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Israel’s State Comptroller to probe use of Pegasus to spy on citizens

January 18, 2022 at 8:54 pm

Israeli demonstrators, dressed in black and wearing protective face masks, take part in a “Black Flag” demonstration outside the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem on April 30, 2020 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s State Comptroller, Matanyahu Englman, and Privacy Authority said, on Tuesday, that they would probe Israeli police over claims of using NSO Group’s Pegasus hacking technology against citizens and protesters in Israel.

Israeli business news outlet, the Calcalist, reported on Tuesday morning that Israeli police have, for years, been making widespread use of the spyware against Israeli civilians.

Israel's Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel’s Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Calcalist also said that the police spied on people not suspected of crimes, exploited a legal loophole and kept the surveillance under tight secrecy without oversight by a court or a judge.

Englman said that the use of such espionage devices “raises questions of balance between their usefulness and the violation of the right to privacy and other freedoms.”

Israel Police Chief, Kobi Shabtai, admitted using the notorious spyware against Israeli citizens, but promised that everything was done with the appropriate warrants and oversight.

Meanwhile, he denied using the spyware against anti-Netanyahu activists, anti-government protesters, or other activists.

“These kinds of tools were not used against Black Flag [anti-Netanyahu] demonstrators, the phones of heads of municipalities or to track anti-pride parade activists,” Shabtai was quoted by the Times of Israel saying.

He claimed that such a tool is “one of the most controlled and supervised areas by all legal entities both inside and outside the police.”

However, Israeli Channel 12, according to The Jerusalem Post, reported the police saying it used the technology of the company, Cellebrite, to hack a Black Flag protester’s cell phone.

READ: US lawmakers call for sanctions against spyware firms including Israel’s NSO Group