Israel has set up a commission to review allegations that the controversial Pegasus phone surveillance software from the NSO group was misused, the head of parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee said on Thursday.
“The defense establishment appointed a review commission made up of several groups,” lawmaker Ram Ben Barak told Army Radio.
“When they complete their review, we will seek to see the results and assess whether we need to improve,” said the former deputy head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Pegasus has been implicated in the possible mass surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders and 14 heads of state.
His phone numbers were among nearly 50,000 potential surveillance targets in a list leaked to rights group Amnesty International and Paris-based Forbidden Stories.
NSO said the leak “does not list Pegasus’s targets or potential targets.”
NSO Chief Executive Officer Shalev Hulio told Army Radio on Thursday that he would be very happy if there is an investigation, so that we can clear our name.
He also alleged that there was an attempt to “smear the entire Israeli cyber industry”.
NSO has said that it exports to 45 countries with the approval of the Israeli government.
Hulio said the company could not disclose the details of its contracts due to “privacy issues,” but added that he would provide full transparency to any government seeking more information.
“Let any state unit come along – any official from any state – and I will be ready to open everything up for them to enter, dig from top to bottom,” he said.
Ben Barak said Israel’s priority was to “review this whole issue of licensing”.
Pegasus “exposed several terror cells”, he said, but “if it was misused or sold to irresponsible bodies, that is something we need to investigate.”
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday called for a crackdown on cyber surveillance software.
Pegasus can hack into a mobile phone without a user knowing, allowing customers to read every message, track a user’s location, and tap into the phone’s camera and microphone.
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