A recent House intel hearing found that Americans had been caught up in the technology’s illegal surveillance. Now NSO wants federal contracts?

By Nick Cleveland-Stout, Responsible Statecraft

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign spyware Wednesday, one company dominated discussion: NSO Group.

The controversial Israeli spyware company is best known for Pegasus, a spyware capable of discreetly extracting messages, contacts, photos, and videos from a target’s phone without ever even needing to click a link. Pegasus has been used by client governments from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to Mexico and Rwanda to infect the phones of dissidents, journalists, human rights organizations, and even U.S. officials.

NSO Group logo seen on the smartphone placed on Apple Macbook laptop keyboard. Israeli company known for its Pegasus spyware for survaliance.

Carine Kanimba, the daughter of arrested Rwandan dissident Paul Rusesabagina, testified about her experience as a victim of Pegasus even after seeking refuge with her family in Texas; “It is horrifying to me that they knew everything I was doing, precisely where I was, who I was speaking with, my private thoughts and actions, at any moment they desired,” she told the committee.

Shane Huntley, the Senior Director of the Threat Analysis Group at Google labeled Pegasus “a weapon against which there is no defense.”

Last November, the Biden Administration blacklisted NSO Group after a series of national security breaches were brought to light – including the infection of the phones of 11 American diplomats in Uganda. Kanimba, an American citizen, testified that there were times when the spyware “was active during calls with the U.S. presidential envoy for Hostage Affairs team and the U.S. State Department,” despite NSO Group’s claims that its spyware cannot be used against Americans.

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