US agencies using Israeli spyware despite ban: Report
The DEA has been using Israeli made spyware to hack suspect's phones despite last year's ban on the controversial NSO Group
By News Desk - December 09 2022

The US has been using spyware from various Israeli corporations to hack mobile phones despite blacklisting the Israeli NSO Group spyware company last year, the New York Times reported on 8 December.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is secretly using a hacking tool called ‘Graphite’, which is created by the Israeli company Paragon. This is the first time that the US federal government has used spyware for a commercial purpose.

The DEA revealed to the NYT that “the men and women of the DEA are using every lawful investigative tool available to pursue the foreign-based cartels and individuals operating around the world responsible for the drug-poisoning deaths of 107,622 Americans last year.”

According to a government official who is aware of the security export licensing arrangements with the Israeli occupation, Paragon’s sales are subject to Israeli government regulation.

“The company was founded just three years ago by Ehud Schneorson, a former commander of Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent of the National Security Agency,” the NYT stated.

“The majority of the company’s leaders, some of whom have experience working with NSO, are Israeli intelligence veterans,” according to two former members of Unit 8200 and a senior Israeli official.

The company’s board of directors includes former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

On 12 November, The New York Times also revealed a scheme by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to use Israeli-made spyware to hack into the phones of those they deem a threat to US national security.

The documents retrieved by the newspaper, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, proved that the FBI was aiming to deploy the software as early as 2020.

In a letter to the Israeli Defense Ministry, the FBI established contact with the Israeli government in 2018 about the need to purchase the software “for the collection of data from mobile devices for the prevention and investigation of crimes and terrorism.”

In November 2021, the US Department of Commerce (DOC) blacklisted NSO Group after finding it guilty of “using [its] tools maliciously through the Pegasus spyware, that it produced to spy on various public figures, celebrities, diplomats, and journalists.”

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