The United Arab Emirates had asked an Israeli spyware company it had contracted to surveil dissidents to tap the phone calls of the prime minister of Lebanon and other Arab officials, it emerged Friday.
The Emirati government reportedly asked the NSO Group how best to hack the phones of various politicians, with the Arab nation’s leaders particularly interested in spying on a Saudi prince, the leader of rival Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri — though it was not clear whether those officials were actually hacked.
The rulers of the UAE had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices, the New York Times reported.
The NSO Group has insisted in the past that it sells its software to clients on the condition that it be used only against crime and terrorism, and has shirked responsibility in cases where it was allegedly used for civil rights abuses.
But two new lawsuits being brought against the company have uncovered documents on Thursday that assert the company and its affiliates have actively engaged in illegal activities for clients.
The Times based its report on leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.
The NSO Group told the Times it would not comment until it had a chance to review the documents.
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