Biden intelligence advisor involved in Israeli NSO spyware deals
NSO member, Jeremy Bash, provided committee advice on Pegasus spyware sales to foreign agencies.
Prior to being recently appointed by Joe Biden to an intelligence advisory board, a former senior CIA official held a crucial advisory position with NSO Group, where he reviewed contracts for the Israeli spyware company and cast votes on whether sales of the contentious hacking tools could proceed.
As a member of NSO's Corporate Ethics Committee (BEC), Jeremy Bash helped the organization determine if proposed sales by the Israeli group to particular foreign government clients would be deemed acceptable by the US government, according to various persons with knowledge of the situation.
From around 2017 through 2020, Bash is thought to have advised NSO via a parent company called Q Cyber, though his company refuses to confirm the timeframe. He has previously served as Leon Panetta's chief of staff at the CIA and the US Department of Defense.
Bash's position on the BEC allowed him to cast a vote on whether or not proposed sales of potent malware from NSO to specific foreign governmental organizations should go forward.
When NSO's malware, known as Pegasus, is effectively used against a target, it can secretly infiltrate a phone, listen to phone calls, track encrypted communications on applications like Signal and WhatsApp, and monitor a user's position. By remotely managing a phone user's microphone and camera, it can also transform a phone into a listening device.
Numerous instances of spyware being used to target and hack dissidents, journalists, political opponents, and attorneys have been revealed by researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and the security lab of Amnesty International.
The Guardian and other publications have reported on the hacking program being widely used in the past in nations like Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Rwanda. NSO does not reveal the identity of its government clients.
Additionally, the administration said that NSO had engaged in "actions that are inimical to the interests of the United States in terms of national security or foreign policy." NSO declared at the time that it was appalled by the decision and will fight to get it overturned.
Moreover, Bash seems to have attended at least one meeting with a potential investor when he allegedly defended NSO's screening procedure. An employee of the financial services firm Jefferies Group wrote about meeting Bash in relation to a potential investment in NSO to a colleague in an email from 2019 that was obtained by The Guardian.
He explained how the investment committee at his company had been "comfortable" with the idea of making an investment after being persuaded that the technology was subject to "painstaking layers of approvals and penalties of misuse."