The New York Post has reported that two of Donald Trump’s former aides have ties to a company that once tried to create surveillance equipment for the Russian government.
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates have links to Eyelock a company which once offered to sell surveillance equipment and software to the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s government was attempting to install “iris-reading” technology in their subway stations in order to find targets on government watchlists.
Eyelock had planned to help the Kremlin install the technology within Moscow’s subway network. The company boosted that a single machine could collect date from 50 people in a single minute.
Many countries have similar technology installed at secure checkpoints, but Russia wanted to secretly install the software in their subway stations so they could covertly track everyone who passed through the system including tourists and foreign diplomats.
‘They had some people on a naughty list, a black list, and they wanted to track these people,’ a former executive told The Post. ‘It was more surveillance, hit a black-list database, send up an alert’
Ultimately, the Kremlin didn’t take Eyelock up on the offer, but this is still a rather disturbing development in the ongoing saga of Trump’s presidential bid.
A White House staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the news raised important questions regarding national security and Trump’s eligibility to be in the Oval Office.
‘This is quite an unusual business relationship for senior presidential campaign staff members to have with a foreign government,’ a former White House official told The Post.
‘It raises a lot of questions about national security and what should have been publicly disclosed to get a better handle on ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.’
Despite his early praise for Putin, Trump has tried to distance himself from the Russian dictator with mixed results. However, he’s had better success than Manafort who resigned last August due to his close ties with the Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. Gates stepped down in September of 2016.
As for Eyelock, Gates worked as an independent contractor building the company’s business in the Middle East. Manafort, on the other hand, was one of the company’s earliest backers. He invested $1 million into the company and earned as much as 10 percent of the company’s stock though that fell to about 1 percent when Eyelock was sold to Voxx International.
Neither Gates nor Manafort had anything to do with actually running the company, but they were aware of the company’s attempts to expand into Russia. However, a spokesperson for Eyelock stated that Manafort had no direct involvement with the company.
‘There is an entity which holds a minority interest in EyeLock LLC.The Company understands that Mr. Manafort has (or had) a .03% indirect interest in EyeLock LLC through that entity. The notion that small, indirect interest would give Mr. Manafort a financial incentive to attempt to act on behalf of EyeLock is preposterous.’
Additionally, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign has said that Trump had no knowledge of Manafort or Gates’ ties to Eyelock.
‘Mr. Trump and the campaign have absolutely no knowledge of this, and these individuals are no longer with the campaign.’
Whether or not anything comes of Eyelock’s involvement with Russia remains to be seen. Despite the potential conflict of interest involving a presidential candidate, it’s important to remember that Eyelock’s business dealings with Russia do not break any laws.
Featured image via Getty Images.