The police commissioner says an internal investigation by the police force using NSO spyware did not lead to cases of illegal surveillance.
Israel’s police chief says he has ordered an extensive investigation into a newspaper’s claims that police forces had used controversial Israeli spyware to hack the phones of protesters, mayors and other citizens investigated without proper authorization. .
Earlier this week, a Hebrew business newspaper published an investigation report claiming that police had used NSO group Pegasus piracy software to monitor the leaders of a protest movement against the then prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as a number of other alleged misuses. of technology.
Police have dismissed the report as inaccurate and said they only operate in accordance with the law, but the publication provoked shouts from lawmakers and sparked multiple investigations by various Israeli authorities into the allegations. The NSO Group said it does not identify its customers.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said on Thursday that after the report was released, police had immediately launched a “thorough internal investigation” which has not yet found any case of illegal surveillance. He asked the document to provide “specific details that allow us to inspect the alleged incidents.”
The NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, has faced growing scrutiny over its Pegasus software, which has been linked to the spike of human rights activists, journalists and politicians around the world. In November, the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted the NSO Group, banning the company from using certain U.S. technologies, saying its tools had been used to “carry out transnational repression.”
In the midst of years of criticism, NSO Group has repeatedly denied having done any harm, arguing that its tools are intended to track down criminals and “terrorists”. He also dismissed the findings of the Pegasus investigation earlier this year, which was based on serious data leaks, as “uncorroborated theories.”
Governments accused of using spyware, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also denied the allegations.
Tuesday’s Calcalist article did not name any of the people whose phones were allegedly hacked, nor did it cite any current or previous sources from the police, government or NSO.
The report referred to eight alleged examples of the secret police intelligence unit used by Pegasus to monitor Israeli citizens, including the phone hacking of protesters, mayors, a murder suspect and opponents of the Jerusalem Pride Parade, all without a court order or the supervision of a judge.
The company says it does not control how its customers use the software. Israel, which regulates the company, has not said whether its security forces use spyware.
Earlier this week, Israeli lawmakers called for a parliamentary inquiry into the allegations, and the attorney general and state auditor said they were investigating the misuse claims.
Shabtai said that “if it turns out that there have been specific cases where the regulations have been violated, the police under my command will work to improve and correct them,” promising full transparency. At the same time, he advocated the legal use of these technologies by the police to fight crime.
NSO has also faced legal or critical action from Microsoft Corp., the parent company of Facebook Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Google Alphabet Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.