The Israeli government has long viewed the Pegasus as an important tool for its foreign policy. An article in this year’s New York Times Magazine revealed how, for more than a decade, Israel has made strategic decisions about which countries allow licenses for Pegasus and which countries which will keep them.
The Israeli government has authorized the purchase of Pegasus by authoritarian governments, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have used the weapon to spy on dissidents, human rights activists and journalists in those countries. Democratic-elected leaders in India, Hungary, Mexico, Panama and other countries also abuse Pegasus to spy on their political opponents.
Israel has used this tool as a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations, most notably in the secret negotiations that led to the so-called Abrahamic Agreement that normalized relations between Israel and one country. number of historical Arab opponents.
“Policy decisions regarding export controls, taking into account strategic and security considerations, including compliance with international agreements,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement before the interview. asked by The Times. “In terms of policy, the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to government organizations, for lawful use, and only for the purposes of crime prevention and investigation and counter-terrorism,” according to the statement. end-user/end-user declaration provided by government acquisition. ”
Since the NSO first sold Pegasus to the Mexican government more than a decade ago, the spyware has been used by dozens of countries to track criminals, terrorists and drug dealers. But abuse of the tool is also widespread, from Saudi Arabia’s use of Pegasus as part of a brutal crackdown on dissidents in the kingdom, to the Prime Minister’s Viktor Orban of Hungary authorized intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy spyware against his administration. competitor.
Last November, the Biden administration put NSO and another Israeli cyber-affirmation on a “blacklist” of companies banned from doing business with US companies. The Commerce Department said the companies’ tools “have enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is how authoritarian governments target dissidents, journalists and politicians.” operate beyond their sovereign borders to silence dissent.”
Ronen Bergman reported from Kyiv, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.