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4 April 2019 05:05 pm

UAE hired US hackers to spy on Al Jazeera chief -- GCC Crisis Updates Week 96

Khadiza Begum
Khadiza Begum
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Here’s what’s happened since last week’s updates: National Museum of Qatar welcomes 'all' amid Gulf dispute -- GCC Crisis Updates Week 95

A group of American hackers who once worked for U.S. intelligence agencies helped the United Arab Emirates spy on a BBC host, the chairman of Al Jazeera and other prominent Arab media figures, reported Reuters. The phone-hacking operation dates back to June 2017, the same week that the UAE and its allies imposed blockade against Qatar.

The American operatives worked for Project Raven, a secret Emirati intelligence program that spied on dissidents, militants and political opponents of the UAE monarchy. A Reuters investigation in January revealed Project Raven’s existence and inner workings, including the fact that it surveilled a British activist and several unnamed U.S. journalists.

Former Raven operatives told the news agency that they were tasked with finding material showing that Qatar's royal family had influenced the coverage of Al Jazeera, the influential, Doha-based media network, and other outlets.

As per the documents seen by Reuters, three days after the blockade began, Raven operatives hacked into the iPhone of Gisele Khoury, the Beirut-based host of BBC Arabic's The Scene, a current affairs programme. The documents show that she was targeted because of her contact with Azmi Bishara, a Doha-based writer who has been critical of the UAE and who founded the news outlet Al Araby Al Jadeed.

Fasial al-Qassem, an Al Jazeera host whose phone was also hacked, said he was not surprised that he was targeted by the UAE, describing the country as "a symbol of corruption and dirty politics".


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