Former intelligence chief defends Morocco, NSO counterattack… What you missed about the Pegasus affair during Eid

Cit has been a few days since the affair relating to supposed use by Morocco of Pegasus monitoring software on media, political and activist personalities in France and on Moroccan territory made the headlines in the press.

Among the personalities who would have been “identified” with a view to listening or supposedly “listened to” by the Moroccan intelligence services, the publication director of the French news site Mediapart Edwy Plenel, French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as journalists working in Morocco.

In a statement released on July 20, the Executive again rejected accusations against Morocco, calling them “Persistent misleading and malicious media campaign” and threatened to take legal action against “Any party endorsing these fallacious allegations”.

Following this announcement, the public prosecutor gave his instructions to the Attorney General at the Rabat Court of Appeal to “Open an investigation into these allegations and false accusations, and the identification of their perpetrators”.

“Too easy” to accuse Morocco

The publications of the Forbidden Stories collective did not only react in Morocco since the subject is also debated on the other side of the Mediterranean. The case in particular made react Bernard Squarcini, former director of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence in France, who raised the case on French radio Europe 1, feeling that he was ” too easy “ to point the finger at Morocco for its eavesdropping while casting doubts on the veracity of the information spread by the collective Forbidden Stories.

A native of Rabat, the former head of French internal intelligence also questioned the possibility that the 50,000 telephone numbers targeted by the Pegasus software had been listened to or monitored. While asserting that the surveillance of public figures by intelligence services was among the “Habits” intelligence services, the former French intelligence official also noted that it was now easier for countries with fewer resources than the great powers to acquire surveillance software such as Pegasus software.

Note that Bernard Squarcini was indicted in September 2016 for “influence peddling”, “embezzlement of public funds” and “forgery in public writing and use” in particular.

The NSO threat

Among the main players in the “Pegasus” affair, there is also the Israeli company specializing in computer security, NSO. In statements given to Israeli news channel i24, a company official claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron was not targeted for using the surveillance software.

Chaim Gelfand, the NSO executive who spoke on the Israeli channel, also claimed that any use of the software on a journalist or activist would be the responsibility of the “Diversion”. It will be recalled, however, that in the context of the arrest of the Mexican drug lord El Chapo, a Mexican journalist linked to the one who is also known as Joaquin Guzman had been under surveillance. Facts recognized by one of the founders of the company, Omri Lavie, in an interview with CNN in March 2019.

NSO also reacted to the recent accusations made by the Forbidden Stories collective through two press releases. The first, published on July 18, accuses the collective of 17 media of publications of “False assumptions and unsubstantiated theories”. The Tel Aviv-based company says the media collective’s sources have provided “Information having no factual basis as evidenced by the absence of documents corroborating these accusations”.

According to NSO, the consortium’s media production on the subject is based on “ on a misinterpretation of certain data made accessible and obviously basic information ”. The Israeli company also says it is considering legal action.

NSO under silence

In a second press release published on July 21, entitled ” enough is enough “, NSO indicates that it will no longer respond to media inquiries on the subject. The Israeli company also indicates that it does not use the software it designed and reports “Not to have access to the data of [ses] clients ».

The company also indicates that the lists of targets mentioned by the Forbidden Stories collective is not a list of “Targets or potential targets of Pegasus” and asserts that “The numbers in this list are not related to the NSO Group”.

The group also insists that “Any information that any name on this list is necessarily linked to a Pegasus or Pegasus target is erroneous and false.”

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