Israel announces state inquiry to probe police use of NSO spyware

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announces establishment of a commission of inquiry with authority to interrogate witnesses regardless of seniority, saying 'such failures' will not take place on his watch
Liran Levi|
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announced on Monday he was setting up a state commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations about police's use of NSO's Pegasus software against citizens, including public figures.
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  • Barlev made the announcement shortly after Ynet's sister outlet Calcalist published additional information on the case, claiming the police used Pegasus to spy on confidants of ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family.
    2 View gallery
    Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and illustration of a hacker
    Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and illustration of a hacker
    Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and illustration of a hacker
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevich, Shutterstock)
    Calcalist called out Pegasus, a cellphone hacking tool, for "fish[ing] for intelligence even before any investigation had been opened against the targets, and without judicial warrants". The targets included Netanyahu's son and aides, as well as a co-defendant and several witnesses, and, separately, two former officials suspected in leaks to the media.
    With lawyers for Netanyahu - who is on trial on corruption charges but denies wrongdoing - urging that proceedings against him be suspended pending clarification of the report, Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said he was setting up a state commission of inquiry "to look into all of the claims to their full depth and breadth".
    Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said also backed the establishment of the commission that "would examine the matter in all its aspects in order to restore public trust in the Israel Police".
    Both Shabtai and Barlev made sure to point out that the alleged illegal activity took place prior to their entry into office. Barlev said the commission of inquiry "will thoroughly investigate all claims," adding that "there won't be such failings on my watch".
    2 View gallery
    יעקב קובי, רוני אלשיך
    יעקב קובי, רוני אלשיך
    Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, and former Commissioner Roni Alsheikh
    (Photo: Elad Gershgoren, Amit Shabi, Shutterstock)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who unseated Netanyahu in June, deemed Calcalist's findings "very serious, if true".
    "This tool (Pegasus) and similar tools are important tools in the fight against terrorism and severe crime, but they were not intended to be used in phishing campaigns targeting the Israeli public or officials, which is why we need to understand exactly what happened," he said in a written statement.
    President Isaac Herzog also voiced concern. "We must not lose our democracy. We must not lose our police. And we must certainly not lose public trust in them. This necessitates a very deep and thorough investigation," he said in a speech.
    That report created domestic furor over the Pegasus spyware, whose alleged misuse by foreign clients had prompted the Bennett government to order export reviews. NSO says all its sales are government-authorized and that it does not itself run Pegasus.

    Reuters contributed to this report
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