THE personal computer of Syria’s British-born first lady was bugged by Israeli
military intelligence to build up a profile of her husband, President Bashar al-Assad,
it emerged last week.
The Israelis used “Trojan horse” spy software to record her messages,
including e-mail exchanges with her husband, and forward them to a server computer.
Intelligence sources quoted in an Israeli newspaper admitted to the operation
after police arrested 22 suspects in Israel’s biggest industrial espionage
scandal last week.
The so-called Trojan Horse affair involved leading defence contractors stealing
secrets from rivals by sending spy software to their computers disguised as
a package of confidential documents. The programme recorded every keystroke
and collected business documents and e-mails, which it then sent to a server
computer registered in London.
Intelligence sources claimed the Syrian leader and his wife had proved ideal
targets. Assad is said to be addicted to computer games.
Asma, his wife, is a computer science graduate from King’s College London,
and is known to spend long hours corresponding online with her friends and family.
The sources claimed Assad was aware that Israeli intelligence experts had gained
access to all his wife’s e-mails and documents and had complained about
it to “some European leaders”.
Another military intelligence expert said: “The wives of leaders are
Most leaders, including Assad, would have well- protected computers, he said,
but those belonging to their spouses were less secure. “Sometimes they
do not even have a basic firewall.”
Syria’s first lady, the former Asma al-Akhras, now 29, graduated in 1996
and worked as an economist for Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan. She married Assad,
who trained as an eye surgeon in London, in December 2000.
The intelligence official said Asma’s personal correspondence was of
little value but the bugging provided an ideal method of monitoring the thoughts
of the president.
“Israel is, of course, interested in the husband, not the wife,”
he said. “Assad, even after five years in power, is an enigma.”