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Pegasus Spyware Targets Journalists, Politicians

5 Min Read

The list of people police allegedly targeted with the Israeli NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware grew much larger on Monday, with a Calcalist report claiming that a slew of politicians, ministry officials, businessmen, protest leaders, mayors and journalists had the technology placed onto their phones.

The Pegasus spyware is capable of remotely extracting information from targets’ cell phones covertly, including texts, browser history, call history and screenshots, among other information.

The new report by Calcalist claims that the police’s special operations cyber unit in SIGINT has used Pegasus for years against civilians without obtaining court approval and against the law.

The technology was used for intelligence gathering and not for gathering evidence.

According to the report, police analysts rummaged through data obtained from the phones and listened in as well.

The information was then passed on without the source of the information being mentioned, usually being explained away as a “one-time source” or “incidental information.”

Last week, Israel Police announced that it had found new pieces of evidence which “change the state of affairs” regarding the investigation into allegations that police had used wiretapping software without court approval, with a Walla report stating that while evidence had been found of possibly unapproved wiretapping, the software used was not Pegasus.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s office announced on Tuesday that he had appointed a team to investigate the wiretapping allegations, to be headed by Deputy Attorney-General Amit Marari. The team will submit its findings by July 1.

The statement by Mandelblit’s office noted that additional findings had been revealed by the Police.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai responded to the report on Monday, saying that he has contact Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and asked him to order the formation of an external and independent judicial review committee to examine the issue “in order to restore the public’s trust in Israel Police on the one hand and to regulate the use of technologies in Israel Police on the other.”

“To the extent that the committee finds irregularities and failures they will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” added Shabtai.

President Isaac Herzog responded to report while speaking at at the B’Sheva conference on Monday saying, “This is not an easy day.

The law enforcement system cannot be careless when it comes to following the law. We must not lose our democracy.

We must not lose our police. And certainly – we must not lose the public’s trust in them. This requires a thorough and foundational examination.”

“If these things are right then we are talking about an earthquake, acts that fit dark regimes from the previous century that we must not be like,” said Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in response to the report on Monday.

“Mass intrusion into the privacy of many people is lawlessness that must be stopped today. An external commission of inquiry is required, not for these purposes did the police buy these software. The Knesset and the entire public deserve answers, today.”

Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Gilad Kariv also called for the formation of a state commission of inquiry into the case.

“It is not possible to be satisfied with the internal investigation team of the Justice Ministry, in part because the supervision of police action must also be examined.”

“The appointment of a retired judge to head the commission of inquiry will, by law, allow the committee to be given the powers of a state commission of inquiry – this is the necessary step at this time,” added Kariv.

Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir also called for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry, saying that those responsible must stand trial and that “this is a very serious incident and it does not matter if the tracking was carried out against left, right or social activists. Civil rights are civil rights and we need to protect them.”