A controversial Israeli spyware firm with a notorious reputation for helping autocratic regimes to target political dissidents is being assisted by the British government to market its surveillance technologies at a secretive trade fair in the UK.
The Israeli firm known as the NSO Group, which sells technology that has allegedly been used by autocratic regimes to spy on the private messages of journalists and human rights activists, including associates of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will be hosted in a closed Security and Policing trade fair in Hampshire next month, the Guardian has revealed.
The Israeli firm is due to be an exhibitor at the three-day fair, where police and security officials from abroad can browse commercial stalls selling surveillance and crowd-control equipment.
It is said to be a highly secretive affair. Restrictions are such that not only are the general public barred from visiting the trade fair, British MPs have also been denied entry. Last year a Labour MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was sitting on the parliamentary committee examining arms exports, is said to have been prevented from entering the trade fair.
Billed by the Home Office as “The official government global security event, offering a world-class opportunity” to network with government officials and buy technology from commercial firms, the expo is expected to see more than 300 firms exhibiting their products.
Previous clients have included the UAE and Saudi Arabia, two countries with some of the worst human rights records. The latter, in particular, is alleged to have used NSO group’s spying technology target dissidents abroad.
London-based satirist Ghanem Almasarir who has been attacked on the streets of the British capital by men appearing to be loyal to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, is one of countless victims. Last month an American journalist revealed that his phone was subjected to a hacking attempt by the Saudi authorities.
The most high-profile case involving the use of NSO groups technology is the hacking of the phone of an associate of Khashoggi ahead of the journalist’s murder. American whistle-blower Edward Snowden has said that if Israeli spyware firm had refused to sell its technology to the Saudis, the Washington Post columnist would still be alive.