AA / Jerusalem
Washington has raised concerns over reports that Israeli spy software Pegasus has been used against journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures.
The U.S. news site Axios reported on Thursday to Israeli officials that “the White House has expressed concern to Israeli authorities about reports that spyware produced by the company was being used by Israeli NSOs to spy on journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures. Countries around the world.”
In recent weeks, US and international reports have pointed to the use of Pegasus for espionage purposes in many countries around the world.
The Israeli government has licensed NSO to sell Pegasus spyware to a number of countries, according to a U.S. news website.
“Media reports about the malicious use of this technology have already caused a stir in Congress and many European countries, and Israel fears a diplomatic crisis,” he added.
“The International Federation of Investigative Journalists announced two weeks ago that the Pegasus program, designed to track down terrorists and criminals, has become a valuable tool for governments to spy on journalists and the enemy.”
“Countries listed as NSO clients include Hungary, India, Mexico, Morocco and Saudi Arabia,” Axios pointed out.
“A special committee set up by the Israeli government discussed the relationship with the NSO, while monitoring the damage caused by diplomatic, security and legal implications,” he said.
The U.S. site quoted Israeli officials as saying that Joe Biden, a senior adviser to the US president, had met with Brett McCurk of the Middle East at the White House last Thursday. A senior official in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and asked him what the Israeli government plans to do about the NSO issue.
He added: “Baldi has informed Melkurk that Israel is taking the matter very seriously, what exactly happened, whether it violated the export license, and whether it needs to change Israeli policy regarding the export of offensive cyber technology.”
The White House declined to comment on the matter, according to the Axios website.
He noted that the NSO crisis had already created diplomatic tensions between Israel and France following press reports that Morocco was using the Pegasus to hack the mobile phone of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Last Thursday, Macron asked Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett to clarify,” he said.
Bennett made it clear to Macron that the case was from the Netanyahu government (Benjamin Benjamin, the current leader of the opposition Likud Party) and that he was investigating the business.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Kantz arrived in the French capital Paris on Wednesday for a scheduled visit and briefed the French defense minister on the status of the investigation into the Pegasus case.
According to the Axios website, four Democrats in the US Congress, Tom Malinowski, Katie Porter, Anna Esu and Joaquin Castro, are urging the Biden administration to take action against the NSO and to consider sanctions against the company for human rights abuses.
“They said the United States should consider delisting the NSO, as it has done with Chinese technology companies such as Huawei,” the report said.
* Translated by Maunir Bennur from Arabic