Edward Snowden said on Tuesday that software from the Israeli firm NSO Group Technologies was used to help track the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contract worker, gained international prominence after leaking American intelligence files in 2013 to the media. He spoke on Tuesday at a conference in Tel Aviv via a live video link.
The assertion that Israeli spyware has been used against Saudi dissidents was first reported by the Canadian research institute Citizen Lab in October. According to the report, NSO’s Pegasus spyware had been installed on the phone of Omar Abdulaziz, another exiled Saudi dissident and a friend of Khashoggi’s. Abdulaziz said that he used his cell phone to discuss Saudi politics and plan joint projects with Khashoggi in the months before the latter was killed. Abdulaziz claims that his phone was being monitored at the time.
“Some of you may have heard about the Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi,” Snowden said. “He went into the [Saudi] consulate and he was immediately strangled… how did this get planned, how did this come together…?”
The Saudis, he continued, “knew he was going to come to the consulate because he had made an appointment… but how did they know what his plans and intentions were, how did they decide that he was someone they needed to ask against, who was worth the risk?”
Snowden then suggested that the Saudis were able to gain information on Khashoggi by spiying on “his friend, who was also in exile in Canada.”
“The reality is that they bugged one of his few friends and contacts using software created by an Israeli company. We don’t know the chain of consequence because this company will never comment on this, but it’s one of the major stories not being written about,” Snowden added. Read more
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