The Pegasus spy scandal was breaking as Algeria Politics & Security – 20.07.21 went to press. Our very limited reporting of it was possibly misleading because some of the international media, from whom we gathered our initial information, gave the impression that the more than 6,000 Algerian phones that were being spied on were being done so by the country’s own intelligence services. In fact, this was not the case and it was Morocco’s intelligence services that were responsible. Last week we expressed our surprise as to why the regime would use software from Israel’s NSO Group when we know it has its own spying software and was probably monitoring at least 6,000 phones. As Algeria Politics & Security – 22.06.17 reported, the UK’s BAE Systems sold Algeria a surveillance system, originally called Evident, which had been developed by Denmark’s DTI cyber-security firm that was bought by BAE Systems in 2011.
Morocco’s security services not only focussed on domestic opponents but also overseas journalists and personalities. Besides senior French officials — including, it seems, diplomats, senior officials, ministers, and even President Emmanuel Macron and his wife — Morocco had also targeted more than 6,000 phone numbers in Algeria.
They included Algerian diplomats serving in at least 30 countries. Amongst them were the Ambassador to France, Abdelkader Mesdoua, and Colonel Karim Hadj Sadok, who is the embassy’s military attaché. Two successive foreign ministers were also targeted: Abdelkader Messahel and Ramtane Lamamra. Others were Sabri Boukadoum who replaced Lamamra in March 2019, and former Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.
Also, on Morocco’s list of Algerian targets was Noureddine Ayadi who, successively, occupied the sensitive posts of Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then of Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic. According to the same sources, all senior Algerian officials during the first year of the Hirak were targeted by Morocco. Other numbers on the list were: Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah who died in December 2019; the head of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI), General Bouazza Ouassini; and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s brothers and sister, Saïd, Nacer and Zhor. There was even a number supposed to be that of Saïd Chengriha, Gaïd Salah’s successor, who at that time was head of army’s the ground forces.
Other prominent persons on the list included the oligarch, Ali Haddad who was head of the Forum des Chefs d’Entreprise (FCE) employers’ federation but its currently in prison; Gaïd Salah’s private secretary, Guermit Bounouira, who fled to Turkey after his death, before being extradited and imprisoned in the military prison of Blida for high treason; and other political figures such as Abdelaziz Rahabi and Zoubida Assoul.
The revelations, of which more will inevitably be published soon, also raises the question as to whether Morocco’s intelligence services are the source of the huge amount of accurate information about the criminal behaviour of Algeria’s most senior officials — especially in regard to money laundering, embezzlement and other financial crimes — that has recently been appearing on social media networks. Besides directly spying on Algeria — no doubt to try and find out what was going on in Algeria during the first months of the Hirak protests — questions are also being asked within Algerian circles as to whether it was also spying on the country for Israel’s benefit.