Pegasus spyware scandal: Gov’t commission to investigate alleged police misconduct

Bombshell report says public officials, activists targeted by Israeli police’s illegal use of Pegasus cellphone spyware technology.

By World Israel News Staff

On the heels of bombshell reports that the Israeli police illegally used the Pegasus mobile phone-hacking software to spy on Israeli citizens without warrants, Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev has pledged to establish a commission of inquiry to look into the matter.

The governmental commission of inquiry will “investigate in depth the violation of the civil rights and privacy of citizens in the years in question,” Bar-Lev said in a media statement on Monday morning.

The alleged misconduct had taken place “under previous [police] commissioners, previous public security ministers and under previous governments,” he said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement Monday that “the reports about Pegasus, if they are true, are very serious.”

He said that the tool is “important” in “the fight against terrorism and severe crime, but [it was] not intended to be used in phishing campaigns targeting the Israeli public or officials – which is why we need to understand exactly what happened.”

In recent weeks, reports from Hebrew-language media have indicated that the Israeli police leveraged the NSO Group’s controversial spyware to extract and monitor the content of cellphones belonging to activists, public officials, and even witnesses in former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial.

On Monday morning, Hebrew-language daily Calcalist published the names of alleged victims of illegal cellphone hacking by the Israeli police, including supermarket magnate Rami Levy, Netanyahu’s eldest son, Ethiopian-Israeli activists who had led protests against police brutality, and former Walla News CEO Ilan Yeshua.

A previous report by Calcalist indicated that the police used Pegasus to hack the phone of an unnamed, prominent activist and discovered he was an active user of a gay dating app. The police reportedly noted this information in a file about the activist, presumably to blackmail or pressure him at a later date.

According to statements by the embattled NSO Group, the Pegasus technology should be used only to prevent potentially catastrophic terror attacks.

Using the technology to gain leverage in negotiations with a witness in a criminal trial that was not a life-or-death situation would be a clear violation of the licensing terms for Pegasus, according to NSO’s policies.