Israel’s police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, has repeatedly denied allegations that his officers have used spyware to illegally monitor public and private figures in Israel.
In a bombshell report published on Monday, the Calcalist newspaper claimed that NSO Group’s Pegasus program had been deployed against senior government officials, mayors, journalists, leaders of Ethiopian-Israeli protests against police, as well as the family of and advisors to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio has vowed to cooperate with a police investigation into the allegations, including freezing the system used by the police while the inquiry takes place.
“Systems of this kind should only be used for preventing serious crimes and terrorism, and those are the only purposes the police need such tools for. Any other use of these capabilities is unacceptable, undemocratic, illegal, and violates the basic public trust in law enforcement”, Hulio said in a statement.
Former police commissioner Roni Alsheich – who led investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu and during whose tenure much of the alleged surveillance is thought to have taken place – has so far refused to comment on the reports.
Prime minister Naftali Bennett has called the allegations very grave and said that, if true, the abuses were “unacceptable in a democratic state”.