US lawmakers call for imposing sanctions on Israeli NSO Group
The letter was signed by the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and 16 other Democrat legislators.
Several US lawmakers are asking the departments of treasury and treasury to sanction the Israeli NSO Group and multiple other foreign surveillance companies.
The sanction requests against these surveillance companies come over the fact that they had helped authoritarian governments commit human rights abuses, the group of lawmakers said.
The request came in a letter sent late Tuesday, and it was seen by Reuters. The lawmakers also asked for sanctions on senior executives in NSO, the UAE's DarkMatter - a cybersecurity company -, and the European Nexa Technologies and Trovicor - two online surveillance companies.
The congressmen requested Global Magnitsky sanctions, which punish those accused of enabling human rights abuses by freezing their bank accounts and banning them from traveling to the United States.
The congressional letter was signed by the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and 16 Democrat lawmakers.
The congressmen cited media reports on an NSO Group spyware that was used to spy on US State Department employees in Uganda.
An unknown assailant had attacked the iOS devices of almost 10 US State Department employees using spyware developed by the firm.
According to the congressmen, the spyware industry as a whole relied on American investments and banks.
"To meaningfully punish them and send a clear signal to the surveillance technology industry, the US government should deploy financial sanctions," their letter read.
The companies facilitated the "disappearance, torture and murder of human rights activists and journalists," the letter added. Surveillance firms have been subject to hundreds of media reports linking them to human rights abuses.
"These surveillance mercenaries sold their services to authoritarian regimes with long records of human rights abuses, giving vast spying powers to tyrants," Wyden told Reuters. "Predictably, those nations used surveillance tools to lock up, torture, and murder reporters and human rights advocates. The Biden administration has the chance to turn off the spigot of American dollars and help put them out of business for good," the Democrat Senator added.
NSO Group under sanctions
The United States had placed "Israel's" spyware maker NSO Group, the corporation behind the notorious Pegasus, on its list of restricted companies.
Washington also targeted another Israeli company, Candiru, a Singapore-based Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE (COSEINC).
Apple had sued in November spyware maker NSO for targeting the users of its devices, saying the Israeli firm, at the center of the Pegasus surveillance scandal, needs to be held to account.