Chalk it up as a given that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has back door access to smart phone users whose devices were penetrated by the malware Trojan horse called Pegasus by its Israeli vendor, NSO Group. As is always the case when Israel gets caught spying, they have denied doing anything wrong in selling Pegasus to various brutal regimes around the world to spy on journalists, opposition politicians and activists, and businessmen.
Pegasus resembles a modern version of another backdoor-surveillance tool modified by a company linked to Israeli intelligence. Investigations in the 1980s revealed that Hadron, a firm headquartered in northern Virginia, illegally procured from INSLAW, Inc. a case tracking database system called PROMIS (Prosecutors’ Management Information System) and throughout the 1980s and 90s distributed a backdoor-friendly version of it to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world. One of the Justice Department officials who was at the heart of violating the licensing agreements between Inslaw and the Justice Department by making PROMIS available to Hadron for re-engineering by the Israelis was the then-Associate Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, one Rudolph Giuliani. As a DoJ memo from 1981 illustrates, [right] Giuliani had a keen interest in PROMIS.
The provision of Pegasus by the Israelis to Saudi Arabia has been directly linked to the brutal Saudi assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. Pegasus software used in 2017 by the Mexican government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has been linked to the assassinations of two prominent journalists in Mexico, Javier Valdéz and Cecilio Pineda Birto.
Pegasus continued to be used by Saudi General Intelligence to surveil Khashoggi’s fiancée, a Turkish national, and Khashoggi’s son. The Israeli malware has also been employed against Andrés Manuel López Beltran, the son of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and AMLO’s political party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). Pegasus eavesdropping on AMLO and his son extended to AMLO’s wife, his two other sons, his three brothers, two former chauffeurs, and his chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, legal counsel Julio Scherer Ibarra, communications director Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, and the manager of the amateur baseball team he plays for, Patricio Heriberto Ortíz Fernández.
Pegasus surveillance also extended to Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Calderón’s wife, Margarita Zavala.
The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a close ally of Israel, used Pegasus to spy on the former leader of the opposition Indian Congress party, Rahul Gandhi. Two of Gandhi’s close aides, Alankar Sawai and Sachin Rao, were also placed under surveillance. The Modi government also used Pegasus to eavesdrop on the communications of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Morocco’s intelligence service used Pegasus to spy on French President Emmanuel Macron, his chief Africa adviser, Franck Paris, and Macron’s personal body guard, Alexandre Benalla. Also spied on by Moroccan intelligence was former French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Lakhdar Brahimi, the former United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, and the French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt. The most surprising revelation is that Moroccan intelligence used Pegasus to spy on their own King, Mohammed VI.
The Saudi and United Arab Emirates intelligence services relied on Pegasus to spy on the communications of Iraqi President Barham Salih. Saudi intelligence used the Israeli spyware to eavesdrop on Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly
Kazakhstan’s intelligence services used the Israeli system to eavesdrop on their own president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and prime minister, Askar Mamin.
Rwandan intelligence used Pegasus to eavesdrop on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and former Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.
The extent of Israeli intelligence penetration of smart phones around the world has not been fully evaluated and revealed to the public. However, there is evidence obtained by WMR that Mossad-linked spyware has been installed on the communications devices of officials and citizens of the following countries: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Baja California, Mexico (Project MVA), Chile (Project PHANTOM), Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dubai (Project PHOEBE), Durango, Mexico (Project DUSTIN), Ecuador, Ethiopia, Honduras (Project HERA), Hungary, Indonesia, (Project RUPIAH), Iraqi Kurdistan (Project INTECH-CONDOR), Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mongolia, Oman, Panama, Poland, South Korea, Singapore, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Bayelsa State in Nigeria, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States (FBI, DEA, CIA, and DoD), Uzbekistan, and Vietnam (Project VIKYS).
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).