a sovereign nation.
LAT operatives were also active in the United States, according
to the letter, citing an example of an operative gaining access
to a private WhatsApp chat group by impersonating a taxi driver.
In one example cited in the letter, LAT operatives were able to
record executives at a competitor holding a business meeting at a
hotel reacting to news that Uber had receieved
billions in funding from the Saudi government.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Uber had several groups dedicated
to collecting sensitive business information from competitors and
regulators, but contracting with former CIA spies is an
aggressive move, even for a company that
regularly pushed the boundries of the law.