Leading Congressman Appeal Against NSO: This Is Not Against Israel

The US Commerce Department’s decision to blacklist Israeli cyber company NSO was not intended to go against the State of Israel, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) said in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“This is not directed at Israel,” he said, during a visit to Israel with a bipartisan congressional delegation. “It is aimed at a global private hacking industry for hire.”

Malinowski spearheaded the congressional call for the Biden administration to take action against NSO, following reports in July that its Pegasus spyware was used by authoritarian regimes to target politicians such as French President Emmanuel Macron and members of his cabinet as well. as well as activists and journalists. worldwide.

The Commerce Department announced last week that NSO and another Israeli company, Candiru, acted “against the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” NSO exports are strictly authorized by the Israel Defense Ministry and as such the announcement could be construed as a criticism of Israeli policies, although Foreign Minister Yair Lapid rejected that view at a press conference on Saturday.

Malinowski said the problem “is not about Israel or the NSO per se. It’s about what needs to be done to regulate runaway private piracy. “

Israeli officials who met with the congressional delegation raised the matter, he added.

A man walks past the logo of the Israeli cyber company NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava desert, southern Israel, on July 22, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / AMIR COHEN)

Malinowski said he had read reports that Israel will try to pressure the United States against its decision, but that a reversal was “not likely, not going to happen.”

The member of Congress said he viewed hacking as “a sensitive technology that should be carefully controlled by the United States and our democratic allies. No more than sensitive missiles or sensitive nuclear technologies should be allowed to proliferate in countries that are likely to abuse it.

“That is not in the interest of Israel or the United States,” he added.

Like-minded countries should work together to set rules for the industry, Malinowski said, expressing hope that the Commerce Department’s decision will send a message to the Israeli government that “we want them to be part of that dialogue.”

Malinowski led a letter with three other members of Congress in July calling for the “hacking” industry to be regulated.

“Private companies should not sell sophisticated cyber intrusion tools on the open market, and the United States should work with its allies to regulate this trade,” Malinowski, Representative Katie Porter (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) testified. “They should be sanctioned and, if necessary, closed … Selling cyber intrusion technology to governments such as Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Rwanda based on guarantees of responsible use is like selling weapons to the mafia and believing that they will only be used for the practice of threw. “

The statement specifically asked the US government to “consider the immediate incorporation of the NSO Group and any other company that performs similar activities to the List of Entities administered by the Department of Commerce,” among other actions.

Malinowski addressed the issue of the NSO on the sidelines of a press conference by the bipartisan and bicameral delegation, led by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), a close ally of US President Joe Biden.

In response to a question at the press conference about anti-Semitism in general, as well as anti-Semitic comments made by members of Congress, Malinowski said that “the fundamentally anti-Semitic idea that American Jews have a dual allegiance, unfortunately, has been expressed by both parties. We say this is fundamentally intolerant and untrue. “

Malinowski lamented the spread of QAnon’s conspiracy theory, which he said was based on a “belief in blood libel.”

“The good news is that there is an overwhelming bipartisan consensus uniting responsible leaders on both sides that anti-Semitism is wrong,” he said.

Coons said at the beginning of the press conference that “support for Israel in the US Congress remains bipartisan and strong,” and that he supports a two-state solution.

The senator said the delegation discussed a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, including congratulating him on Israel’s response to COVID-19 and discussing ways to cooperate on technology to meet the challenges of climate change.

“We look forward to continuing the dialogue,” Coons said.

Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said that visiting Israel “strengthened what I have known all my life: Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East. Improving bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship is paramount. “

Rosen called Israel a “beacon of democracy in the world … a progressive nation that supports women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and access to affordable health care for all of its citizens.

“We must continue our efforts to strengthen our long-standing economic and security alliance. That means fulfilling our commitment to replenish the funds for the Iron Dome … after the brutal assault by Hamas rockets this spring, ”he added.

When asked about the Biden administration’s goal of reopening a consulate in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians, Coons said it was a decision by the executive branch. However, he said it came up in all the delegation’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Similarly, he did not express a position on the settlements saying, “The goal of the strong relationship between the United States and Israel is to have these conversations in private, rather than in the press.”


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