FBI bought controversial espionage software Pegasus from NSO Group ‘to evaluate’

The FBI has acquired the controversial Pegasus spy software. The US Federal Police Department purchased a limited license from developer NSO Group “to test and evaluate the software.”

In an email that The Guardian has seen, the FBI explains that “it would be a concern if the spyware fell into the wrong hands” and that is why it wanted to take a closer look at Pegasus. “The FBI wants to stay on top of emerging technologies and trade not only to investigate possible legal uses of those technologies, but also to fight crime and protect both the American people and our civil liberties,” the intelligence agency wrote. the mail.

An anonymous source with information about the purchase told the paper that the FBI did not want the supplied technology equipped with sensors. These would have enabled NSO Group to trace the physical location of the technology. The source also claimed that the FBI did not want NSO’s own engineers to install the technology and integrate the spyware into the service’s systems. In the end, the developer and the FBI agreed to keep the technology in a large container.

The agency claims in the email that it never used Pegasus in an FBI investigation. According to the anonymous source, this is correct. “They weren’t using the software at all. They didn’t even turn it on. But they kept paying for it and wanted to renew the license,” the source said. The test project would have lasted a year and cost 9 million dollars, almost 8 million euros.

The FBI did not answer questions from The Guardian about the mail and the source’s claims. NSO Group also did not respond to questions from the newspaper about the delivery of its espionage software to the American intelligence service.

The Pegasus software has been criticized several times in spy cases where journalists, politicians and other public figures have been spied on using the spyware. That is why NSO Group, the Israeli company that developed Pegasus, has since been blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce. Meta and Apple have also filed lawsuits against NSO Group.