The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Israeli software firms helping prosecute tortured dissidents in Bahrain Open in fullscreen

Robert Cusack

Israeli software firms helping prosecute tortured dissidents in Bahrain

Celebrite claim to be able to gain access to any smartphone within seconds [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 December, 2016

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Court transcripts published on Thursday show how software companies are helping crack smart-phones and snoop on civilians.

Israeli software companies are reportedly helping prosecute political prisoners in the Middle East by extracting confidential information from their phones, it has emerged.

Court transcripts published by The Intercept on Thursday show that Israeli software firm, Cellebrite, is allegedly helping Bahriani police hack the private messages of political activists.

While the Bahraini government continues to suppress protest from its Shia majority citizens, evidence gathered from these messages is being used as a basis for torture.

“Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, mainly suspects in security or terrorism-related cases, remained rife, particularly within the Criminal Investigations Directorate,” reported Amnesty International on its Bahrain profile.

Cellebrite had not acknowledged its work with the Bahraini Criminal Investigations Directorate before these transcripts were published.

When previously asked by the BBC if Cellebrite would sell its services to oppressive regimes, the company’s Israeli vice president, Yuval Ben-Moshe, claimed ignorance.

“I don’t know… I don’t know the answer to that and I’m in no position to comment on that in this point in time.”

Other Israeli companies helping regimes across the Middle East monitor their telephone, mobile, and IP networks include Verint's Israel office and NICE systems.

The issue of Israeli collaboration becomes even more sinister after one considers the strong links between Israeli security companies and the Israeli army.

There are plenty of examples of security firms working with the army on common research goals and on sharing resources.

The Israeli cyber-snooping firm NSO Group made the headlines earlier this year after it claimed could hack any iPhone, anywhere.


Recent research showed that Palestinians sometimes found it “impossible to differentiate” between private security firms and Israeli state forces.

The Israeli cyber-snooping firm NSO Group made the headlines earlier this year after it claimed could hack any iPhone, anywhere.

It later emerged that several of NSO’s employees had previously worked at United 8200, the Israeli army’s data collection department.

Britain’s spy agency described Israel as a “true threat” to the Middle East, according to leaked documents published by French newspaper, Le Monde, on Friday.

“The Israelis constitute a true threat to regional security, notably because of the country’s position on the Iran issue," a top-secret 2009 document said.

Eavesdropping

It’s not just Israeli firms who are responsible for colluding with regimes that use violence against citizens.

In Egypt, a recent report by Transparency International found that the country’s secretive “Technical Research Department” (TRD), which is responsible for eavesdropping on civilians, receives help from the European firms Advanced German Technology and Hacking Team.

State-sponsored torture and repression are seemingly profitable businesses these days, meaning a strong future for financial shareholders, but bad news for human rights


Hacking Team, a self-styled “hacking suite for governmental interception” came under particular scrutiny after a tranche of its internal emails were released by Wikileaks.

According to e-mails from 2013, the Hacking Team made $1 million from selling surveillance technologies to the TRD, including software which gave users complete control over infected computers.

Hacking Team has denied the emails.

“Hacking Team goes to great lengths to assure that our software is not sold to governments that are blacklisted by the EU, the USA, Nato and similar international organisations or any ‘repressive’ regime.

While many of the issues raised by this article may come as no surprise to any long-term resident in the Middle East, the issue remains that the majority of these trades are done without the knowledge and permission of the majority of the region’s citizens.

While the murky world of governments spying on their own citizens becomes ever more unclear, the even darker world of collusion between corporate security firms and military forces becomes more important.

State-sponsored torture and repression are seemingly profitable businesses these days, meaning a strong future for financial shareholders, but bad news for human rights.

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More