Portuguese / Spanish / English

Israel ramps up scrutiny of police as NSO scandal spreads

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 24, 2021 [EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images]
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 24, 2021 [EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel announced it was setting up a national inquiry on Monday after a newspaper reported illicit use by police of powerful spyware against confidantes of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other public figures, Reuters reports.

Pegasus, a  mobile phone hacking tool made by Israel's NSO Group, was used to "phish for intelligence even before any investigation had been opened against the targets, and without judicial warrants", Calcalist said in an unsourced report.

The furore has added a domestic angle to allegations that surfaced last year of misuse of Pegasus by foreign clients against journalists, rights activists and other figures, which prompted the Israeli government to order expert reviews.

NSO says all its sales are government-authorised, and that it does not itself run Pegasus.

Calcalist said targets in Israel included a son of and two aides to Netanyahu – who is on trial on corruption charges he denies – as well as a co-defendant and several witnesses and, separately, two former officials suspected in leaks to journalists.

READ: Israel police hacked phone of person involved ex-PM case

The court hearing the case against Netanyahu said it was cancelling the next session, scheduled for Tuesday, and would await answers from the prosecution about the hacking allegations before deciding whether proceedings would resume on Wednesday.

Omer Barlev, the Minister for Police, said he was setting up a cabinet-level commission of inquiry, drawing calls from some colleagues in the government for a more independent probe.

Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, called the allegations against the police "very serious, if true".

Pegasus, he said in a statement, was "not intended to be used in phishing campaigns targeting the Israeli public or officials, which is why we need to understand exactly what happened".

Calling for some police to face criminal investigation, Health Minister, Nitzan Horowitz, said, "Those who turned a blind eye to this activity abroad must now deal with it here."

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

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

IsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestine
Show Comments
Writing Palestine - Celebrating the tenth year of the Palestine Book Awards - Buy your copy of the book now
Show Comments