MEPs, Commissioners and Heads of Government. The massive espionage carried out through the software Pegasus, manufactured by the Israeli company NSO, has spread its ventricles throughout the institutions of the European Union. The Spanish President, Pedro Sanchezhas been the last community leader to acknowledge that his mobile phone, along with that of his Defense Minister, Margaret Oaks, were infected with this highly effective, sophisticated and stealthy program. Pegasus penetrates devices without leaving a trace, immediately accessing GPS addresses, photos or calls and taking control of the camera or microphones of mobile devices.
The cyber espionage case broke out last summer, when an investigation coordinated by Forbidden Stories revealed that more than 50,000 phones around the world had been infected by this software spy with the aim of undermining dissent in Morocco, India, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda or Azerbaijan. Politicians, journalists, officials, businessmen and activists. No critical voice was exempt. The revelation of this hack at a global level is unprecedented and highlights the failures that continue to exist to regulate and prosecute these alleged cybersecurity crimes, also in the EU.
The Hungary of Victor Orban, which has recently revalidated its fourth consecutive term, was the only EU country that appeared in the initial leak. And after several months of it, experts warn that these illegal listening practices are spreading with disturbing speed not only in authoritarian states but also in liberal democracies.
Experts warn that these illegal listening practices are spreading with disturbing speed
Among the monitored European names that stood out in his initial investigation was that of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and that of Charles Michel, current president of the European Council, but whose device was infected when he was Prime Minister of Belgium. Since then, the number of high-ranking victims of Pegasus has continued to grow.
The surprise recently reached the heart of the European Parliament at the hands of the person known as Catalangate. Magazine The New Yorker detailed how dozens of Catalan politicians, lawyers and activists, as well as their families, would have been victims of massive cyberespionage between 2019 and 2020. Among them were all the former presidents of the Generalitat since 2010 and MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Diana Riba and Jordi Solé.
own European Comission has been the target of cyberespionage by this software Israeli. The Reuters agency advanced exclusively that several personalities of the Berlaymont they would have been attacked with Pegasus. Among them was the name of the Justice Commissioner, didier reyenders, at a time when Brussels was experiencing a head-on clash with Hungary and Polandboth terrible kids of the EU for its identity ideology and its illiberal policies.
The great enigma is already establishing who is behind all this and with what intentions. But it will be the most complicated task. The European Comission, guardian of the Treaties, alleges that she cannot do anything and defends that her hands are tied, recalling that her powers at the level of national security are practically nil. On the other hand, critics argue that what is at stake transcends national security and is a matter of respect for human rights and democratic values. That is, a European question.
The Hungarian and Polish Executives themselves have acknowledged having acquired the Israeli ‘software’
During this first year of life of the scandal pegasus, the Community Executive has limited itself to showing its “concern” over these “unacceptable” events and asking the national governments to carry out in-depth investigations to clarify who or who have orchestrated these operations and for what purposes. The poisoned candy is that on many occasions it is the governments themselves that have hired these extremely expensive and sophisticated services. The Hungarian and Polish Executives themselves have acknowledged having acquired the software Israeli.
The ‘catalangate’ puts the focus on the role of Spain
The European Data Protection Supervisor, the body responsible for enforcing privacy policies in the EU, advocated in February to ban spy programs such as Pegasus, claiming that this is “the most effective way to protect fundamental rights and freedoms”. However, in the face of this massive espionage, a revolutionary response at European level is not expected.
In the short term, the institutions of the 12 stars have reinforced the surveillance systems to detect possible traces in the devices of their personnel. The Eurochamber has made available to its 705 MEPs the possibility of checking their phones in search of any trace of Pegasus. He did it hours after the explosion Catalangate.
In the face of this massive espionage, a revolutionary response at European level is not expected
In addition, the European Parliament has created a special commission of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the use of this software illegal within the EU and its contradictions with fundamental rights and with European data protection legislation. 38 MEPs will analyze the situation closely for 12 months. The main focus will be on the Governments of Hungary and Poland, but behind the Catalangate it is likely that the investigation will extend to Spain. The mission of the MEPs will be to review the state of the surveillance laws in force in the Member States and try to clarify if the European governments involved have used this program for political purposes.
It will also be this institution that will celebrate next Tuesday in the Plenary of Strasbourgat the initiative of the group of the Greens, the debate “use of Pegasus by the Member States of the EU against individuals, MEPs and violation of fundamental rights”.
The community fear is that countries in authoritarian drift, inside and outside the EU, are resorting to this bad practice to shut out annoying voices, go after the opposition and silence independent media. Orban, for example, has been dismantling the rule of law for years. Under him, Hungary has risen from 23rd to 92nd in the global press freedom index. But the concern goes further and is also due to the fact that actors with unkind intentions have contracted the services of Pegasus to obtain privileged information that has the objective of weakening the European project.