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tv   Inside Story  LINKTV  July 22, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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anchor: here are the headlines at al jazeera. taliban fighters control half of the districts. it takes over new areas, all of this is u.s. troops pull out. >> as of today, about 212 district centers, about half are in taliban control. you have 34 provincial capitals in afghanistan, none of them
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have been seized as of today by the taliban. although the taliban is putting pressure. on the outskirts they're trying to isolate the major population centers. anchor: at least 25 people have died in china's hunan province, after the heaviest rainfall since records again. 200,000 people have been moved to safety and there is concerns a dam can collapse. at the 70 migrants from bangladesh have drowned trying to cross the mediterranean sea. it sank after crossing from italy. 380 people were rescued by the coast guard. johnson & johnson and distributors have agreed to pay 26 billion dollars to resolve thousands of claims after their role in the u.s. opioid epidemic. take use the companies of letting addicts get painkillers three legal channels.
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police and protesters have clashed during a rally against vaccinations for health care workers. there was the second such rally in a week. covid-19 inventions have been rising in greece in recent weeks, with almost 3000 cases reported on wednesday. those are the headlines. i will have another update. in about 30 minutes time, right after inside story. ? ♪ anchor: it was meant to fight terrorism, but many governments used pegasus spyware to attack journalists and activists.
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how much of a threat is advanced technology to privacy and human rights? this is "inside story." ♪ hello and welcome to the program. governments have been hacking into people's privacy for years, huge listening stations are dotted around the world, sucking in vast amounts of phone signals and other data and picking out trigger words or phrases as well as hijacking information. some technology to do it is for sale, and tens of thousands of politicians, journalists and activists have been targeted. it's called pegasus, from an israeli spyware company. thanks to evidence collected by ngo and the rights group amnesty
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international, it seems there are 50,000 people whose phones have been selected, most of the numbers were in gulf countries and north africa, but others include india, pakistan, and friends. nso group denies any wrongdoing and says the report is full of wrong assumptions. the phone numbers of 14 heads of state are said to be targeted. include pakistan's prime minister, a south african president, and the french president. a newspaper says mccrone's phone number is on the list selected by morocco's intelligence service for potential cyber spying. if the allegations are true, the president says it will be very serious. morocco has denied using pegasus spyware and rejected what it says are groundless allegations. other phones are said to be those belonging to people close to the saudi journalist who was murdered at the saudi embassy 2018. media organizations working with
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the pegasus investigation say more than 180 journalists were found on the list, including 25 in mexico. here's what one mexican journalist had the same. test had to say. >> i think a must all mexican journalists fear we have aside -- certain type of surveillance. we assume that because mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist. anchor: the mexican president is looking at allegations of spying by the administration of his predecessor. u.k. guardian newspaper reported on monday the 50 people may have been targeted. india's opposition parties have accused the prime minister of compromising national security. there demanding an investigation into claims the government spied against journalists and politicians, including the main opposition leader. the indian government denies
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using unauthorized surveillance. let's bring in our guests. the director of amnesty tech at amnesty international from london. we have a professor who is the founder and director of citizens lab. and we have a guest from london, a visiting professor at the london school of economics. i know you can't talk about the source of all of the information you receive for obvious reasons, but when all the evidence was beginning to come together, what was your reaction? >> i think we had always suspected and have done previous reporting to show nso groups have been misused by government
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around the world to target human rights activists, journalists, lawyers. what the investigation shows as the unprecedented scale of the technology. we always knew it was there, but as we did our research and cases kept on surfacing, it made us realize how widespread in global the problem is. the nso group's ludicrous proclaims that spyware was used only in terrorism investigations is absurd, as the investigation shows. anchor: is there any particular pattern in terms of the types of people being targeted? >> at the investigation shows, it's really not just criminals and terrorists.
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journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, heads of state. this is an absurd claim, and it is not just a case of a few rogue actors or clients. this is a global phenomenon, problem. we have identified clients such as india morocco and others, who used this systematically to target journalists and activists. this is not an exception and i don't think nso group can continue to claim this is an exception. anchor: you are one of those whose phones targeted. how did you feel when you found out? >> indeed. i would like to thank amnesty international and the security lab and the guardian who contacted me, with a view to ask
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me to submit my phone to the investigation. i was lucky this time. there was a feeling of vulnerability. i always expected the saudi regime to hack my phone. they try to 2014 to hack my twitter account and they were successful. but after 2018 and the murder of the murder -- journalist, all saudi exiles felt vulnerable. we heard for the first time about nso, when in exile in canada, through citizen lab, and thank you for citizen lab to alerting us to the fact his phone was hacked. i took my own precautions. i paid a lot of money to protect my phone. but there was no guarantee.
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i even went on a course to teach me how to protect my devices. obviously, there's no protection against powerful and malicious programs. it was expected. it was only a matter of time. there was a feeling of vulnerability, intrusion. anger. but also, i was lucky, according to the evidence, the attempt was not successful. however, it was expected, and all of us in exile as saudi's who work on human rights, or dissident activists, they were all targeted in one way or another. from the open messages we get on twitter to the hacking which is
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done in secret. we have had over the last three years, especially after the murder of the journalist, the saudi's drew a blacklist on twitter. and one people who propagated this is someone who was named in the report on the murder as one of the people heavily ignored. he was involved in the torture. he asked the saudi participant on twitter, the whole world to draw a blacklist of names. he wanted to turn every citizen into a policeman in order to draw a list of people who are against the regime, people who are a nuisance, people who
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should be eliminated. we alerted twitter to that. we alerted all social media. this was an open thread. people that should be eliminated. anchor: clearly a process that was put in place. i want to move on to the professor, because i want to get to the nature of the program itself, but i come into too much detail. the nso says this program is undetectable. russia says it does not want to talk about sources. you discovered this back in 2016. are you able to tell us how it came to your attention? >> absolutely. you are right. back in 2016, a human rights defender in the united arab
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emirates received suspicious text messages, meant to trick him into clicking on links that contain malware. instead of clicking on them, he forwarded them to us for analysis. we were able to infect a device of our own and capture a copy of pegasus spyware. we then analyzed it, reverse engineered it, started to understand how he communicates over the internet, and through that started mapping out its so-called command-and-control and for structure. when a company like nso does is set up a whole system that they provide to a client, and it communicates in certain ways over the internet to allow researchers such as ourselves. if not easy work, it's not challenging, but we were able to
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do it successfully. what happened was, a snowball effect. shortly thereafter in 2017 2018, working with journalists at the new york times, we had covered massive, widespread abuses in mexico of pegasus, targeting journalists, lawyers, even family members. journalists who are murdered in cartel-related hits. even research scientists. in 2018, we produced a report showing the scope of nso's global client base and operations. we found more than 30 clients at that time were undertaking espionage and more than 40 countries around the world. shortly thereafter, we were able to track down canadian permanent
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resident and determined his phone was hacked. we did not realize at the time, he was close confidence with the journalist, and they were communicating with months over what they thought was a secure messaging app. but they did not realize saudi operators were eavesdropping. anchor: let me interrupt you. it is clear there has been tangible evidence of what has been going on since that point, and yet here we are in 2021, still talking about this. it seems the scale has changed. why has nothing been done? >> that's an excellent question. we happen raising awareness. the problem is not new. the latest revelation simply explode the problem with
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evidence in a number of different directions. why isn't anything being done? there are number of reasons. first of all, we need governments to move on this. my colleagues at the um and other places are calling for a moratorium on the sale and transfer of this type of technology until the abuses can be fixed. i agree with them, but we need governments to move the ball forward. that's not going to happen, because governments at this point in time will have a stake. every government as a well resourced foreign espionage agency or agencies. they are trying to develop one. what companies like nso offer is off-the-shelf signals intelligence capacity. this is mercenary spyware.
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what we need to do is have a coalition of governments champion this issue, 10 saying enough is enough. this is not only causing widespread human rights abuses, i think an interesting finding it is a major national security issue. you have state on state espionage occurring. heads of state. prime minister's. emmanuel macron's phone is targeted. the time has come for everyone to realize this is a major issue, it's not just a human rights issue, it's a security issue. anchor: companies like nso in the past who have been called out, perhaps not on the scale, but found themselves in the situation. attendees same argument, arms dealers and salespeople use, which is we will do our best to put forward our systems to
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people we believe to be trustworthy. but what they do with them after that is not our responsibility. is that a reasonable argument? does that have to come up point where the end-user becomes responsible rather than the seller of the system? >> i think both. if you compare this to the weapons market, the arms industry, there are regulations in place that governments should not send any kind of weaponry to other governments that might be used to destabilize the region or against their own population. in a country like saudi arabia, we have seen the weapons they have acquired from the united states, from britain, launched a war in yemen for six years and it is still going.
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nobody has been able to stop that. i see the same with this technology, not only to us citizens but to governments. there should be a new treaty that actually regulates the sale of this kind of thing. the other problem is the private patient of security -- privacy teijin of security -- privatization of security. we know governments have their own spying and eavesdropping technology. this is don under strict rules in democracies. but in a country like saudi arabia and israel -- israel licenses nso to sell this technology to dictatorships in the region, and israel claims it is the only democracy in the arab world. therefore, the responsibility shared. it is the headquarters of nso
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which happens to be in the state of israel, and also saudi arabia has a dictatorship that uses this technology against us citizens, have an academic,. anchor: we should remember it's not restricted to saudi arabia. there other country said to be involved as well, india, pakistan and mexico. this is a global phenomenon, but i take your point. the nso group has always maintained it is not connected to the israeli government, yet the israeli governments says is going to set up a task force. according to the u.k. guardian, it representative's on a task force of the israeli defense ministry, ministry of justice, foreign ministry, the mossad and national intelligence agency. how likely is it that the israeli government, or at least israeli officials might get
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access to the information that is being harvested by the pegasus program and other countries? >> that is a very good question. i want to touch on the previous point, the analogy between spyware and weaponry. recently in an interview, edward snowden was asked, what can people do to protect their privacy? his answer was, what can people do to protect themselves from nuclear weapons? he has a point. spyware is a weapon. it's a weapon against freedom of the press, freedom of expression, human rights. the initial preach to the right of privacy has a domino effect. if this equipment is used to target activist, journalist, while it is difficult to establish a causal link between
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spyware and arbitrary arrest and murder, it raises serious questions about how the spyware is used in the real life consequences of these intersections. it's not reasonable to expect that individuals have to face that threat individually, and governments really need to step up and regulate this spyware industry. after your question about the task force that has been set up in israel. unfortunately, i don't have much hope that this is going to yield any meaningful accountability. for years we have been urging greater transparency. what we need is a regulatory system with teeth they can prevent these unscrupulous actors. a moratorium, which amnesty
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international supports. there is a responsibility there. the israeli government has obligations, and it does not have license to export this equipment if there is a risky will be used to undermine human rights. this investigation has shown there is ample evidence that this spyware is being used and abused all around the world by numerous governments. this is not an exception, this is a widespread problem. finally i would like to say, nso group has human rights responsibilities, independent of state obligations towards human rights. nso group has stated several times that it has the power to stop access to its systems when it receives credible evidence they are being misused. again, this investigation provides an abundance of evidence to show this is in their being abused front and center. will nso group actually take
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action? anchor: the basket finally -- let me ask you finally. given the changes you have enforced to make, how concerned are you for your own safety, but also the safety of your sources, the people you talk to in countries around the world, not just in saudi arabia? >> absolutely. there is the threat of physical violence against may. there is also the security of my private life and family, and above all, the security of the people i interviewed, i talked to, and i write about. the whole point about hacking my phone is to have access to my contacts. as an academic who relies on
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saudi's, i have a commitment to giving them a voice as their voices are muted in the official narratives or the present. i'm committed to amplifying their voices, simply because no saudi insight saudi arabia would dare. therefore i have to worry about my own security. if my phone is hacked, my conversations are accessible through malware, therefore it is a responsibility that i have, in addition to my own security, i have to worry about others. anchor: thank you indeed, that they could to our guests, and thank you for watching. for further discussion, go to
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our facebook page. for me and the whole team, goodbye for now. xll9úúç?ç?ç?ç?o■o■ñ■ç■ç■ç■■oññññ
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