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'Enabled Transnational Repression Abroad': US Blacklists Pegasus-Maker NSO

Pegasus is believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phones numbers, along with many abroad.

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America’s Joe Biden administration, on Wednesday, 3 November, put NSO – the Israeli maker of the Pegasus spyware – on a list of restricted companies, according to International media reports.

The United States (US) Department of Commerce, in a statement, said that the NSO Group and Candiru, another Israeli company, were added to the Entity List “based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, business people, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” The Indian Express reported.

The spyware Pegasus is believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, along with many in other parts of the world. Earlier, in October, India’s Supreme Court had ordered the setting up of an expert committee overseen by a retired Supreme Court judge to examine the use of Pegasus spyware against Indian citizens, including whether the right to privacy had been violated.

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According to AFP, the US Commerce Department added:

"These tools have also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent.”

'India’s Internal Affairs': Israel’s Ambassador to India

Meanwhile, a day after the Supreme Court ordered the probe, Naor Gilon, Israel’s new ambassador to India, reiterated that every export of NSO needs a licence from the Israeli government and that the licence is granted for exporting only to governments.

Declining to comment further, Gilon said, "What is happening here in India is a really internal thing of India, and I would rather not go into your internal affairs," The Indian Express reported.

The US has also added Positive Technologies from Russia and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy Pte Ltd from Singapore in the Entity List.

Meanwhile, reacting to the action, NSO said that its "technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime," an NSO spokesperson was quoted by AFP.

Further, the spokesperson added that the NSO Group will advocate for this decision to be reversed. The spokesperson also claimed that the group’s compliance controls have led to contracts with multiple government agencies “that misused our products”, being terminated.

(With inputs from AFP.)

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