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Israeli company admits spying on Emir of Qatar

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    Israeli company admits spying on Emir of Qatar

    January 14, 2019

    The General Manager of Israeli company NSO has admitted using spyware that it had developed to spy on the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad, as well as Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

    Shalev Hulio told Yedioth Ahronoth on Saturday that during a closed meeting on 27 December attended by about 400 NSO staff at Tel Aviv University, he revealed details of various espionage cases using electronic spyware developed by the company. One of these was the spying operation against the Qatari officials.

    According to press reports in September last year, the UAE’s national security services purchased Pegasus spyware produced by NSO to spy on the mobile phones of Emir Tamim and Saudi Arabian Prince Mutaib Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, as well as other personalities in 2014.

    Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, meanwhile, has repeated his allegation of NSO’s involvement in the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. If the company had not sold such advanced mobile phone spyware to Saudi Arabia, he claimed, Khashoggi would still be alive.

    Snowden was also interviewed by Yedioth Ahronoth. He said that he is not sure if NSO spied on Khashoggi’s mobile phone, but evidence showed that it spied on the phones of some of his friends, including the Saudi opposition activist Omar Abdulaziz, who lives in Canada, and Yahya Assiri and Ghanim Al-Dosary, who both live in Britain.

    “I would expect that NSO did not spy on Khashoggi’s personal mobile phone,” explained Snowden. “Direct spying on the main target, or victim, is not always sensible in intelligence work, because it may leave evidence in the phone, and thus this would not be the ideal assassination.” He added that it is important to remember that there are always at least two targets when spying on a phone conversation, the victim and the person to whom the victim is speaking. There is evidence, he said, that this is what happened in Khashoggi’s case.

    “Three people, all of whom were in contact with him [Khashoggi], have suffered from spying attempts by what appears to be Saudi intelligence, using NSO tools,” he pointed out. “In the NSA we used to say that the first time is a coincidence, the second is a statistical probability, while the third is considered a hostile act. What had happened in Khashoggi’s case looks like a pattern that I have seen several times.” According to the evidence, said Snowden, Pegasus spyware was used to spy on the mobile phones of Khashoggi’s contact network, and based on what was discovered, the Saudis killed the journalist.

    The former NSA official said that if the Israeli company did not sell this dangerous technology to Saudi Arabia, a country with a long history of human rights violations, Khashoggi might still be alive. He first raised the possibility of Israeli involvement in the assassination in November. In response, NSO issued a press statement, claiming that, “Snowden is selectively targeting Israeli technology companies without having any reliable information.”

    The exact details of Khashoggi’s killing are still uncertain, in the public domain at least. More than 100 days have elapsed since his murder and dismemberment by Saudi agents inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. The UN and EU countries have called on Saudi Arabia to be credible in the investigation of the case, especially after Riyadh’s announcement of a trial for detainees who are alleged to have been involved in the killing.

    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190114-israeli-company-admits-spying-on-emir-of-qatar/