Probe Clears Police From Illegal Use of NSO Spyware

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the town of Sapir. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

An investigation into Israel Police’s use of NSO spyware revealed that there was no widespread violation of the law.

An inquiry panel presented its finding on Thursday to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and said that although the police overstepped the authority given by the courts in a small number of cases, there was no mass infection of phones with the Pegasus or its more limited version, Saifan.

Last January, Calcalist reported that the police’s SIGINT unit has been allegedly employing the controversial malware to spy on civilians, including political activists.

Israel Police denied the report. “We would like to put things into perspective: There is no basis for these allegations. All activity of the Israel Police is according to the law, on the basis of court orders and strict work procedures,” said the police in a statement.

After a six-month investigation of the media allegations, the panel, which included two former members of the Shin Bet and one retired Mossad member, said all intercomputer communications initiated by the police were within their legal purview.

The probe also revealed that the police cannot access the internal data base of the NSO company and is limited to use of the dedicated interface provided by the tech firm, and therefore is unable to manipulate or change data.

Calcalist in its earlier reporting claimed that among those targeted by the police in what they alleged were illegal hacking practices were former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s son Avner and some of his close aides.

At the time, Netanyahu likened the alleged unauthorized use by police of the military-grade spyware to the IDF bombing civilians.

But the media reports also alleged the technology was used against Netanyahu opponents including protesters in the mass demonstrations calling for Netanyahu’s ouster because of the charges brought against him.

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