Israel Police Spied on Individual in Netanyahu Trial, Report Says

An inquiry team appointed by the Attorney General is currently investigating reports that police targeted activists and other Israelis with NSO's spyware. Police say they 'will cooperate fully' with the team

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Benjamin Netanyahu in a Jerusalem court in November.
Benjamin Netanyahu in a Jerusalem court in November. Credit: Jack Guez/AP
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel police used spyware to access data in the phone of an individual involved in the trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a report said on Wednesday.

The hack, reported on Channel 13 News, was discovered by the Justice Ministry during its review of the police's use of the spyware.

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The police reportedly claimed that the investigators never received the data, which was gathered against the police's procedures.

In response to the report the police said they "will cooperate fully and transparently in any examination required by the team appointed."

Attorney Jacques Chen, representing Shaul and Iris Elovich, who stand accused of bribing Netanyahu in Case 4000, responded to the report, saying “If it's true, this is a serious crime, yet another expression of the loss of all restraint in the investigation against the Elovich couple, of which we have been warning for years. In a country of laws, it is obvious that there should be far-reaching ramifications, and no doubt we have yet to hear the final word on the matter.”

On Tuesday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced the appointment of an inquiry team into reports the force targeted activists and other Israelis with NSO's Pegasus. Israel Police later admitted misusing of spyware by the force.

In a brief statement that doesn't go into any specific cases, the police said “additional findings” from its internal probe “change in some ways” an earlier statement last month that ruled out any wrongdoing.

In January, news site Calcalist published a report alleging that the police used the Pegasus spyware on Israelis without court authorization since 2013, and it has since been used against a list of targets that includes protest leaders, politicians and others.

The Pegasus spyware allows its operators to remotely access mobile phones infected with the software. Sold to intelligence and law enforcement agencies across the world, the spyware exploits security vulnerabilities in Android and iPhone operating systems to gain access to the device's contents – from messages to photos.

The program also enables to remotely activate the phone’s camera and microphone, without the victim's knowledge.

Following the bombshell report, the Israel Police said that they have always used the software with a warrant, and under no circumstances did they take data from the phones.

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