An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Israeli police allegedly conducted warrantless phone intercepts of Israeli citizens, including politicians and activists, using the NSO group’s controversial Pegasus spyware, according to an investigation by the Israeli business media site Calcalist. 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 ($862,000) in 2013, apparently for a basic version of the program. While numerous reports have emerged over the misuse of Pegasus, which is designed and sold by Israel’s NSO group to foreign governments, the latest claims mark a major departure in suggesting that Israelis were also targeted for interception.
The Guardian understands from sources familiar with NSO’s licensing that while that means foreign third-party clients to whom it has sold its software cannot target US and Israeli phone numbers from abroad, an Israeli law enforcement client that purchased the spyware — for instance the police service — would be able to target Israeli phones. 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 Jerusalem Post adds: “[This] astounding report, if true, would blow gaping holes through a number of NSO, police and potentially state prosecution narratives about the proper balance between collecting evidence and respecting citizens’ privacy rights and court protections from unlawful searches and seizures.”