Israel’s parliament seeks explanation from police about reported use of Pegasus software

Jan 19, 2022: A senior lawmaker has said that the Israeli parliament will ask the police for clarification on the use of a controversial hacking tool against the country’s citizens.

Without quoting sources, Calcalist Financial Daily said on Tuesday that police have had Pegasus spyware created by Israel’s NSO group – now on the US government’s blacklist – since 2013.

Calcalist alleged that police used it against targets, including anti-government protest leaders, sometimes without the required court warrants. The report adds a new domestic dimension to global pressure on Israel, with allegations that Pegasus was abused by some foreign clientele governments for spying on human rights activists, journalists and politicians. 

Responding to a calcalist report, Police Commissioner Kobe Shabtai said the force had acquired third-party cyber technology, but declined to confirm or deny any use of Pegasus.

Shabtai said in a statement, “is carried out according to law … for example, in the case of covert listening, a request is filed with a court, which examines the matter”.

Moreover, he denied newspaper reports that police had used spyware, among others, against leaders of so-called “black flag” protests last year, including the resignation of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is being prosecuted on corruption charges, which he has denied.

For its part meanwhile, NSO said it could not confirm or deny any existing or potential customers. It said it does not operate the system once sold to its governmental customers nor is it involved in any way in the system’s operation.

The calcalist report caused a stir in the Israeli political arena. Cabinet Minister Karine Al-Harrar told Israeli Army Radio that such surveillance was “something that a democratic country cannot allow.” Opposition lawmaker Yovel-Stantis said that the surveillance of citizens by law enforcement agencies without judicial oversight is wrong and should be investigated if the allegations are true.

Public Safety Minister Omar Barlev, who oversees the police department, tweeted that he would confirm that police had received clear permission from a judge to use spyware.

Last month, a group of U.S. lawmakers called on the Treasury and the State Department to sanction the NSO and three other foreign watchdogs that it says have helped dictatorial governments commit human rights abuses.

In November, Apple sued NSO, claiming that it had violated US law by breaking software installed on iPhones. NSO has also faced legal action or criticism from Microsoft Corporation, Facebook Parent Meta Platforms Inc., Google Parent Alphabet Inc., and Cisco Systems Inc.

Stay tuned to BaaghiTV for latest news and Updates!

AT&T and Verizon agree to halt 5G rollout

Emirates suspends flights to US destinations amid fears of disruption from 5G