'Israel' pushing US to remove NSO from blacklist
According to Israeli and American officials, Israeli authorities are urging the Biden administration to remove Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO from the Department of Commerce blacklist.
According to two Israeli officials and one US official, Israeli authorities are urging the Biden administration to remove Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO from the Department of Commerce blacklist.
When the US blacklisted NSO last year, it stated that the corporation had sold software to other countries, which had been used to "maliciously attack" government officials, journalists, businesses, activists, academics, and diplomatic personnel.
It was the first time the US government targeted Israeli cyber firms, which are granted export permits by the Israeli Security Ministry.
Removing NSO from the US blacklist would be a radical US government reversal, and it would almost certainly be opposed by progressives in the Democratic Party and Congress, as well as many in the cybersecurity sector.
According to a US source and two Israeli officials, the Biden administration is examining the Israeli proposal. Another US official, though, disputed that the administration is contemplating it.
NSO Group has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its powerful Pegasus spyware to authoritarian regimes, that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, and accusations that it played a role in Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.
Hungary, India, Spain, Mexico, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia are some countries listed in a report last July that details how the spyware was used by governments to spy on journalists and critics.
After NSO was sanctioned, Israeli authorities debated whether the Israeli government should contact the Biden administration on the company's behalf.
Initially, Israeli authorities decided against it; however, this decision was reversed, and the Israeli government began pressuring the Biden administration on the subject.
"We told the U.S. that they can’t destroy NSO and that several bad clients don’t mean the company’s products and capabilities are no longer needed," a senior Israeli official told Axios.
The Israeli government also urged the Biden administration that before punishing NSO, it should have explained explicitly what needed to be remedied and given the corporation an opportunity to make the modifications.
NSO recruited two legal firms in the US to work on the blacklist problem independently of the Israeli government.
The attorneys filed an appeal with the Department of Commerce and requested a hearing, which has yet to take place.
According to an NSO representative, the correspondence will continue in writing.
According to a US official, the White House is not intervening with the regulatory process in which NSO Group is appealing the listing decision.