Much attention has been paid recently to bombshell allegations that Israeli-created spyware may have been used to target journalists, dissidents, and other enemies of the state. But the Pegasus scandal is a mere microcosm of the larger issue of governments using private companies for surveillance operations.
On July 18, the Guardian and 16 other media outlets began publishing a series of stories about the Israeli-based NSO Group, alleging that foreign governments used the company’s Pegasus software to surveil at least 180 journalists and numerous other targets around the world.
Developed by former members of the elite Israeli Unit 8200—comparable to the U.S. National Security Agency—the Pegasus software allegedly infects iPhones and Androids, enabling operators to extract messages, photos, and emails; record calls; and activate microphones in secret.
Alleged possible targets of Pegasus surveillance include the slain Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, French president Emmanuel Macron, and Indian opposition legislator Rahul Gandhi, along with numerous others. NSO explicitly denies that its software was “associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”