Israeli inquiry sees no indication of unlawful use of spyware by police

Israeli inquiry sees no indication of unlawful use of spyware by police

February 21, 2022

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A high-level Israeli inquiry found no indication to support allegations that police had used controversial spyware on the phones of a number of public figures without warrants, the Justice Ministry said on Monday.

The investigation, conducted by a deputy attorney-general, focused on the police’s use of the powerful hacking tool Pegasus developed by Israel’s NSO Group, as well as another, unnamed system.

NSO, which has denied wrongdoing amid months of spiraling reports in Israel and abroad of privacy violations by government clients using Pegasus, provided the panel with a database it said gives accurate data on phones infected by the spyware.

“There are no indications that Israeli police infected with the Pegasus software in its possession without a court order the telephone of any of the people published in the media,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Israel’s Calcalist newspaper, in an unsourced report earlier this month, said police had used Pegasus without judges’ warrants against public figures including a son and confidants of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases in which he has pleaded innocent.

After the Justice Ministry made public its findings, Netanyahu’s Likud party said the inquiry was insufficient and opaque and called for a more thorough state investigation.

Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said a total of 26 people had been reported by Calcalist to have had Pegasus improperly used against them. He welcomed the inquiry’s outcome and called it “a resounding acquittal” for the police.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)