Several ‘authoritarian’ governments have used Israeli software to spy on the cell phones of journalists, activists and managers around the world. This is what emerges from the leaks of an investigation conducted by the Washington Post and 16 other international newspapers.
The software, sold by the Israeli NSO Group and called Pegasus, was created to allow governments to track terrorists and criminals. Among the governments that have used it to spy there would be – writes the WP – that of Victor Orban. And from the papers it appears that people close to Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi reporter, also ended up in the crosshairs.
“The story is totally unacceptable, if it is true”, commented the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during a press conference in Prague.
The investigation, which was also attended by the Guardian, reveals that journalists and activists have ended up in the crosshairs of ‘authoritarian’ governments. The Israeli software was allegedly used by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to target the cell phones of people close to Jamal Kashoggi, the murdered Washington Post reporter. But also from the Hungarian government of Victor Orban, which allegedly used the technology developed by NSO as part of its war on the media, targeting investigative journalists but also the small circle of independent media managers.
The list of phone numbers reported by the Pegasus investigation includes more than 50,000 numbers, concentrated in countries renowned for the surveillance of their citizens and NSO Group customers. The list does not identify who decided to enter the phone numbers or why, and it is also not clear how many cell phones were targeted or spied on. Among the numbers identified so far there would be those of various heads of state and prime ministers. And among those of journalists who appear in the list, dated 2016, there are reporters from various newspapers including CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Voice of America and Al Jazeera.
According to the Guardian, in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most important political rival – opposition leader Rahul Gandhi – has been selected twice as a possible surveillance target from dozens of politicians, journalists, activists and critics of the Government of India featured on the list.