JERUSALEM: Israel has set up a senior inter-ministerial team to assess growing allegations that spyware sold by an Israeli cyber firm has been abused on a global scale, Israeli sources said yesterday.
One source said the team is headed by Israel’s National Security Council, which answers to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and has broader areas of expertise than the Defence Ministry, which oversees exports of NSO Group’s Pegasus software.
Another source said the National Security Council is not involved and that the assessment is being carried out by senior defence, intelligence and diplomatic officials.
“This event is beyond the Defence Ministry purview,” the first source said, referring to potential diplomatic blowback after prominent media reports this week of suspected abuses of Pegasus in France, Mexico, India, Morocco and Iraq.
Yesterday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said French President Emmanuel Macron had called for a series of investigations to be carried out into the Pegasus spyware case.
Macron’s phone was on a list of potential targets for possible surveillance on behalf of Morocco in the Pegasus case, France’s Le Monde newspaper said yesterday.
The head of Mexico’s financial intelligence unit, Santiago Nieto, said the current government had not signed contracts with companies used to procure Pegasus, but added that the previous Mexican administration had done so as “tactics of control, intimidation and manipulation”.
One of the Israeli sources deemed it “doubtful” that new curbs would be placed on Pegasus exports, and said the objective “is to find out what happened, to look into this issue and learn lessons”.
Commenting on the development, an NSO spokesperson said: “We welcome any decision made by the government of Israel, and we are convinced that the company’s activities are without flaw.”