U.S. Markets closed

Here's why people are questioning the story that missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death was captured on tape by his Apple Watch

Isobel Asher Hamilton

 

  • Security and technical commentators have cast doubt on reports from the Turkish media that journalist Jamal Khashoggi's purported torture and death inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul was captured by his Apple watch and sent to his iPhone.
  • Khashoggi is a Saudi Arabian journalist writing for the Washington Post, and his current status has been unclear since he went missing on 2 October when he was last seen walking into his home country's embassy in Turkey. 
  • According to media reports, Turkish officials say they have evidence of Khashoggi's murder inside the embassy, and that the journalist actually recorded what happened to him on his Apple Watch.
  • But sceptics point to the fact that the Watch's cellular connection would not be available in Turkey, that its Bluetooth connection would have been lost, and that Apple Watches do not support the fingerprint unlock feature.
  • Some have speculated that it's more likely the reports are a cover story, and the Turkish government had other means of obtaining information about Khashoggi.

Technology and security experts are disputing the reports from Turkish press, reportedly seeded by Turkish officials, that journalist Jamal Khashoggi's Apple watch captured audio of him being tortured and killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

News broke that Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government, had disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish officials have reportedly said they believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has rejected the accusation. Khashoggi's fate is still unclear.

According to Reuters, Turkish newspaper Sabah reported on Saturday that Khashoggi had started recording audio on his Apple Watch when he entered the consulate, and those recordings were beamed to his iPhone which was being held by his fiancée outside the consulate. It said that audio recordings of his torture and murder were sent to the iCloud and his phone, and that his assailants subsequently noticed and unlocked the watch with Khashoggi's fingerprint, and proceeded to delete some files.

Multiple experts and commentators have flagged up what they view as inaccuracies in the story.


Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/1050896021373558785?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Surprised by how many serious observers are running with the Khashoggi-used-his-Apple-Watch-story. As long as there is no good evidence, the more plausible scenario is a shrewd cover story to protect Turkish sources & methods—a cover story that would predictably go viral.

Khashoggi's Apple Watch is unlikely to have had a cellular connection

Firstly, some pointed out that the watch would not have had access to cellular data because Turkey does not support LTE. Therefore, the watch would not have been able to connect to the internet unless paired with a nearby iPhone or logged onto the embassy's WiFi.

Given that Khashoggi's iPhone was with his fiancee outside the embassy, it is likely that the Watch would have been out of range.

The end of the report perhaps poses the biggest problem, because the Apple Watch does not support a Touch ID system, which recognises fingerprints.


Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/1051114618389766146?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Sounds fishy to me. Bluetooth doesn’t work over that distance and Apple Watches don’t have fingerprint identification. This looks like a plausible-sounding cover story put out by the Turks so they don’t have to admit that they bugged the Saudi consulate! https://t.co/hoqGvcOznF

Some also pointed to the fact that the Apple Watch does not have a native audio recording app — although it is possible to download one from third-party app makers.

The National correspondent Joyce Karam also said that when she attended an event at the same consulate, she'd been obliged to remove her Fitbit fitness band, making her sceptical that Khashoggi would have been able to retain his Apple Watch.


Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/1050872086099611654?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
3-Fiancé is only one with phones. Jamal kept his T-Mobile (Reuters reported)

4-For a press event last year at #Saudi embassy, I was asked to take off my Fitbit at door. Others their Apple Watch.

5-More likely theory is that Turkey bugged the Saudi consulate.

(2/2)

 

There is some speculation that the Apple Watch report is a cover story, and the Turkish government had other means of obtaining information about Khashoggi's disappearance.

One expert suggest the Turkish government might have bugged the consulate.  Former CIA officer Robert Baer told CNN, "I think what's happened, clearly, is the Turks have the Saudi consulate wired, they have transmitters."

"It seems far more likely that they have other means of detecting what foreign diplomats are up to and the Apple Watch story is just useful cover," writes the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

Business Insider has contacted both Apple and the Turkish embassy in London for comment.

NOW WATCH: Apple took another subtle jab at Facebook during its iPhone XS event

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Here’s everything we know about the troubling disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi