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Defense Ministry says officials visited NSO offices to probe claims on spyware use

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

In this file photo taken on August 28, 2016, an Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (Jack Guez/AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 28, 2016, an Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Defense Ministry says a number of government officials visited the offices of the NSO Group today to investigate recent claims that the firm’s cyber-surveillance technology was used to track political activists and journalists around the world.

“Representatives from a number of offices visited the offices of NSO Group to check the reports and claims that have come up regarding it,” the ministry says in a statement.

The ministry refuses to elaborate on the nature of the visit, if a formal investigation had been launched, who the officials were and what specific allegations they were checking.

“At this stage I cannot elaborate beyond the phrasing of the statement,” a spokesperson says.

The NSO Group has been under fire over the past week, following an investigation by a consortium of 17 international news outlets that claimed the firm’s cyber-surveillance program Pegasus had been used to crack down on political dissent and investigative journalism by autocratic regimes around the world.

After the stories were published, the Defense Ministry said it would take “appropriate action” if it determined that NSO Group violated the terms of its export licenses.

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