Bahraini Leaks revealed the secrets of Bahrain’s reliance on Israeli surveillance techniques to pursue dissidents by spying on them.
Espionage and electronic surveillance technologies have formed a wide gateway for bilateral cooperation between the Bahraini regime and Israel for many years.
Israel has been very active in the field of cyber warfare, espionage and eavesdropping for decades. As part of its plan to cover up its daily oppression of Palestinians, it opted to find new ways to revive relations with its oil-rich neighbors and buy their silence, most notably, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Companies registered in Israel, the most famous of which is NSO continue to sell advanced surveillance, espionage equipment, piracy and spyware programs. One famous program is the Pegasus, which enables buying countries to monitor smartphones of dissidents and opponents.
The Pegasus further records communications and conversations on targeted smartphones, as well as determining their precise location. Such programs allow the exposition of all phone activity and violate their privacy, passing it to the security services of their oppressive countries.
A report on Israeli Haaretz has explained that Israeli companies enjoy secrecy and protection from the state and the judiciary upon such deals due to their huge financial returns. Furthermore, Israel gives more freedom by allowing them to conceal the identity of the buying countries and keeps it as a state secret.
Findings show that Israeli industry has not hesitated to sell offensive capabilities to many countries that lack a strong democratic tradition — even when they have no way to ascertain whether the items sold were being used to violate the rights of civilians, according to Haaretz.
Companies and exporters of this expertise claim that they do not have the ability to control or determine the method and manner in which these programs are going to be used. Israeli companies and institutions prefer to hide behind this claim, so as not to contest the legality and morality of these countries’ use of such programs.
Nevertheless, the Haaretz report indicates that countries, including Arab and Islamic countries, have bought these hardware and software. These governments use these technologies to fabricate charges against the opponents. Charges include accusing dissidents of apostasy and blasphemy, which could lead to their trial and imprisonment for their religious disbelief.
Despite torture, persecution and violation of human rights, Israeli firms and the Ministry of Security continue to sell these expertise to repressive and tyrannical regimes.
The list of countries that rely on Israeli expertise, equipment and devices to pursue opponents of their citizens includes Bahrain at the top of the list, followed by Indonesia, Angola, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the UAE, Colombia and Peru.
Most of the workers in these companies, who are often graduates from the elite Unit 8200 of the Military Intelligence Corps, refused to provide details about the countries that deal with Israel, mainly because they had signed strict non-disclosure agreements.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Security hides behind the blurry provisions of the law in this regard.
As for company employees who spoke in the report, they only hid behind official Israeli justifications, such as combating terrorism and crime.
On the other hand, a worker in the Israeli cyber firms, admitted that “everyone working in this industry knows that we are dealing with violations of human rights, and that we are dealing with tools to penetrate and invade the personal lives of ordinary citizens, which violate their basic rights.”
He further claimed that “workers in this field are mainly thinking about the technological challenges of this sector and not the implications of these challenges and developments there.”
The investigation revealed that thousands of Israelis are working in the development of various spyware, monitoring and surveillance programs, and that the “NSO” company alone employs 5,200 workers.
Although the Israeli company NSO is the largest and first active in the world since its establishment in 2010, it always tries to remain in the shadows and behind the scenes.
It turned out later that the “Pegasus” program was one of the tools that Bahrain and the UAE used to monitor dozens of opponents.
The Haaretz report quotes an Israeli employee who works as a consultant in this field to Emirati companies and resides in the Gulf, that Israeli companies are known in the Gulf as a provider of spy and surveillance equipment.
The newspaper cites another Israeli official working in this sector, confirming that Bahrain is one of the most prominent countries that deal with Israeli companies operating in this sector.
It also confirms that Israeli employees and officials go to Bahrain periodically to maintain these networks and devices, but only through the use of foreign passports.