Israel police faces charges over the use of the controversial NSO spyware, the Pegasus, against democratic activists since 2013.
The case of the controversial NSO espionage product is becoming thicker with new scandal inside Israel. Israeli legislature has become curious about a potential use of the contentious espionage spyware against people by the police force.
Israeli journals revealed last week that police had utilized the Pegasus malware during the past decade. The spyware is currently on a US administration’s blacklist due to multiple infiltrations inside and outside the country.
Israel Police has utilized the Pegasus against various victims, including anti-government demonstration organizers, Calcalist revealed last Tuesday. the Israeli daily further explained that the police attacked the targets without the necessary court orders.
Documents proved that Pegasus had been exploited by certain regimes to eavesdrop on activists, reporters, and officials. The new revelation about Israel police attached a fresh domestic element to worldwide criticism on Israel.
In response to the Calcalist article, Police Chief stated that the department had purchased cyber-technology Kobi Shabtai, however, evaded accepting or rejecting the utilization of the Pegasus.
The police commissioner also claimed that the relevant surveillance activity is conducted legally. In the event of covert eavesdropping, he added, a request is made with a judge, to facilitate the investigations.
Israel police rejected an allegation that it had employed malware against organizers of “Black Flag” demonstrations in 2021. The “Black Flag” protesters requested the resignation of the then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to various corruption allegations.
The chairwoman of Israel’s Knesset public security committee also indicated that police will be questioned on the issue. The Calcalist allegations might lead to consequences for not only the Israeli police, but also the entire sovereignty of Israel facing charges over the Pegasus scandal.
Israel Police; The Source of Controversy
The NSO group has stated that it was unable to accept or reject the existence of any current or future clients. The group claims it neither operates nor is engaged in the operation of the network once the product is delivered to a regime or government.
The Israeli company has always emphasized on the legality of its activity and products following the espionage leaks. “NSO sells its products under license and regulation to intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent terror and crime under court orders and the local laws of their countries,” it explained recently.
Calcalist story generated outrage across the political landscape in Israel. A Cabinet Member described the utility of such spying tools unacceptable in what he dubbed a democratic state.
A member of the opposition parties also stated that Israel police’s monitoring of civilians without court order is unethical and illegal. These remarks by the members of both parties in Israeli is indicative of a systematic challenge in Israel.
It was in December that a bipartisan group of US lawmakers petitioned the Treasury and State Departments to penalize NSO. They urged the move due to company’s role in assisting authoritarian regimes to suppress human rights activists and journalists.
A month earlier, the American firms Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO. Apple alleging that NSO broke US rules by infiltrating access to iPhone firmware. In separate cases, Meta Platforms Inc, Microsoft, and Alphabet Inc. along with Cisco Systems Inc have all taken legal action against the NSO.
Israel has always been at the center of allegations due to the NSO activities. With a long precedent in spying operations, Israeli firms’s activities could easily be taken as correlated with state involvement. The involvement of Israel police might further strengthen the hypothesis.