An Israeli tech firm is selling spy software to dictators, betraying the country’s ideals

Omar Abdulaziz in Montreal, Quebec, Oct 17, 2018. (photo: François Ollivier / The Washington Post)
A Saudi dissident is suing an Israeli technology company, accusing it of providing the Saudi government with the surveillance software to spy on him and his friends — including Jamal Khashoggi.

By Max Boot | The Washington Post | Dec 5, 2018

Freed of serious regulatory pressure, Israeli spy companies are free to maximize profits any way they can.

Israel has always prided itself on being, as the Book of Isaiah says, “a light unto the nations” — an exemplar of “righteousness” to inspire Jews and gentiles alike and bring salvation to mankind. That is why the menorah is the symbol not only of Hanukkah, which Jews are now celebrating, but also of the state of Israel. But Israel’s light is dimmed when veterans of its famed armed forces, whose mission is to defend the Jewish state’s freedom, misuse their expertise to aid oppression in other countries.

Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who lives in Canada, has filed a lawsuit against an Israeli technology company called the NSO Group accusing it of providing the Saudi government with the surveillance software to spy on him and his friends — including Jamal Khashoggi. The program, known as Pegasus, not only allows the monitoring of all communications from a phone — all texts, all emails, all phone calls — but can also hijack a mobile phone’s microphone and camera to turn it into a surveillance device.

The information gathered on Khashoggi may have motivated his murder by alerting the Saudi authorities that he was stirring up electronic dissent within the kingdom, while denouncing Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in vituperative terms as a “pac-man” who devoured all in his path. “The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdulaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.”

Firms like the NSO Group have been started by veterans of Unit 8200, Israel’s version of the National Security Agency. A 2016 report by a watchdog group called Privacy International identified 27 Israeli companies in the business of surveillance, the highest number per capita in the world. But the NSO Group has created the most controversy amid charges that its products have been misused against civil society activists around the world.

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