NSO Group 'throwing cash' at lobbyists to get off US blacklist
If the spy firm wants to sell itself to a US firm, it must find a means to get off the blacklist.
The troubled Israeli surveillance for hire spyware firm NSO Group is reportedly increasing its lobbying efforts in the United States in a desperate attempt to have its name removed from a US trade blacklist.
That blacklist and the stigma associated with it are said to have stymied NSO's efforts to sell its business to possible American buyers.
According to a ProPublica investigation published on Tuesday, NSO spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year alone on lobbying, public relations agencies, and other entities all aiming to curry favor with US lawmakers and media outlets on behalf of the monitoring corporation.
NSO is known for its industry-leading zero-click hacking tool Pegasus, which is capable of infiltrating a target's phone and providing the attacker practically unlimited access to the device's content.
In recent months, NSO has been hounded by lawsuits, dwindling sales, unpaid debts, media backlash, and domestic problems. This brings us to NSO's growing exploits in the United States.
According to reports in The Guardian this week, it appears that the issues around the blacklist were simply too much for L3Harris. For the time being, the agreement appears to be dead. “If the [US] government is not aligned, there is no way for L3 to be aligned,” a source familiar with the deal said in an interview with The Guardian.
The failure of the arrangement was cheered by privacy and digital rights organizations such as AccessNow, who had been staunchly opposed to the endeavor from the start.
“NSO Group should not be rewarded for its facilitation of human rights violations and dangerous business practices with a lucrative offer from a US defense contractor,” Access Now Tech-Legal Counsel Natalia Krapiva said in a statement. “Such a deal is a blatant attack on human rights globally and US national security interests.”
8/ Wouldn't a US firm acquiring NSO make 🇺🇸 safer?— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) June 14, 2022
Don't be sure. NSO is *not* the only game in town.
It would send a blinking signal to the financial sector: the spyware industry is worth the risk.
Leading to a growth push from investors. And more NatSec risk to the US.
With the US blacklist hanging over its head, NSO has little prospect of completing an American business. According to the ProPublica investigation, NSO's lobbyists are attempting to raise the matter of their removal from the list during Biden's scheduled meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Lobbyists for the corporation reportedly tried and failed to arrange a meeting between corporate representatives and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Getting their name removed from the trade blacklist is an obvious and immediate problem for NSO; nevertheless, papers obtained by ProPublica demonstrate that the company's US lobbying efforts preceded the blacklisting.
NSO reportedly recruited Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman law firm in July 2021 for roughly $75,000 per month to advise it in the US on bids and compliance issues.
Since then, NSO has inked contracts with several groups, including Bluelight Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based public relations and media consulting firm with ties to the Democratic Party. According to ProPublica, NSO paid Bluelight $100,000 for two months of work.
Still, at least for the time being, all of NSO's attempts have failed to gain momentum with anyone who cares. The lobbying campaign has allegedly received little response, and NSO has yet to be notified of what it needs to do to be removed from the US blacklist.