German police secretly acquired Pegasus spyware

German police secretly acquired Pegasus spyware

Since March 2021, the software has been used in counterterrorism and organized crime operations.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) in 2019 acquired the Pegasus espionage software from the Israeli NSO Group. This was reported by the German edition Die Zeit, citing sources in parliament.

According to the newspaper, the purchase was carried out in an atmosphere of “strict secrecy”, the Interior Committee of the Bundestag was informed about the transaction “behind closed doors”.

In the version of the program acquired by BKA, some functions were blocked to avoid abuse, although it is unclear exactly how this was done in practice, the newspaper writes.

As reported by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, BKA deputy head Martina Link confirmed that her department had acquired the Pegasus version at the end of 2020. As noted, the intelligence service has been negotiating with the NSO Group since 2017. For many years, BKA used in-house espionage software, but the software eventually became obsolete and the agency turned to an Israeli manufacturer.

Since March 2021, the software has been used in a number of counterterrorism and organized crime operations.

According to the decision of the German Constitutional Court, special services can use spyware on smartphones and computers only in certain cases and in certain operations. In the past few years, the German government has been asked multiple questions about the use of the Pegasus, but each time the authorities declined to comment.

In July, the French NGO Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International released new data showing that governments in dozens of countries are using Pegasus to spy on journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) is a German agency under the German Ministry of the Interior. Its functions are similar to those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States or the French State Police.

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