Morocco Denies ‘Surreal Stories’ of Eavesdropping

RABAT (AP) -
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking on his mobile phone. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP, File)

Morocco’s government has denied reports that the country’s security forces may have used spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group to eavesdrop on the cellphones of France’s president and other public figures.

The French prime minister said Wednesday that multiple investigations are under way into any wrongdoing.

In a statement late Tuesday, the Moroccan government lashed out at a global media consortium investigating the suspected widespread use of NSO’s Pegasus spyware to target journalists, human rights activists and politicians in multiple countries. The government threatened unspecified legal action.

French newspaper Le Monde, a member of the consortium, reported that the cellphones of President Emmanuel Macron and 15 then-members of the French government may have been among potential targets in 2019 of surveillance by Pegasus spyware on behalf of a Moroccan security agency.

French public broadcaster Radio France reported that the phones of Moroccan King Mohammed VI and members of his entourage were also among potential targets.

“The Kingdom of Morocco strongly condemns the persistent false, massive and malicious media campaign,” the statement said. The government said it “rejects these false and unfounded allegations, and challenges their peddlers … to provide any tangible and material evidence in support of their surreal stories.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Wednesday that the president “ordered a series of investigations,” but said it was too early to comment or announce any new security measures or other action without knowing “exactly what happened.”

NSO Group denied that it ever maintained “a list of potential, past or existing targets.” It called the Forbidden Stories report “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”

The source of the leak — and how it was authenticated – was not disclosed.