Dutch intelligence service using controversial Israeli hacking software
Dutch intelligence service AIVD uses controversial hacking software from the Israeli company NSO Group, the Volkskrant reported based on information from four sources. The AIVD used the software to break into Ridouan Taghi's phone, among other things, according to the newspaper.
Taghi is the main suspect in the massive assassinations trial Marengo. According to the newspaper's sources, the AIVD used the Pegasus software to track him down late in 2019. The police arrested Taghi in Dubai in December 2019. The sources did not say what role the software played in the arrest.
The AIVD refused to comment to the Volkskrant about the matter. NSO Group would also not confirm whether the Netherlands is a customer. Taghi's lawyer, Inez Weski, told the newspaper that the hacking software is an illegal tool.
Pegasus is a controversial piece of software. Research by Canada's CitizenLab and Amnesty International showed that it is not only intelligence- and investigative services that use the hacking software to track down criminals and terrorists. Governments also use Pegasus to keep an eye on opposition members, activists, and journalists, the researchers said.
Critics believe that the hacking software poses a threat to democracy. In November last year, the United States government sanctioned NSO Group for "malicious activities" that "contradict national security and foreign interests." NSO Group said it did business with 60 intelligence and security services from 40 countries in 2021.
Last month it was announced that Dutch parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt launched ina investigation into Pegasus as rapporteur for the Council of Europe. He wants to know whether the Netherlands is using the software. "I want to know within which framework it was deployed, against which categories of people, and how supervision is organized," he said to the Volkskrant. "I also want to know what the Prime Minister thinks about the use of Pegasus by the Netherlands."
In 2017, the Rutte III Cabinet said in the coalition agreement that the Dutch police may only purchase hacking tools from suppliers who do not supply dubious regimes. That limitation did not explicitly apply to the intelligence services. The Rutte III Cabinet was still in office when the AIVD allegedly used Pegasus in 2019.