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12 heads of state and government targeted

by archyw

The smartphones of twelve heads of state and government – in the line of duty – are among more than 50,000 phone numbers selected as targets for Pegasus spyware, viewed by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, and shared with 17 media including the Washington Post, Le Monde, and the investigation unit of Radio France. These potential targets concern the whole world: in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Central America. For a total of more than 650 politicians and government officials in more than 34 countries.

> ‘Project Pegasus’: revelations about a global cybersurveillance system, our complete file on this subject

Officials in office

Among the numbers targeted and verified by Project Pegasus are those of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, three incumbent presidents – Emmanuel Macron in France, Barham Salih in Iraq, Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa and two prime ministers, also. in function: Imran Khan in Pakistan and Saad Dine El Otmani in Morocco.

Six former Prime Ministers were also targeted when they held this post: Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr in Yemen, Saad Hariri in Lebanon, Ruhakana Rugunda in Uganda, Édouard Philippe in France, Noureddine Bedoui in Algeria and Charles Michel in Belgium.

Without having carried out technical analyzes on the phones concerned, it is not possible to know if they were infected with Israeli spyware. Once installed on a smartphone, this cookie is able to collect a large amount of information, such as SMS, emails, but also to activate the microphone and the camera of the device without the knowledge of its victims.

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The denial of NSO

The spying of heads of state by NSO clients contravenes the policy of the Israeli company, which ensures that its tools are dedicated to internal security and the fight against crime. “NSO Group strongly denies the false accusations made in your investigation “ wrote to us the company contacted by Project Pegasus.

These accusations are largely unsubstantiated theories, which cast serious doubts on the credibility of your sources, as well as the core of your investigation. Your sources have provided you with information that has no factual basis, as evidenced by the lack of evidence to support many of your accusations.
NSO Group, in response to Project Pegasus investigation

However, the company claims that “NSO Group will continue to investigate credible accusations of misuse [de son logiciel] and act on the results of these inquiries. This could consist of closing certain clients’ access to the system. NSO has shown that she is able and inclined to do, in cases of confirmed abuse, what she has done in the past and that she will not hesitate to repeat.”

The entourage of politicians and members of international organizations in Pegasus’ sights

In Mexico, where Pegasus has long been heavily abused by government agencies, former President Felipe Calderón was targeted by NSO software after leaving office. On the other hand, in Burundi, Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni was targeted in 2018, before taking office.

And it’s not just heads of state or government that have been targeted. Their entourage was also. During the presidential campaign won in 2018 by the Mexican Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, his wife, his sons, his collaborators, dozens of political allies, his personal driver and even his cardiologist were targeted by Pegasus. Just like the entourage of former French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.

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International organizations were not spared either: the number of the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was targeted in 2019, as well as the phones of several diplomats and ambassadors of the Nations. united.

In total, the numbers of more than 650 politicians and government officials from more than 34 countries have been selected as targets, notably in Afghanistan, Congo, Egypt, India, Mali, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia. or even in Togo.

NSO customers

Who are the customers behind these selections? In the case of Felipe Calderón and Lopez Obrador, it is a Mexican security service.

As for the numbers of Charles Michel, Emmanuel Macron, Édouard Philippe, and many French politicians, they were targeted by the Moroccan client of NSO, who targeted a very large majority – more than 10,000 – of Moroccan numbers. The same service also targeted King Mohammed VI, the director general of the WHO, but also Algerian telephones. Asked by the Pegasus Project, the Moroccan authorities told us they did not understand the meaning of our investigation, adding that Amnesty International had never been able to prove that the software attacks came from Morocco.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was targeted by NSO’s Indian client.

The Rwandan operator of Pegasus, for its part, targeted South African, Burundian and Ugandan heads of state.

Finally, the Iraqi and Lebanese Prime Ministers were targeted by two operators apparently from the Gulf, one mainly targeting Emirati phones, and the other mainly Saudi numbers.

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With the collaboration of Fiona Moghaddam

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