Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – In the first clarification of its kind to Riyadh’s demand for a special BlackBerry Server to be located in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi official told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country’s position “stems from its sovereignty with regards to exercising its responsibilities by protecting the privacy of the communication of Saudi citizens and residents by making sure that these communications pass through servers within Saudi Arabia.”
The Saudi official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said that the communications of Saudi citizens and residents [via BlackBerry] currently pass through servers located in six different countries, which means that the privacy of Saudi society is open to potential monitoring. The official said that it is inconsistent with the doctrine, principles, and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia for the communications that take place within Saudi territory to pass through these servers.
The Saudi official confirmed that Riyadh is not issuing a complaint against the countries that these servers are located in, but that Saudi Arabia has the right to ensure that the communications that take place within its territory pass through and are stored within servers located inside the country, and that this represents a principle of sovereignty.
According to the source, the actions undertaken by Riyadh, aim to “enable the concerned parties in Saudi Arabia to access the archive of communication data that pass through the Saudi serve in the event of criminal cases that require this.”
It is well known that Saudi Arabia has a special system to deal with digital crime. The Saudi official confirmed here that the BlackBerry device is one of the technical devices that could be used in digital crimes and that the Saudi authorities being unable to access information with regards to this is contrary to Saudi sovereignty.
The official also did not rule out the possibility of BlackBerry devices being used in operations that affect the national security of Saudi Arabia, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is no secret that the [BlackBerry messaging] service has been utilized in criminal activities and in drug dealing to the detriment of the security situation.” However the Saudi official refused cite any particular cases in this regard.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had threatened to cut off the BlackBerry messenger service in the event of BlackBerry not agreeing to put in place special servers in-country. This comes at the same time that reports indicate that the BlackBerry messenger service was used in the planning of the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and the Mumbai bombings to avoid detection.