Several prominent US Democratic Party politicians want the government to take action against the NSO Group and three other companies that offer surveillance products and services. They find it unacceptable that they help totalitarian regimes to violate human rights. That is why they are asking the Ministry of Finance and the Department of the Interior to impose financial sanctions against the companies.
‘Turning off the tap of US dollars’
The letter was signed by Ron Wyden, Adam Shiff and 16 other prominent members of the Democratic Party. In the letter, they ask for sanctions to be imposed on top executives of the NSO Group, cybersecurity firm DarkMatter and European suppliers of surveillance products Nexa Technologies and Trovicor.
The Democrats find it unacceptable that the NSO Group and the other companies facilitate “the disappearance, torture and murder of human rights activists and journalists”. To express their disapproval of this, they have to be hit in their wallets. “To meaningfully punish them and send a clear signal to the surveillance and surveillance technology industry, the US government should impose financial sanctions,” the politicians said.
“These surveillance mercenaries sold their services to authoritarian regimes with a long track record of human rights abuses, and gave massive espionage powers to tyrants,” Senator Wyden told Reuters. “These nations naturally used surveillance tools to imprison, torture and murder reporters and human rights, activists. The Biden administration has a chance to turn off the tap on US dollars and eliminate them for good.”
NSO Group denies spying practices with Pegasus software
The NSO Group has been under fire for years for its Pegasus software. Pegasus is basically spyware that collects text messages, emails, photos, videos, location data and contact phone numbers, among other things. In addition, the spy software can record phone calls, take screenshots and turn on the camera.
The NSO Group is accused of selling Pegasus to dictatorial regimes. According to Amnesty International and other NGOs, the governments of these countries use the surveillance software to track independent human rights activists and critical journalists. Last summer, a list of 50,000 phone numbers surfaced, whose communications had been tapped for the past five years.
The Israeli company denies that it sells software to shady governments and criminal organizations there. Our technologies are used daily to take down paedophile and drug and sex traffickers networks, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings and protect the airspace from disruptive penetration by dangerous drones. the NSO Group claimed in a press statement last summer.
Criticism of NSO Group swells
More and more parties are taking action against the NSO Group. In July, Amazon severed its ties with the Israeli company by shutting down all accounts linked to Amazon Web Services (AWS). “Once we learned of these activities, we acted quickly to shut down the relevant infrastructure and accounts,” a spokesperson for the online retailer said.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, this summer called on governments to stop using the NSO Group’s spy software. “The revelations about the apparently widespread use of the Pegasus software to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in various countries are extremely alarming. They seem to confirm some of our worst nightmares about the potential misuse of surveillance technology to illegally undermine people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called the use of Pegasus ‘completely unacceptable’. “The freedom of the media is one of the core values of the EU. Hacking is completely unacceptable if it actually happens,” she told Reuters. Last month, Apple announced that it is suing the Israeli company for surveillance and targeted investigations of Apple customers.
Catch up on more articles here
Follow us on Twitter here