Britain’s intelligence, security and cyber agency, GCHQ, has offered covert training to Jordan’s security services in techniques known as “digital media exploitation”. The techniques may be used to spy on citizens and clamp down on dissent.
According to an investigative report by The Cradle earlier this month, citing leaked documents, GCHQ provided a Foreign Office-funded training course between June 2019 and March 2020 to Jordan’s Special Branch of the Public Security Directorate.
While the purpose of the course was stated to provide assistance to “evidence gathering agencies in Jordan to effectively extract data from digital devices,” namely to improve investigative and counter terrorism capabilities, the method adopted has raises concerns that it may be used to “destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt” dissidents through discrediting them or planting “negative information” about them online.
British firm Torchlight is staffed by former military and intelligence personnel and has been contracted previously by governments in the region to provide digital forensic training. It was named as having provided the course to Jordan’s security services.
The report noted that journalists are also routinely subject to intimidation, arrest and prosecution by the Jordanian authorities for even mild criticism when reporting or posting on social media. Criticism of the monarch and government officials and institutions are deemed to be a serious crime in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Last year it was revealed that online hackers affiliated with the Jordanian government had hacked human rights activists’ smartphones using the notorious Israeli spyware Pegasus during protests in the country since 2019 spurred on by teachers who went on strike demanding higher wages.