TEL AVIV — Israel secretly authorized a group of cyber-surveillance firms to work for the government of Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation of the kingdom’s abuse of surveillance software to crush dissent, even after the Saudi killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, government officials and others familiar with the contracts said.
After the murder of Mr. Khashoggi in 2018, one of the firms, NSO Group, canceled its contracts with Saudi Arabia amid accusations that its hacking tools were being misused to abet heinous crimes.
But the Israeli government encouraged NSO and two other companies to continue working with Saudi Arabia, and issued a new license for a fourth to do similar work, overriding any concerns about human rights abuses, according to one senior Israeli official and three people affiliated with the companies.
Since then, Saudi Arabia has continued to use the spyware to monitor dissidents and political opponents.
The fact that…