Pegasus Project: Israeli Authorities Conduct Inspection of NSO Offices

Reports said that officials from Israel's defence ministry paid a visit to NSO's offices near Tel Aviv.

3 min read
Pegasus Project: Israeli Authorities Conduct Inspection of NSO Offices

Israeli authorities on Wednesday, 28 July, conducted an inspection of the offices of the NSO Group following reports by a consortium of media organisations which said that their spyware Pegasus was used by governments across the world for surveillance on major figures in countries.

The Guardian reported that officials from Israel's defence ministry paid a visit to the company’s offices near Tel Aviv.

An NSO spokesperson told Israeli news website The Record that they could confirm that “representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Defence had visited their offices.”

Israel's defence ministry also confirmed the same on Twitter on Wednesday, writing that: “Representatives from a number of bodies came to NSO today to examine the publications and allegations raised in its case.”

In India, Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of several journalists, politicians, government officials, and rights activists.

Not a 'Raid', Says NSO

While earlier media reports had termed it a "raid", NSO said that the defence ministry officials "visited" the office, adding that it had been informed in advance that such an inspection would be carried out.

“The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities. We are confident that this inspection will prove the facts are as declared repeatedly by the company against the false allegations made against us in the recent media attacks," NSO told The Record.

The Israeli firm has already denied that unauthorised surveillance of mobile phones was carried out using its spyware.

Israel Sets Up Team to Look Into 'Pegasus' Allegations

Meanwhile, Israel has formulated a senior inter-ministerial team to look into allegations that Pegasus has been abused globally, reported news agency Reuters, citing an Israeli source.

“The objective is to find out what happened, to look into this issue and learn lessons,” the unnamed source told Reuters.

The inter-ministerial team is headed by Israel’s National Security Council, reported Reuters, citing its source. The event, however, is beyond the Israeli defence ministry’s purview.

The source has also been quoted as saying that it is 'doubtful' that new curbs would be placed on Pegasus reports.


The French Connection

The inspection was carried out at the same time as Defence Minister Benny Gantz's arrival in Paris for a meeting with his French counterpart in which the Pegasus Project reports were reportedly discussed.

Citing sources, French publication Le Monde had reported that one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone numbers, which has been regularly used since 2017 is on the leaked database accessed by the Pegasus Project.

According to The Wire, Macron's name appeared in the list as he embarked on a trip to Africa in 2019 with stops in Djibouti and Ethiopia.

In a statement to Le Monde, Macron’s office stated, “If the facts are true, they are clearly very serious. All light will be shed on these media revelations.”

Macron has also called for an investigation into the allegations.

According to reports, at their meeting, Gantz told French Defence Minister, Florence Parly, that Israel was investigating the matter “with the utmost seriousness.”

Prior to the meeting, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal had said that Parly was interested in questioning her counterpart "about the knowledge the Israeli government had of the activities of NSO’s clients” as well as what measures would be taken “to prevent a misuse of these tools that are highly intrusive.”

(With inputs from The Wire, Le Monde and The Guardian.)

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