British arms dealer 'sold spy technology that enabled Arab Spring crackdowns'
A UK-based arms dealer sold mass surveillance technology to Arab states that was used to crush the Arab Spring popular uprising, an investigation has revealed.
BAE System, working through a Danish subsidiary, first sold the technology to the Tunisian dictator, Ben Ali, who used it monitor his opponents and imprison them without trial, an extensive BBC investigation reported on Wednesday.
"[It] works with keywords. You put in an opponent's name and you will see all the sites, blogs, social networks related to that user," said one former Tunisian security officer.
BAE worked with a Danish cyber-security company called ETI to develop the system, called Evident, which helped authoritarian leaders keep track of their citizens' communications.
ETI also sold the system to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria, according to the investigation.
A former ETI employee told the BBC that the technology could "intercept any internet traffic".
"If you wanted to do a whole country, you could. You could pin-point people's location based on cellular data. You could follow people around. They were quite far ahead with voice recognition. They were capable of decrypting stuff as well."
Mass surveillance during and after the popular uprisings of 2011 was used to facilitate the mass incarceration of dissidents, leading to the eventual crushing of popular movements, the report alleged.
"I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said more than 90 percent of the most active campaigners in 2011 have now vanished," Yahya Assiri, a former Saudi air force officer told the BBC, referring to Saudi pro-democracy activists on social media.