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Edward Snowden Smacks Down Limp Washington Post Editorial on Pegasus Spyware Scandal

July 21, 2021 (EIRNS)—Former National Security Agency analyst, turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden had some choice words about the Washington Post editorial today on the scandal around Pegasus spyware made by the Israeli NSO Group, tweeting: “WaPo’s editorial solution to the NSO scandal is so embarrassingly weak that it is itself a scandal. These companies (and their hosts) claim ‘transparency, accountability, and licensing requirements’ are already in place! You ask for less than nothing.”

After observing that the private spyware industry is thriving “unrestrained,” the Post carefully calls for ensuring that “transparency requirements and accountability requirements” are subject to “rigorous review,” that governments should act more responsibly in determining when a license is approved, and that countries with a history of using these technologies against their own citizens, be prevented from purchasing them, as in the case of Saudi Arabia. How about just demanding a total ban on this spyware? Snowden retorted.

After praising the Guardian, which had published an interview with him on July 19, for taking a much tougher stand on this issue, Snowden dismissed the NSO Group’s claim that its Pegasus malware was programmed to prevent American phones from being infected. “NSO’s claim that it is ‘technologically impossible’ to spy on American phone numbers is a bald-faced lie: a exploit that works against Macron’s iPhone will work the same on Biden’s iPhone. Any code written to prohibit targeting a country can also be unwritten. It’s a fig leaf.” Snowden tweeted. Snowden replied to his own tweet:

“How else can NSO’s country-code targeting prohibition be bypassed? Simple:

“1) Target a specially-prepared device *you control* in an eligible country code

“2) Forensically capture each exploit stage as it’s served to your trap device

“3) Reverse it

“4) Retarget anyone, anywhere”

Sputnik points to a joint investigation of the NSO Group conducted by the Forbidden Stories consortium and Amnesty International showing that NSO had targeted for surveillance more than 50,000 phone numbers in more than 50 countries since 2016. Possible targets include phone numbers with the “+1” country code (for the U.S.) including in the Washington, D.C. area. One of the targeted phones is that of U.S.-Iran negotiator Robert Malley as well as other UN diplomats. In its “Pegasus Project,” Forbidden Stories—a network of journalists that “ensures that journalists under threat can secure their information”—asserts that “this technology has been systematically abused for years.”

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