US hackers helped UAE spy on Al jazeera chairman, BBC host

  • 2 years   ago
US hackers helped UAE spy on Al jazeera chairman, BBC host

A gathering of American hackers who once worked for US insight organizations helped the United Arab Emirates keep an eye on a BBC have, the administrator of Al jazeera and other conspicuous Arab media figures amid a strained 2017 barricade by UAE and its partners against Qatar. 

The American agents worked for Project Raven, a mystery Emirati insight program that kept an eye on protesters, aggressors and political rivals of the UAE government. A Reuters examination in January uncovered Project Raven's presence and inward operations, including the way that it surveilled a British dissident and a few anonymous US writers. 

The Raven agents - who included no less than nine previous representatives of the US National Security Agency and the US military - ended up push into the thick of a high-stakes emergency among America's Gulf partners. The Americans' job in the UAE-Qatar imbroglio features how previous US knowledge authorities have turned out to be key players in the digital wars of different countries, with little oversight from Washington. 


The emergency ejected in the spring of 2017, when the UAE and partners - including Saudi Arabia and Egypt - separated political ties with Qatar and forced an air, land and ocean barricade against Doha. It was a remarkable showdown among Arab nations that had generally prized accord. 

That week, Project Raven agents sprang energetically, propelling tasks to break into the Apple iPhones of something like 10 writers and media administrators they accepted had associations with the Qatari government, as per program archives checked on by Reuters and four individuals engaged with the exercises. 

Raven focused on Arab media figures who spread over a scope of political idea - from a Beirut-based BBC host to the administrator of Al jazeera and a maker from a London satellite station. 

The objective, the previous Raven agents stated, was to discover material demonstrating that Qatar's initiative had impacted the inclusion of Al jazeera and other news sources. Reuters couldn't figure out what information Raven got. 

Al jazeera has since quite a while ago kept up it is free from Qatar's legislature. Jassim Bin Mansour Al-Thani, a media attaché for Qatar's international safe haven in Washington, said "the administration of Qatar does not ask for, ask, or uphold on Al jazeera any plan at all." Al jazeera "is dealt with like some other regarded news source." 

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its international safe haven in Washington did not react to demands for input. The NSA declined to remark. A Department of Defense representative declined to remark. 

Dana Shell Smith, the previous US envoy to Qatar, said she thought that it was disturbing that American insight veterans had the capacity to work for another legislature in focusing on an American partner. She said Washington should better administer US government-prepared programmers after they leave the knowledge network. 

"People with these ranges of abilities ought not have the capacity to intentionally or unwittingly undermine US interests or repudiate US esteems," Smith told Reuters. 

Among the Arab columnists hacked, Raven venture archives appear, was Giselle Khoury, Beirut-based host of BBC Arabic's "The Scene," a program that interviews Middle Eastern pioneers on recent developments. Three days after the barricade started, Raven agents hacked her iPhone. Raven program records show she was focused on account of her contact with Azmi Bishara, a Doha-based author who has been reproachful of the UAE and established the news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. 

"They have to invest their energy in improving their nation, their economy," Khoury said in a meeting after Reuters educated her of the hack. "Not on having Giselle Khoury as a hacking target." 

On June 19, 2017, Americans working for Raven focused on Faisal al-Qassem, host of a well known Al jazeera show called "The Opposite Direction," meetings and archives appear. 

The show highlights visitors who heatedly banter dubious themes, for example, debasement in Middle Eastern governments. Educated by Reuters about his hacking, al-Qassem said he was not astounded he was focused by the UAE, which he blames for being "an image of debasement and messy governmental issues." 

"In a word, they fear reality," he said. 

That equivalent day, Raven agents focused on the iPhone of Al jazeera's administrator, Hamad receptacle Thamer canister Mohammed Al Thani. Through an Al jazeera representative, Al Thani declined to remark. 

The assaults used a digital weapon called Karma. As Reuters announced in January, Karma permitted Raven agents to remotely hack into iPhones by contributing an objective's telephone number or related email address into the assault programming. In contrast to numerous adventures, Karma did not require an objective to tap on a connection sent to an iPhone, they said. Apple declined to remark. 

Karma gave Raven agents access to the contacts, messages, photographs and other information put away on iPhones. It didn't enable them to screen telephone calls. 

While Raven agents broke into the gadgets, they didn't have full access to the information they gathered; they passed the material on to UAE insight authorities directing the activity. It's misty what they found. 

In January, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash was asked by columnists in New York about Project Raven after the underlying Reuters report. Gargash recognized his nation has a "digital capacity" yet didn't explicitly address the program. He denied focusing on US residents or nations with which the UAE has great relations. 

SPYING EFFORT'S U.S. Connections 

The UAE made Project Raven in 2009 with the assistance of American knowledge contractual workers and previous senior White House authorities from the George W Bush organization. The US National Security Council declined to remark on Project Raven. 

At first, the objective was to get serious about fear mongering by helping the UAE screen aggressors around the locale. Yet, Raven's central goal immediately extended to incorporate checking and smothering a scope of UAE political rivals, the records appear. 

Among its objectives was Qatar. 

The Emiratis likewise tapped Raven in the push to contain contradict at home, as indicated by previous Raven agents and task reports. In the years after the Arab Spring, the agents were progressively entrusted with focusing on human rights activists and writers who scrutinized the administration. 

Focusing on JOURNALISTS 

In June 2017, after Gulf countries started their bar of Qatar, the UAE increase endeavors to keep an eye on columnists seen as attached to Qatar. That month, Project Raven's Qatar mission extended from two full-time agents relegated to the nation to seven. 

On June 20, Raven agents hacked into the iPhone of Abdullah Al-Athba, boss editorial manager of Qatar's most established paper, Al-Arab, program reports appear. 

In a meeting with Reuters, Al-Athba said he trusted he was focused on "in light of the fact that I am a supporter of the Arab Spring since the starting," who more than once condemned the Emiratis for their restriction to the development. 

The Raven exertion went past the Middle East. Agents utilized Karma to focus on the cell phones of other media figures including columnists for London-based Arabic news sources Al-Araby TV and Al-Hiwar. The two systems broadcast Arabic language diverts mainstream in the Middle East. 

The satellite station Al-Araby TV and its namesake site are units of London-based Fadaat Media Ltd, possessed and bolstered by Qatari representatives. The outlet considers itself to be the voice of "common, liberal, star majority rule government" Arabs, said Abdulrahman Elshayyal, chief of Al-Araby TV. He and two other Araby representatives were hacked in the weeks following the beginning of the bar, Raven archives appear. 

"It's a stressing pattern that a state is utilizing every one of these things to keep an eye on individuals disparaging of them," Elshayyal said in a telephone meet. "I'm not a fear based oppressor or a tax criminal." 

Bishara, the author of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, was additionally focused by Raven. He disclosed to Reuters he sees his outlet as "generally autonomous" with regards to the Arab world. "No one reveals to us what to state," said Bishara, a Palestinian Christian who lives in Qatar, however "in some cases the paper may be delicate about what not to say, since you are not there to incite the general population that money you." 

Al-Hiwar, another London-based Arabic satellite station, was focused by Raven on the day the barricade started. Al-Hiwar originator Azzam Tamimi said he trusts the UAE was frightful of his channel's help for political change and democratization in the Arab world.