Abbas facing lawsuit over CIA-backed wiretapping

President Mahmoud Abbas and his government are facing lawsuits filed against them by a former intelligence chief and a ranking member of the bar association who allege to have been targeted in a large-scale wiretapping and electronic monitoring operation supported by the CIA.

Tawfiq Tirawi, who was the intelligence chief between 1994 and 2008, and Jawad Obeidat, the current chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association, claim to have been targeted over criticism levelled at the regime under President Abbas.

Tirawi and Obediat both appear in a series of documents leaked in January and shared on social media. The author of the documents claims to be a former employee of the Palestinian Security Service who opposed the monitoring program and grew disillusioned.

The documents allege that the Palestinian Security Services set-up and coordinated the electronic surveillance and wiretapping of thousands of members of the Palestinian public as well as high ranking officials.

The documents reportedly show evidence of extrajudicial surveillance conducted by security forces, including the monitoring of senior military officials in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, legal authorities, and members of Fatah and the PLO, including those allied with, and opposed to, rule under President Abbas.

The documents include names of supporters of President Abbas’ principal rival, Mohammed Dahlan.

The Palestinian Authority allegedly approached the CIA in late-2013 for assistance in a wiretapping program. The CIA agreed on the stipulation that they would have oversight of the operation.

The documents included a copy of an alleged invitation letter issued by TeleStrategies to two senior Palestinian security officers to attend an “ISS World Middle East Intelligence Support Systems Conference” in Dubai in March 2014.

ISS purportedly provided the equipment for the surveillance operation.

ISS and its parent company TeleStratergies offer security and technology system solutions to law enforcement agencies and are based out of Virginia in the United States.

The lawsuit comes at a time of heightened tensions between President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and the United States after President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

President Abbas will also face a long overdue election later this year though a date is yet to be set.