Former US National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden says Saudi Arabia may have used software made by an Israeli cyber firm to track prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul last month.
Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video call from Russia, Snowden said Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group, was used to track opponents. “The Saudis, of course, knew that Khashoggi was going to go to the consulate, as he got an appointment. But how did they know his intention and plans?” he said. Snowden went on to say that the smartphone of one of Khashoggi’s friends, who was living in exile in Canada, had been infected with Pegasus spyware.He said the software allowed the Saudis to collect information about Khashoggi. “The truth is that they pursued some of his friends through a program written by the Israeli company,” Snowden pointed out. “We have high confidence that the cellphone of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist and Canadian permanent resident, was targeted and infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware,” Canadian research institute Citizen Lab said in a report. Pegasus spyware reportedly allows almost unlimited surveillance of mobile phones. It is seen as the world’s most powerful mobile spyware application. Snowden, a former CIA employee, began leaking classified intelligence documents in June 2013, revealing the extent of the NSA’s spying activities, including the massive collections of phone records of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders around the world.Snowden, who lives in Russia where he has been granted asylum, has said that the US government’s surveillance methods far surpass those of an ‘Orwellian’ state, referring to George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” which describes a society where personal privacy is continuously invaded by spy agencies. Khashoggi was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Once inside, he was immediately strangled and then dismembered, according to the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office. A senior Turkish official told The Washington Post on November 2 that the slain journalist’s body was destroyed in acid on the grounds of the Saudi consulate or at the nearby residence of the Saudi consul general.The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said biological evidence discovered in the diplomatic mission garden supports the theory that Khashoggi’s body was disposed of close to where he was killed and dismembered. “Khashoggi’s body was not in need of burying,” the official was quoted as saying. Khashoggi, a distinguished commentator on Saudi affairs who wrote for The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, had lived in self-imposed exile in the US since September 2017, when he left Saudi Arabia over fears of the Riyadh regime’s crackdown on critical voices. His death has subjected the Riyadh regime and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to strict scrutiny. Hatice Cengiz, the journalist’s fiancée, has accused Saudi officials of a massive cover-up.