The Saudis have admitted killing him. But the Turks claims’ about the circumstances of the killing cannot be taken at face value. The Turks and the Saudis are rivals for leadership of the Sunni Islamic world, and so both have an interest in dissembling about what happened here and exploiting Khashoggi’s death for their own ends.
Khashoggi, of course, was an anti-American, pro-jihad friend of Osama bin Laden who was — tellingly — hired by the Washington Post. His positions are a separate question from that of the circumstances of the murder.
But the method the newspaper said Khashoggi used to record the alleged incident inside the Saudi Consulate is at odds with the way the Apple Watch works, and it’s doubtful the story is true. The report also raises new questions about whether Turkish officials are accurately disclosing how they obtained the audio that they say gives evidence of Khashoggi’s killing.
The Turkish newspaper Sabah reported Saturday that Khashoggi recorded audio of the alleged killing using an app on his Apple Watch and was able to upload the recording to his iPhone and iCloud account. Sabah is a pro-Turkish government newspaper that the country’s security officials use to leak information, The Associated Press reported Saturday.
Apple declined to comment on the report. CNBC has reached out to Sabah for comment. Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Here’s what the Sabah report said and how the story’s details don’t correspond to how the Apple Watch actually works.
Sabah’s report says the Saudis attempted to delete the audio recording using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock his Apple Watch. But there is no fingerprint sensor on any model of the Apple Watch. It can only be unlocked with a passcode. Only some models of the iPhone, iPad and MacBook have fingerprint sensors. The Apple Watch remains unlocked as long as the wearer keeps it strapped to their wrist after inputting the passcode. The watch locks again after it’s removed from the wrist.
The fact that the Sabah report mentions a fingerprint sensor on the Apple Watch is enough reason to doubt the story, but there’s more.
The Sabah report says the audio recording was sent to Khashoggi’s iPhone from his Apple Watch. But earlier reports said Khashoggi left his iPhone with his fiancee outside the Saudi Consulate where the attack allegedly took place. The Apple Watch needs a Bluetooth connection to send data to the iPhone it’s paired with, and it would be next to impossible for Khashoggi’s watch to maintain that Bluetooth connection if it was outside the consulate.
The report also says the audio recordings were uploaded to Khashoggi’s iCloud account, but that’s unlikely unless his watch had a connection to the internet without his phone.
Some observers have pointed to photos of Khashoggi wearing a version of the Apple Watch that can connect to cellular data networks. But that model of the Apple Watch is incompatible with cellular networks in Turkey, according to Apple’s own carrier list, and the audio files could’ve been uploaded that way.
It is possible Khashoggi’s watch could have connected his watch to the internet over the consulate’s Wi-Fi network. However, that would mean Khashoggi would have had to connect his watch to the consulate’s Wi-Fi during a previous visit. That way, his watch would’ve automatically connected to the consulate’s Wi-Fi when he entered the building on the day of his alleged killing.
If Khashoggi hadn’t connected his watch to the consulate’s Wi-Fi network during a previous visit, the only other way he could have connected to it would be if he had time to input the password into his watch face moments after he walked into the consulate. The latest watch software from Apple, watchOS 5, was released a few weeks ago and allows users to manually input Wi-Fi passwords by using the device’s “Scribble” feature, which lets users draw characters on the screen to input text. It’s unlikely Khashoggi would have had time to do that if he was under attack.
Then there’s the question of what app Khashoggi could have used to record from his Apple Watch. Apple does not ship the Apple Watch with a recording app, but there are several third-party apps that enable audio recording on the watch.
But Apple’s privacy rules require third-party recording apps to display a red indicator on the watch’s screen while it’s recording audio, so anyone who looked at the watch would know they were being recorded….
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