Pegasus was sold to Poland, Hungary and India despite the dubious data on human rights in these countries, writes the “New York Times” in an article entitled “The Battle for the Most Powerful Cyber Weapons in the World”. He explains how “a powerful spy tool has ended up in the hands of a new generation of nationalist leaders.” The journal also describes how Israel used Pegasus to achieve political goals on the international stage.
The NSO company introduced the software Pegasus to the global market in 2011. As the New York Times writes, the Israeli firm “seemed to be solving one of the biggest problems faced by law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the 21st century.” Until now, criminals and terrorists had better technology to encrypt communications than investigators to decrypt it.
Pegasus turned out to be a breakthrough in this matter. The American daily indicates that the NSO product has repeatedly contributed to the spectacular successes of governments in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. He mentions capture by Mexican authorities here Joaquín Guzmán, the drug lord known as “El Chapo”, or the elimination by European investigators of a global network of pedophiles operating in over 40 countries. Pegasus, the NYT writes, was also used to thwart terrorist conspiracies.
However, each medal has two sides. A powerful tool designed to “fight evil” has come to be abused by governments, often for political purposes. “Mexico used the software not only against gangsters, but also journalists and political dissidents. The United Arab Emirates used the system to hack an activist’s phone. Saudi Arabia used it against women’s rights lawyers and, according to a lawsuit filed by a Saudi dissident, to spy on communications with Jamal Khashojjim.” , a columnist for The Washington Post whose Saudi agents murdered and dismembered in Istanbul in 2018, “the NYT writes. He adds that “none of these things stopped new customers from turning to NSO, including the United States.”
Cyber weapons as a diplomacy tool
The daily also describes how the Israeli authorities have used spyware offered by a private NSO company to pursue their own interests on the international stage. According to the article, Pegasus was a bargaining chip for which Israel “bought” the backing of foreign governments. Also those that are generally considered more enemies than friends of this country. According to “NYT”, the NSO product helped, among others negotiate historical “Abrahamic Agreements”, normalizing relations between Israel and the Gulf states. As the year-long New York Times investigation showed, Pegasus also played a key role in securing Arab support in Israel’s campaign against Iran. He also helped persuade Mexico and Panama to change their minds and vote in favor of Israel on key issues at the UN.
As the NYT explains, as with conventional weapons, cyberweapons manufacturers must obtain export licenses from the Israeli Ministry of Defense in order to sell their tools overseas. This gives Israeli authorities a decisive influence over who the NSO can sell its spyware to. “This allowed Israel to make the NSO a central element of its national security strategy, using company and similar companies to support the country’s interests around the world,” the daily writes.
As the “NYT” writes, the Israeli government’s search for opportunities to spread its influence and NSO’s drive to increase profits led to “a powerful spy tool being in the hands of a new generation of nationalist leaders around the world.” The newspaper adds that “although Israeli government oversight was to prevent the repressive use of powerful spyware, Pegasus was sold to Poland, Hungary and India despite dubious human rights records in these countries.”
Pegasus in the hands of the Polish authorities
The NYT writes that Pegasus “helped unite” emerging right-wing leaders around the world. The daily recalls the visit of the former Prime Minister Beata Szydło and the then chief of Polish diplomacy Witold Waszczykowski at a dinner with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2016.
“Soon after, Poland signed an agreement with the NSO for the purchase of the Pegasus system for the Central Anticorruption Bureau,” we read. “NYT” recalls the Citizen Lab’s report from December 2021, according to which the phone calls of three publicly important people – attorney Roman Giertych, prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek and the senator of the Civic Coalition Krzysztof Brejza – were under surveillance using Pegasus. Recently, Citizen Lab informed that the head of Agrounia is another person under surveillance in Poland Michał Kołodziejczak, and Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, MP Law and Justice and former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“Netanyahu did not order the Pegasus system to be cut off (Poland – ed.) – even when the Polish government passed laws that many in the Jewish community and Israel itself perceived as Holocaust denial, and even when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a conference with Netanyahu himself , he named “Jewish perpetrators” among those responsible for the Holocaust, writes the “New York Times”.
The daily also reports that the Israeli Ministry of Defense also licensed the sale of Pegasus to Hungary “despite the campaign of persecution of political opponents by (Prime Minister) Viktor Orban.” “Orban used hacking tools against opposition representatives, social activists, journalists investigating against him, and the families of former business partners who became his bitter enemies.”
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