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Liberals in European Parliament call for investigation into spyware abuse

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Liberals in European Parliament call for investigation into spyware abuse

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The third largest group in the European Parliament has called for the creation of a committee to investigate abuses committed by European Union governments with powerful spyware produced by the Israeli group NSO.

WARSAW, Poland – The third largest group in the European Parliament called on Wednesday for the creation of a committee to investigate abuses by European Union governments with powerful spyware produced by the Israeli group NSO .

Renew Europe, a liberal political group, launched its appeal following reports that NSO Group’s Pegasus software was 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 investigation into the Pegasus spyware scandal. European democracy is undermined and the EU must act accordingly, ”said Sophie in ‘t Veld, Dutch Member of the European Parliament and co-initiator of the calls for inquiry. “We cannot let this go; our democracy is at stake.

In ‘t Veld said the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member union, should follow the lead of the US government and “quickly blacklist the parent company of Pegasus NSO.”

The Biden administration in November imposed new export limits on Israeli group NSO, saying its tools were used to “carry out transnational repression.”

Renew said in a statement that he hopes other groups will support his call, noting that an investigation would be the first action on the issue from a European institution.

A survey by a global media consortium released in July showed that Pegasus had been used in Hungary to infiltrate digital devices with a range of targets, including at least 10 lawyers, an opposition politician and several critical journalists. for the government.

In late December, the Associated Press reported that three Polish government critics had also been hacked, based on investigations by the Citizen Lab, a research institute at the University of Toronto. Poland’s most powerful politician last week admitted the country possessed the spyware but denied that it had been used against political opposition.

Among the Polish victims are a lawyer, a prosecutor and a senator who were repeatedly hacked in 2019 while leading the opposition parliamentary election campaign.

The hacking revelations rocked Poland, drawing comparisons to the Watergate scandal in the United States in the 1970s and prompting calls for a commission of inquiry in parliament.

However, Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice party said it saw no reason to open an investigation. He can block a probe thanks to his majority in the lower house, or Sejm.

However, the Senate, where the opposition holds a slim majority, proposed this week to launch a special commission to investigate the use of Pegasus, although its powers are limited.

Only the Sejm, whose legal role is to oversee the government, has the power to launch an investigation with full investigative powers, including the power to call witnesses. The Senate can invite witnesses but does not compel them to appear.

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