Press Releases

CAIR Calls for Federal Probe Into Use of Israeli Spyware Pegasus to Target Journalists, Activists

(WASHINGTON D.C., 7/19/2021) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called for a federal investigation into the use of smartphone-hacking spyware developed by an Israeli firm to target journalists and activists in the United States and worldwide.

SEE: Pegasus: Spyware sold to governments ‘targets activists’ 

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57881364

A list of 50,000 phone numbers of people believed to be of interest to the firm’s clients, which include authoritarian regimes, was leaked to major media outlets. The list included political personalities, business executives, activists, and 180 journalists working for various outlets including CNN, the New York Times, and Al Jazeera. It is unclear how many people on the list had their smartphones infected by the malware, but the Washington Post reported that 37 were confirmed to have had attempted and successful hacks. 

Many of the phone numbers on the list were from countries with authoritarian governments. Phone numbers of people close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were on the list, and Khashoggi’s wife’s phone has previously been targeted by the spyware. Also on the list was the number of a Mexican journalist murdered in 2017.  

The spyware, called Pegasus, is made by Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group. It targets smartphones, allowing the operator to record conversations and extract messages, emails, and photos. NSO Group has denied any wrongdoing, saying the original investigation by Amnesty International and Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories that led to these findings was “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.” NSO has previously been sued by WhatsApp in relation to cyber attacks on over 1,400 smartphones involving Pegasus. 

In a statement, CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw said: 

“The revelations about Israeli spyware being used to target journalists and activists is deeply disturbing. The situation warrants a federal investigation, especially given the fact that journalists working for American media organizations have been targeted. Our government must protect its citizens and stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of the press around the world.” 

SEE: CAIR Welcomes State Department Call for End of Collective Punishment Practice by Israel, Urges More Pressure 

CAIR Calls on Biden Administration to Condemn Israel’s Ongoing Demolition of Palestinian Family Homes, Businesses in Silwan 

CAIR Joins 100+ National Groups Calling on Biden to Stop Weapons Sales to Israel – CAIR 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.     

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CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448, rmccaw@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com 

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