It is still an open secret, but the Pegasus telephone spying scandal, revealed by Forbidden Stories, a consortium of journalists and Amnesty International, has drawn the colors to more than one State and has caused a shock wave in International Relations around the globe.
The organizations had access to a list of 50,000 potential targets of the clients of the Israeli security firm NSO, which sells spyware Pegasus, among whom were many politicians and journalists. The phone infections would have been ordered from security agencies in countries such as Mexico, Morocco or Saudi Arabia according to the international investigation.
The program is sold as a security tool to governments. NSO ensures that it has a strict control of its clients. They allege that if the wiretapping is confirmed it would be a case of fraudulent use of the program.
The European Commission considers this attack on press freedom unacceptable. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, has said that this program should not be sold to countries where judicial surveillance of this type of attack is not guaranteed. ”
After the first declarations of conviction, prudent as some of the information was not confirmed, some files have begun to move.
These are some of the first consequences since the scandal was revealed last Monday.
Emmanuel Macron changes phone
French President Emmanuel Macron has changed phones, according to France Télévisions. One of their numbers, without the usual security measures of the Presidency, was on the list revealed by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. According to French public broadcaster, the president likes to be online and is not comfortable with the restrictions on official telephones. He often uses the Telegram application, which despite being encrypted, is not secure on phones infected with the Pegasus spyware.
According to sources from Elíseo, Macron has demanded that all security protocols be reinforced, in addition to starting technical operations to detect the program and clarify what happened.
NSO assures that Macron has never been the target of spying from its clients.
A score of high government officials and several French journalists appear on Project Pegasus lists.
Morocco announces that it will sue Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International for defamation
The Kingdom of Alauí has announced that it will sue the two organizations behind the Pegasus Project for defamation before the Paris Correctional Court. “The Moroccan State intends to immediately refer the matter to the French courts because it wants all the light to be thrown on the false accusations of these two organizations that provide elements without the least concrete and proven evidence,” said lawyer Olivier Baratelli. In the best of cases the trial would not take place for two years. Furthermore, French jurisprudence excludes a State from filing a defamation complaint.
Algeria opens investigation into alleged Moroccan espionage
A court in Algiers has ordered the opening of an investigation as a result of “information (…) that reveals the existence of a computerized listening and espionage system that has targeted the interests of Algeria, but also of citizens and Algerian personalities “.
Thousands of Algerian phone numbers – some of them belonging to senior political and military officials – have been identified as possible Pegasus targets, according to the French news website Tout sur l’Algérie (TSA), based on information provided by the international consortium.
“Algeria expresses its deep concern after the revelations (…) that report the large-scale use by the authorities of certain countries, and in particular the Kingdom of Morocco, of an espionage software called + Pegasus + against officials and Algerian citizens, “reacted on Thursday night the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, condemning” this inadmissible systematic attack against human rights and fundamental freedoms. “
It is suspected that the Moroccan wiretaps of his neighbor would have as a background the situation in Western Sahara.
Israeli Parliament opens commission of inquiry
An Israeli deputy, former head of the Mossad spy service, assures that the Defense Commission of the Israeli Parliament will open an investigation into what happened to see if there are any flaws. According to Forbidden Stories, Israeli diplomacy would have intervened in deciding to which institutions the powerful spy system was sold.
NSO assures for its part that the list to which journalists have had access is not a list of espionage targets of its clients and that everything is due to a misinterpretation of the data.
However, Amnesty was able to verify that several of those on the list had their phones infected with the program.
The Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office orders the opening of an investigation
In Hungary, “following several complaints,” the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered an investigation “into the possible unauthorized collection of confidential information,” the agency said in a statement on Thursday.
The international media consortium that carried out the investigation accuses the country’s authorities of using spy technology against Hungarian civil society. 300 smartphones of journalists, lawyers, elected officials and businessmen were the target, according to the Forbidden Stories network, a unique case in the European Union.
Mexico, espionage as a way of life of a government
According to reports, the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the espionage of no less than 15,000 telephone numbers. The country with the most targets on the Project Pegasus list. Analysts assure that the Executive “normalized” the espionage of journalists, activists and political rivals, including the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The Prosecutor’s Office has ordered “all federal and state security agencies that may have software equipment to carry out communications, to protect all their data in relation to the license of Pegasus equipment and other similar (equipment)” and a investigation into the case.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deny everything
A Saudi official has denied the accusations, however the president’s name has not been revealed. The quote is from the official Saudi news agency SPA. The revelations pose an embarrassing topic for Saudis who do not officially have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The United Arab Emirates, which unlike Saudi Arabia has officially normalized its relations with Israel, mediated by the Trump Administration, officially rejected the espionage allegations.
“The allegations made recently by the media that the UAE is among a number of countries accused of policing journalists and people are unproven and categorically false,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.