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Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

But the Emirati target list also included Saudi Arabia. In the email discussions about updating the NSO Group’s technology, the Emiratis asked to intercept the phone calls of a Saudi prince, Mutaib bin Abdullah, who was considered at the time to be a possible contender for the throne.

The Emiratis have been active promoters of Prince Mutaib’s younger rival, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Last year, the crown prince removed Prince Mutaib from his role as minister of the national guard and ordered his temporary detention in connection with corruption allegations.

In a telephone interview, Prince Mutaib expressed surprise that the Emiratis had attempted to record his calls.

“They don’t need to hack my phone,” he said. “I will tell them what I am doing.”

According to the emails, the Emiratis also asked to intercept the phone calls of Saad Hariri, who is now prime minister of Lebanon.

Mr. Hariri has sometimes been accused of failing to push back hard enough against Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese movement backed by Iran. Last year, the U.A.E.’s Saudi ally, Crown Prince Mohammed, temporarily detained Mr. Harari in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and forced him to announce his resignation as prime minister. (He later rescinded the announcement, and he remains prime minister.)

Mr. Alkhamis, who resigned in 2014 as the editor of the London-based newspaper Al Arab, called the surveillance of his phone calls “very strange” but not unexpected, since he had published “sensitive” articles about Persian Gulf politics.

The U.A.E.’s use of the NSO Group’s spyware was first reported in 2016. Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati human rights advocate, noticed suspicious text messages and exposed an attempt to hack his Apple iPhone. The U.A.E. arrested him on apparently unrelated charges the next year and he remains in jail.

Source: NYT > World

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