MBS allowed Israeli flights to use Saudi airspace in exchange for access to Pegasus spyware: NYT

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to have allowed Israeli flights to use the kingdom’s airspace to satisfy Tel Aviv by renewing Riyadh’s license to use the NSO’s infamous Pegasus spyware.

On Friday, the New York Times said a year-long investigation found that the Israeli regime had gained diplomatic advantages around the world from the Pegasus spyware.

Tel Aviv approved the sale of Pegasus to Saudi Arabia, specifically to a Saudi security agency overseen by bin Salman, in 2017.

But a year later, the NSO shut down the Pegasus system in Saudi Arabia at the request of an ethics committee made up of a bipartisan cast of former US foreign policy officials, after reports showed the malware had helped Riyadh to kill the dissident. to spy on. journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The NYT said the Israeli company agreed to re-enable the Pegasus system in Saudi Arabia in early 2019 as then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu engaged in normalization agreements with several Arab states.

Netanyahu signed normalization agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani at an official ceremony hosted by then-US President Donald Trump at the White House on September 15, 2020.

The NYT said Israel’s military affairs ministry refused to renew the Saudi export license when it expired at the end of 2020.

Without the license, NSO could not perform routine maintenance on the software and the systems crashed.

The report said the Crown Prince personally called Netanyahu after numerous phone calls between his aides, NSO executives, Mossad and Israel’s military affairs ministry failed to resolve the issue.

After the call, the report said Netanyahu’s office immediately ordered the Ministry of Military Affairs to fix the problem and turn the Saudi systems back on.

In return, according to the report, MBS opened Saudi airspace for all flights to and from Israel for the first time ever, and allowed a critical part of the normalization agreement to move forward.

Smartphones infected with Pegasus can be turned into a listening device. In addition, the spyware allows the user to read the target’s messages, look through their photos, track their location and even turn on their camera without their knowledge.

Last November, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted the Israeli surveillance company, which has so far exported Pegasus to 45 countries around the world.

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