In August last year, Fiona Schackleton, one of Britain’s most important divorce lawyers, received an emergency nighttime phone call from Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair, the best human rights lawyer, told Shockleton that his phone may have been hacked with his client, Jordanian Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein. In subsequent conversations, the two women believed there was only one explanation: Shackleton was Haya’s lawyer in her bitter London custody with her ex-husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and she was behind the hacking, court ruling.
On Wednesday, the verdicts handed down by a senior British judge that Shaikh had hacked his ex-wife’s phones and the phones of his lawyers and the security team were released after deregulation. The reconstruction of how hacking was discovered – initially based on expert testimony given in hundreds of pages of personal and personal information – provides a rare account of a surgery that is usually kept secret.
According to the documents, at midnight on August 5 last year, Blair, who had been hired as an external adviser to the Israeli Security Council NSO, emailed Shockleton that he “needed to talk to you tonight.” And “It doesn’t matter how late”. Blair appeared to be “incredibly concerned,” Shackleton’s witness statement told the court.
Blair, a senior NSO manager, said in a statement that he was concerned that Pegasus, a state-of-the-art spyware tool available only to national states to deal with criminals and terrorists, was being misused against a lawyer and a princess. The company wanted to get in touch with Shockleton.
“The NSO senior manager told me they have taken steps to ensure that the phones are not accessible again,” Blair said in a statement to the High Court in London. The Israeli company said it could not immediately comment on the case, but said it would take action if it found evidence of misuse of the Pegasus.
The next day, the two women spoke again, when Blair said they were working for NSO and their Pegasus software was involved. Over the next week, Blair sought to learn more about the NSO’s investigation.
“We have no evidence that Cherie has other parties involved in this process focusing only on PH and FS,” NSO manager Blair said in a WhatsApp message referring to Princess Haya and Fiona Shockleton.
On August 11, Blair spoke to Shockleton again, but she was not told who the NSO client was, and she thought it was Dubai.
“I thought no one else would be interested in targeting Princess Haya and Baroness Chocolate,” Blair said in a statement. “During the conversation with the NSO senior manager, I remember their client asking if it was ‘big state’ or ‘small state’. The NSO senior manager clarified that I was ‘small state’. Dubai.”
Neither Blair nor Chockleton had any immediate comment.
On Wednesday, Mohammed rejected the court’s findings, saying the verdicts were unfair and based on an incomplete picture. “I always deny the allegations leveled against me and I continue to do so. These things are about the functioning of state security,” he said in a statement.
Separately, on the other side of the Atlantic, Bill Marzak, a researcher at Citizen Laboratory, the Toronto Internet Security Monitoring Group, has been monitoring the use of Pegasus against a UAE activist known as Mr X.
His work revealed that since July 2020, there has been a regular amount of activity involving Pegasus, a sophisticated “wiretap” system used to harvest data from the mobile devices of certain suspected major criminals or terrorists.
On July 12 and August 3, he discovered that Mr X’s phone had linked downloading data to four domain names with Pegasus. On August 4 – the same day the NSO realized that Pegasus was being misused – he discovered that the software had been used to target attorneys at Shockleton’s company Payne Hicks Beach (PHB). He informed Martin Tag, a London lawyer he knew.
The next day, just hours before the emergency call from Cherie Blair, Day sent an email to PHH, it appeared that they may have been hacked. Dominic Grossley, chairman of the PHB’s Dispute Resolution, later spoke with Marx.
According to court documents, “it looks like the UAE government. It is a ploy to retreat”, a cross-written note from Crosley in the conversation.
On the morning of August 7, Marx emailed Crosley. “We were able to track down some of the people involved in the Princess Haya case, whose phones appeared to have been spying on Pegasus recently,” he wrote.
He concluded that six devices had been hacked by September: the phones of Haya, Shackleton and fellow attorney Nick Manners and the Princess’ security team, the court heard. Marx’s investigation revealed that 265 megabytes of data was uploaded from Haya’s phone, equivalent to 24 hours of voice recording or 500 photos, but he could not finish exactly what was taken from the phones.
In August the NSO conducted its own investigations. Its employees visited a customer suspected of being behind the misuse of Pegasus.
“Baroness Shockleton said his royal high would probably be considered an enemy of the United Arab Emirates. Cherry Blair said they thought it was a malicious vengeance against the princess. Court
“If they hadn’t used the software to find the real terrorists, they would have had a problem,” she told Blair (Shackleton).
In a letter to the court since December 2020, the NSO has faced allegations that its software allows governments to commit human rights abuses, stating that its investigations ended on or before September 15.
Could not conclude whether any hacking took place before July 7 or when it started. “While investigations cannot make any definitive conclusions about what actually happened, the recommendation following the investigation is that the contract with the customer should be terminated and that the client contracted organizations should be closed,” he said. On December 7, the contract expired.
Keiki told the court that there was only one connection between Haya and his staff and Shackleton. “It’s Sheikh Mohammed,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published by Syndicate Feed.)