For weeks, media outlets have reported on the use of the Israeli spyware Pegasus targeting journalists, activists, and government officials.
Most media reports, however, focused on the revealed list of people spied on by well-known US-backed despotic regimes.
By naming countries like Azerbaijan, the UAE, Morocco and India, it shifted attention away from the Israeli regime and its Western enablers in the dirty and ugly business of spying.
Speaking to technologyreview.com, Shalev Hulio, the co-founder and CEO of the NSO Group, the company which developed Pegasus, admitted that he founded the company producing the spyware at the “urging of the European intelligence agencies.”
It should be noted that Hulio held the rank of major in the Israeli army.
As reported by the Guardian newspaper “in two NSO client countries, India and Hungary, it appears governments began using the company’s technology as or after their respective prime ministers met the then Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in high-profile encounters intended to boost trade and security cooperation. It is understood no countries that are considered enemies of Israel – such as Turkey – have been allowed to buy NSO’s wares.”
In reaction to the revealed data by the consortium of investigative journalists, Middle East Eye reported that “an Israeli interdisciplinary crisis management team consisting of the Mossad espionage agency and the defense and foreign ministries has been established to respond to the scandal.”
From this, it can be plausibly deduced that Israel as a state entity had some role in the company’s dealings, even if NSO denies it.
Israel is a highly militarized and securitized entity.
It’s a society built on bunker mentality.
Would its institutions really allow a cyber spyware company to operate without any oversight?
The fact that this angle of the Pegasus story did not turn into a major scandal in international media reporting on the NSO and its activities, raises questions.
Another interesting angle ignored in reports is the fact that most NSO clients are allies of the so-called Western “democracies”.
Regimes such as those in India, the UAE, Azerbaijan, and Morocco all enjoy the political and economic patronage of secular Western regimes in one form or another.
While the Western regimes prattle about freedom and human rights, they are unlikely to impose sanctions on rulers who use Pegasus to oppress their own citizens.
Such rulers serve the broader geopolitical interests of Western powers.
If the spyware were used against journalists, academics and activists by countries allied with Turkey, China, Iran or Venezuela, for instance, their governments would be subjected to intense opprobrium.
Yet, reporting on NSO’s transactions and its spyware, what is deliberately ignored is the fact that the key regimes using Pegasus against legitimate critics are allies of NATO.