The Israeli Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, will establish a governmental investigation commission to examine the Israeli police’s use of NSO’s Pegasus spyware. The committee will be headed by retired Judge Moshe Drori, who is recognized as a supporter of the Israeli government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary. Judge Drori will be joined by the former chief of public defenders, Ms. Inbal Rubinstein, and Mr. Shalom Ben Hanan, who was the chief of a division at the Israeli Security Agency (colloquially named Shabak). The commission will present its findings within six months.
The Pegasus affair was revealed in February 2022 through investigative journalism work by the Calcalist daily financial newspaper. In a series of articles, the paper claimed that NSO’s Pegasus spyware was used by the Israeli police to covertly target the smartphones of politicians, senior businessmen, general managers of government ministries, mayors, managers of large enterprises, journalists, protest organizers, advisers to the prime minister and family members.
Following the publications, the Ministry of Justice assembled an inspection team led by the deputy attorney general, Ms. Amit Marari, whose interim report found no indication that the Israel Police extrajudicially tapped, or tried to tap, the smartphones of any of the published list of people. However, according to the final report, the Israeli police ignored the attorney general’s directive to diminish the spyware’s ability to collect contact details, meetings, notes, and a list of applications. The police also did not inform the attorney general how the software works and its potential to exceed the police’s lawful powers.
The Minister of Justice’s announcement regarding the new commission indicates that it “will be authorized to review the conduct of the police, the state prosecutor and their oversight mechanism, in all matters related to the execution of procurement of cybernetic tools and their use to surveil on citizens and those who hold public office.”
The objective of the commission, is “to carry out a comprehensive regulation and provide a normative infrastructure for the use of advanced technological tools, to strengthen the public trust harmed by the Pegasus affair, and because of the need to protect the right to privacy on the one hand, and to give the enforcement agencies effective tools to fight crime and corruption on the other hand.”