NSO Scandal: Israel Police Chief Tells Cops Technology Will Still Be Used, Upgraded

Police chief says force will keep improving technological tools after Israel's Attorney General launches a probe into the force's use of NSO spyware against citizens

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Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, center, in Jerusalem last year.
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, center, in Jerusalem last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said on Friday that the force will keep using its "technological tools," in response to damaging reports about the police using NSO’s Pegasus spyware against civilians.

“The Israel Police and one of its most important units have come under attack, and it looks like someone is trying to damage its capabilities to fight serious crime,” Shabtai wrote in a letter to rally morale within the force.

“I want to you to be rest assured that our legal use of technological tools will continue, and our goal is to continue developing and improving these tools,” Shabtai added.

Shabtai also responded to the announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit that he intended to set up a team to investigate the claims. “The attorney general who looked into the matter, remarked in his letter that no basis had been found for the claims in the reports, and that the police had acted according to the law,” he wrote.

Shabtai added that in the wake of the accusations made first by the financial newspaper Calcalist, he has sought “to conduct a careful review of the reporter’s claims, and we have yet to find proof that the alleged events ever happened.”

The commissioner stressed: “There is no and has never been a scenario in which the Israel Police have fundamentally and methodically violated the unwritten defense pact between itself and the country’s citizens. … There is no basis to the claims that the police are spying on citizens.”

The Israeli business daily Calcalist revealed this week how the police are using the military-grade spyware to collect intelligence and create dossiers as part of early stage investigations on Israelis, even when they are not facing criminal charges.

The police have acknowledged use of the spyware after the report, but said a warrant was given by a court before each instance. 

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev has come out in support of the police, saying “The attorney general has stated clearly – the police acted in accordance with the law from a systematic perspective.”

“In terms of private incidences, there were no deviations found from the legal guidelines. However, there may be specific illegal incidences that occurred and therefore the attorney general decided to create an investigative team,” he added.

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