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NSO president resigns after allegations of domestic espionage in Israel

NSO president resigns after allegations of domestic espionage in Israel

The chairman of NSO Group, the Israel-based company whose spyware has been used to survey journalists and human rights defenders around the world, has stepped down after allegations that it was also used to monitor Israeli citizens.

The resignation of former NSO chairman Asher Levy was reported by Haaretz on Tuesday, though Levy told the Associated Press that his departure was planned months in advance and had nothing to do with current news.

NSO has been embroiled in a domestic scandal since last week when Hebrew-language business newspaper Calcalist reported that police in Israel had Pegasus spyware since 2013. Calcalist alleged that the spyware was used to monitor protest leaders and other anti-government activists, although the Israeli Police Commissioner claimed that all surveillance activity was conducted within the limits of the law. Following the reports, Israel's attorney general announced an investigation into the claims.

The focus on the new allegations in Israel suggests that surveillance of domestic targets may draw more scrutiny from Israeli legislators than in previous campaigns by the NSO. Pegasus spyware has been identified on the devices of journalists and activists around the world, and the phone numbers of government officials, including heads of state, were found among the list of potential targets. The spyware was also implicated in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi.

Following the revelations of the global deployment of Pegasus spyware, the Israeli government reportedly set up a task force to manage the fallout and handle diplomatic concerns. But recently, the company has been under increased international pressure after the US Commerce Department blacklisted NSO for preventing them from providing goods or services to US companies.

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