Friday November 9, 2018
US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday claimed that Saudi Arabia used Israeli spyware to target murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video link, Snowden claimed that software made by an Israeli cyber intelligence firm was used by Saudi Arabia to track and target Khashoggi in the lead up to his murder on 2 October inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Snowden told his audience: “How do they [Saudi Arabia] know what his [Khashoggi’s] plans were and that they needed to act against him? That knowledge came from the technology developed by NSO,” Israeli business daily Globes reported. Snowden accused NSO of “selling a digital burglary tool,” adding it “is not just being used for catching criminals and stopping terrorist attacks, not just for saving lives, but for making money […] such a level of recklessness […] actually starts costing lives,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
Snowden – made famous in 2013 for leaking classified National Security Agency (NSA) files and exposing the extent of US surveillance – added that “Israel is routinely at the top of the US’ classified threat list of hackers along with Russia and China […] even though it is an ally”. Snowden is wanted in the US for espionage, so could not travel to Tel Aviv to address the conference in person for fear of being handed over to the authorities.
The Israeli firm to which Snowden referred – NSO Group Technologies – is known for developing the “Pegasus” software which can be used to remotely infect a target’s mobile phone and then relay back data accessed by the device. Although NSO claims that its products “are licensed only to legitimate government agencies for the sole purpose of investigating and preventing crime and terror,” this is not the first time its Pegasus software has been used by Saudi Arabia to track critics.