Israel insists it only ‘legally’ spies on citizens
An Israeli minister has denied reports that police illegally used Pegasus surveillance software to spy on the country’s own citizens, calling the “central claim” – that the practice was illegal – “not true.”
Several government investigations were launched this past week after the Israeli newspaper Calcalist reported that law enforcement had been using NSO Group’s infamous Pegasus spyware to illegally intercept the calls of citizens.
The newspaper claimed that police had been using the spyware since 2013 to carry out surveillance on citizens “who were not criminals or suspects.”
Omer Bar-Lev, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, told Channel 12 on Saturday that the allegations were not true, “except for the fact that the Israel Police used advanced technology.”
“The central claim that the police are illegally spying is not true,” he declared, citing the assurances of Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, before claiming to be “very happy that the Israel Police has advanced technological tools to help deal with serious crime organizations that are using advanced technology.”
Commissioner Shabtai vowed on Friday that the police’s “legal use of technological tools” would “continue,” and said the force would carry on “developing and improving these tools.”
Israel Police and its defenders have argued that the surveillance of citizens was legal because they acquired a warrant first. However, Calculist alleged that surveillance had taken place before the warrants were granted and that the evidence discovered was then used to justify the warrants.
In 2020, it was revealed that Pegasus had been sold by NSO Group to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among other state customers, where it was then used to spy on journalists, politicians, and human rights activists.
The spyware was discovered on the devices of at least nine US State Department staffers, and Pegasus was even allegedly used to spy on world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.