Originally published on July 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org
While the U.S. State Department denounces human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia, the NSA is secretly helping the oppressive state police to capture and torture political activists. A 2013 NSA memo exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the NSA has been providing surveillance assistance to the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) in exchange for signals intelligence on terrorists and “Maritime Force targets of mutual interest.”
According to the NSA memo, relations between the US and Saudi intelligence communities had become strained after the first Gulf War in 1991. The NSA experienced years of stagnation while attempting to work with the Saudi Ministry of Defense, Radio Reconnaissance Department. But in December 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized sharing SIGINT with MOI’s Technical Affairs Directorate.
Influenced by the CIA’s successful relationship with the MOI’s General Directorate for Investigations, Mabahith (equivalent to the FBI), Clapper strengthened the NSA’s faltering relations with the Saudi state police. By providing technical assistance and decryption tools to the MOI, Clapper gave the Saudi government the ability to improve their surveillance systems and spyware against political dissidents, bloggers, and human rights activists.