Whistleblowing fugitive Ed Snowden blasted NSO Group Technologies, claiming it helped the Saudis assassinate a Saudi journalist via cyber intelligence.
By Adina Katz, World Israel News
Addressing a Tel Aviv audience on Tuesday as part of a closed event organized by Israeli media consultancy firm OH! Orenstein + Hoshen, whistleblower Ed Snowden censured Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO for its alleged role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Globes reported.
Snowden described the NSO Group, as well as Facebook and similar companies that collect vast information about the public and violate the freedom of their users, as “the worst of the worst.”
“How do they [Saudis] know what his plans were and that they needed to act against him [Khashoggi]? That knowledge came from the technology developed by NSO. They are selling a digital burglary tool,” he said.
“Companies like this are popping up all over the world. They are not trying to save lives but just make money,” he said, speaking by video from Russia, where the former American National Security Agency contractor has been living in exile since copying and leaking classified information in 2013 without authorization.
Responding to the severe criticism, according to Globes, NSO issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “NSO is the only company of its kind in the world that has an independent ethics committee, including outside experts with a background in law and international relations, to prevent its products from being used for bad purposes. In contrast to what’s published in the media, the company does not sell and does not allow their use in many countries.”
Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad, slammed Snowden’s remarks, Times of Israel reported.
“How nice to be liberal, to say lovely things about freedom of speech,” he said. “If you ask me, my impression is he is a young and very talented guy who apparently felt he wasn’t getting enough attention, so he decided to take action so he could get attention.”
“I think he’s very lucky that he stole information from the Americans and not the Russians,” Ben-Barak added. “If he had stolen from the Russians, he would find himself with a polonium pill deep in his stomach.”
Weeks ahead of the event, Hedan Orenstein and Itamar Hoshen, the Israeli company’s joint heads, told Ynet why they chose Snowden.
“These days, when we are seriously troubled by questions of privacy and securing our personal information, we don’t know of many public debates more worthy than this, nor many speakers who have paid such a high price for the stand that they took.” They said that this did not mean they took a stand or supported his actions.
In early 2016, Snowden became president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that aims to protect journalists from hacking and government surveillance.
Asked why he agreed to speak to an Israeli audience, Snowden said, “Like most Americans, I am against the ‘occupation’ (of Judea and Samaria), and I support those trying to end it. But I do not think progress can move without dialogue,” Globes reported.