Amnesty InternationalÂ has called on the Israeli ministry of military affairs to suspend the license of a cyber firmÂ which was reportedly in talks with Saudi Arabia, toÂ sell super-stealth spyware to the country and amid revelations that the companyâs software had been used in âa series of egregious human rights violations.â
Amnesty International IsraelÂ said in a statement, according to Press TV/Al Ray, that Israeli cyberarms firmÂ NSO Group âhas gone out of control.â
Sources in the Israeli ministry later said it was strict about granting licenses according to the law, and that they could not discuss the existence of NSO’s license, for security reasons.
Amnesty Israel rejected the response and said it intended to pursue legal action.
The development came on the heels of a report published, by Haaretz daily newspaper, stating that NSO representatives offered Pegasus 3 technology toÂ high-profile Saudi officials back in 2017.
The report, citing a complaint filed with Israeli police, byÂ an unnamed European businessman,Â noted that the Saudi officials included former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.
The businessman insists that the Pegasus 3 affair began when he was contacted by an Israeli manÂ dealing inÂ cyber-defense technologies and identified only as W., whoÂ asked him toÂ use his connections inÂ the Persian Gulf states toÂ help do business inÂ the region.
During a series ofÂ meetings, Saudi officials presented a list ofÂ software they sought toÂ obtain toÂ hack intoÂ the phones ofÂ pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim ministers and intellectuals, inÂ Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
In the summer ofÂ 2017, W. negotiated a deal toÂ sell NSO’s Pegasus 3 system toÂ the Saudis for $55 million.
Despite an oral agreement withÂ W., the European businessman says that he started ignoring his phone calls when he asked forÂ his 5-percent commission ($2.75 million). The businessman filed the complaint inÂ April of this year and has sinceÂ been interrogated byÂ the Israeli police’s fraud department and contacted byÂ income tax authorities.
Earlier this month, former US National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden said that Saudi Arabia may have used software made by an Israeli cyber firm to track prominent dissident journalistÂ Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after visiting the kingdomâs consulate in Turkeyâs largest city of Istanbul, in early October.
Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video call from Russia, Snowden said Pegasus spyware was used to track opponents.
âThe 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?â he pointed out.
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 that the software allowed the Saudis to collect information about Khashoggi.
âThe truth is that they pursued some of his friends through a program written by the Israeli company,â Snowden pointed out.
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 Prosecutorâs office.
A senior Turkish official toldÂ The Washington Post, on November 2, that the slain journalistâs body was destroyed in acid either on the grounds of theÂ SaudiÂ consulate or at the nearby residence of theÂ SaudiÂ consul general.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that biological evidence discovered in the diplomatic mission garden supports the theory thatÂ Khashoggiâs body was disposed of close to where he was killed and dismembered.
âKhashoggiâs body was not in need of burying,â the official was quoted as saying.
Khashoggi, a distinguished commentator on Saudi affairs who wrote forÂ The Washington Postâs Global Opinions section, had lived in self-imposed exile in the US since September 2017, when he left Saudi Arabia overÂ fears of the Riyadh regimeâs crackdown on critical voices.
His death has subjected the Riyadh regime and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to strict scrutiny.
Hatice Cengiz,Â the journalist’s fiancĂ©e, has accused Saudi officials of a massive cover-up.