Israeli police used NSO malware to spy on local mayors, their relatives

Exposé by Calcalist reveals police tapped phones of 3 heads of local authorities, whom law enforcement suspected of engaging in corrupt activity, but no evidence was found and no indictment filed; some were detained, with their homes searched

Tomer Ganon, Calcalist|
The Israeli police used the NSO Group spyware to monitor mayors of local authorities and those close to them, including relatives and associates, said a report released Sunday.
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  • The financial daily Calcalist, Ynet's sister outlet, last week released a multi-part exposé into the law enforcement organization's dealings, which revealed the police's SIGINT unit has been allegedly employing the controversial Pegasus malware to spy on civilians.
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    רוני אלשיך
    רוני אלשיך
    NSO headquarters in Herzliya and former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich
    (Photo: AFP, Amit Shaabi)
    The latest chapter of the shocking revelation shows the law enforcement tapped the phones of at least three mayors and heads of local councils for the purposes of "phishing" - all under the guise of intelligence activities.
    The three were allegedly suspected of engaging in corrupt activities but in all three cases no indictment was eventually filed.
    The use of Pegasus, however, led to the mayors and heads of local councils being investigated. Some were even arrested, with their homes searched. Their family members, friends and aides were also summoned for questioning, some of whom were arrested as well.
    According to the Calcalist report, in one of the cases the police decided to tap the phone of the suspect's wife after "phishing" of his phone had failed to yield evidence.
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    חברת הסייבר הישראלית NSO
    חברת הסייבר הישראלית NSO
    Illustration of NSO spyware being used
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Once the wife's phone was tapped, investigators found the woman had been talking to a contractor's wife. Nothing in their conversations indicated criminal offense, but SIGINT officials still decided to apply for wiretapping orders and search warrants in court, with the judge being told that intelligence information received by the unit indicates the mayor is talking to the contractor through his wife with the purpose of bidding for tenders.
    When the open investigation began, the mayor was arrested on suspicion of bribery, spending several nights in a jail cell. The case was eventually closed, however, for the lack of evidence.
    The Israel Police said in response: "All police actions in the context of wiretapping are carried out only through orders lawfully issued by a judge. "As long as there are materials that indicate an offense has been committed, we ask for it to be transferred to the authorities as soon as possible."
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