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Israeli citizens targeted by police using Pegasus spyware, report claims

20 Jan 2022 By theguardian

Israeli citizens targeted by police using Pegasus spyware, report claims

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Among those described as having been targets in the report were local mayors, leaders of political protests against the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former government employees.

According to the report, the surveillance was done without the court supervision required for Israeli citizens and without monitoring of how the data was used, a claim denied explicitly by the Israeli police service and a government minister.

A separate report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, based on an invoice seen by the paper, suggested the Israeli police was invoiced by NSO group for 2.7m shekels (£635,000) in 2013, apparently for a basic version of the program.

While the report does not mention its sources, it claims that the order to use the spyware was given by senior officers and carried out by police electronic interception specialists.

The claim is highly significant because for the first time it counters assurances given to Israelis that they could not be targeted by Pegasus and would appear to question the understanding that Israelis are protected from warrantless intrusion.

The Israeli police service, however, has no such exemption and is required to seek a court order.

According to the report, the police may have justified the use of the spyware via a legal loophole that existed because the technology was not covered by existing laws.

A statement released by the Israeli police service, while denying that it conducted warrantless interception, declined to discuss whether Pegasus had been used for interceptions.

Among investigations mentioned by the investigation were the use of Pegasus to target a local mayor during a corruption investigation, with the evidence recovered allegedly whitewashed to cover up how it had been obtained.

According to the report the police first acquired the Pegasus software in 2013, which they began using in 2015.

In a statement released by NSO following publication of the investigation, it reiterated its longstanding claim that it had no input into how its clients used its spyware.

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