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The US government studied the use of spyware for surveillance and investigation

The US government studied the use of spyware for surveillance and investigation

Documents obtained by the US press show interest in the Pegasus variant, contradicting earlier reports by officials.

21 November
– 22:40

(Updated on 11/22/2022 at 09:58 AM)

The FBI has closely studied the use of a variant of the Pegasus spyware in overt surveillance and criminal investigations. The possibility appears in a series of agency documents obtained by the U.S. press under Freedom of Information laws and contradicts previous reports about the relationship between the U.S. government and the spy tool’s developers about understanding its use by criminals.

Photo: Canaltech

The New York Times published this information last week as a result of a complaint made in January this year. In PowerPoint presentations prepared between 2020 and 2021, the FBI discusses how a tool called Phantom, developed by the Israeli company NSO, could be activated and under what circumstances this serious use would be possible.

The documents obtained include a 25-page guide to using the spy software and instructions on how to act in cases involving evidence obtained from these methods. FBI Director Chris Wray was also given specific guidance on the use of the Phantom.

Even with the full disclosure of national security, the implications are clear to the Times: There was an interest in the FBI’s use of overt surveillance tools. The information is consistent with earlier complaints that a two-year analysis raised how the use of Phantom and other NSO tools in criminal investigations could face constitutional restrictions and civil rights.

Relations between the US government and the Israeli company would have been severed after the case’s public outcry. At the time, the FBI said the studies were related to understanding how criminals could use spyware in their operations, a claim confirmed by Ray during congressional hearings this year. During his speeches, he repeatedly stated that he was not interested in using Phantom and other NSO software in investigations.

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The US Justice Department has not responded to the new allegations. From November 2021, the NSO is on the list of companies in the country that are prohibited from doing business, including both the purchase and provision of software, components and any service, which could cause serious financial problems. Reports to the company from Israel.

Source: The New York Times

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