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France’s Macron phoned Bennett personally over NSO scandal – report

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a farewell ceremony for the French armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Francois Lecointre, at the Invalides monument in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Daniel Cole/AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a farewell ceremony for the French armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Francois Lecointre, at the Invalides monument in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Daniel Cole/AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron called Prime Minister Naftali Bennett personally this week to make sure the Israeli government was on top of the NSO allegations, Channel 12 reports.

Macron asked Bennett to ensure the issue was being taken seriously, according to the report, expressing concern that Morocco was among the governments said to have used the powerful spyware developed by the Israeli company.

Channel 12 reports that Bennett made clear that the events occurred before he took office in May and that the required conclusions on the matter will be reached. The Prime Minister’s Office had not disclosed the call with Macron.

The NSO Group’s Pegasus software — able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data — is at the center of a growing storm, after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to rights groups Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories.

The French president — whose name was on a list of alleged targets — ordered “a strengthening of all security protocols” following a specially convened meeting of the nation’s Defence Council, his office said on Thursday.

Macron “has himself changed his phone and number for certain exchanges,” it said.

Evidence of an attempted hacking was also found on the phone of former environment minister and close Macron ally Francois de Rugy, with the attempt allegedly originating in Morocco.

Morocco denied the claims, saying this week that it “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices.” The country also filed defamation claims against Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories.

NSO insists its software is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes, and that it exports to 45 countries, with approval from the Israeli government.

The Israeli government has set up a commission to review the software.

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