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Liberals in EU parliament seek inquiry into alleged abuse of Israeli spyware

FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, file photo, a logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir. Apple released an emergency security software patch to fix a vulnerability that an internet watchdog group says allowed spyware from the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire firm, NSO Group, to infect the iPhone of a Saudi activist without any user interaction. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, file photo, a logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir. Apple released an emergency security software patch to fix a vulnerability that an internet watchdog group says allowed spyware from the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire firm, NSO Group, to infect the iPhone of a Saudi activist without any user interaction. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

WARSAW, Poland — The third-largest group in the European Parliament calls for the establishment of a committee to investigate abuses by European Union governments with powerful spyware produced by Israel’s NSO Group.

Renew Europe, a liberal political grouping, makes its appeal following reports that the NSO Group’s Pegasus software has been used to hack the smartphones of opposition politicians, lawyers, journalists and critics of the right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland.

“We need a full inquiry into the Pegasus spyware scandal. European democracy is being undermined, and the EU should act accordingly,” says Sophie in ’t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament and a co-initiator of the calls for the inquiry. “We cannot let this pass; our democracy is at stake.”

In ’t Veld says that the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-member union, should follow the example of the United States government and “quickly blacklist Pegasus’ parent company NSO.”

The Biden administration put new export limits in November on Israel’s NSO Group, saying its tools have been used to “conduct transnational repression.”

Renew sats in a statement that it hopes other groups will support its call, noting that an inquiry would constitute the first action on the matter from an EU institution.

Pegasus is a powerful surveillance tool sold exclusively to government agencies and intended to fight terrorism and other serious crime. But investigations have been turning up case after case of the powerful in many places using it to target domestic critics and rivals.

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