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FBI Planned to Deploy Spyware for Investigations

National

FBI Director Christopher Wray | Image by REUTERS

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The FBI apparently considered using spyware on individuals subject to a criminal investigation as recently as last year, according to a report by The New York Times.

In the first year of the Biden administration, FBI officials were in the “advanced” stages of preparing a formal presentation and recommendation to the top brass of the agency to utilize spyware known as Pegasus.

The spyware was developed by an Israeli cyber-arms company called the NSO Group and allows for covert monitoring of smartphones.

What makes Pegasus so potent is its “zero-click” installation, which requires no actions by the target to install the spyware on his device.

Internal FBI documents reportedly went so far as to outline parameters for federal prosecutors across the country to successfully use evidence gathered by Pegasus on a suspect in court.

While prosecutors can bring a case in our nation’s court system against a foreign national or an individual who is not an American citizen, it is plausible that the agency intended to use the spyware on the American public as well.

In addition to crafting prosecutorial guidelines, documents also revealed that the FBI tested a version of Pegasus known as Phantom which is unique in that it allows for individuals with United States phone numbers to be targeted, adding more speculation as to the exact scope of the agency’s intentions.

The controversy surrounding the NSO Group seems to coincide with the scrapping of the FBI’s intention to utilize the company’s spyware.

Last summer, a massive exposé dropped detailing how foreign governments were apparently abusing the NSO Group’s Pegasus software to spy on dissidents, journalists, opposing politicians, and many others.

With the heightened attention on Pegasus, the U.S. Government quietly blacklisted its creator NSO Group, preventing further official dealings with the company.

With the blacklisting, the FBI ceased to progress on deploying Pegasus in criminal investigations but has since indicated that it remains open to using spyware in the future.

In a recent court filing, Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote, “Simply because the FBI ultimately determined not to deploy the NSO tool in support of criminal investigations does not mean that the FBI will not deploy similar tools in the future.”

The filing was in response to claims made by the New York Times that the FBI did not produce all responsive documents to the paper’s public information requests as part of their investigation into the agency’s use of Pegasus.

The picture painted by Williams, however, is in stark contrast to the explanation FBI Director Christopher Wray gave to Congress in a closed-door hearing late last year. Wray assured congressional leaders that the use of Pegasus or similar spyware was simply a “counterintelligence” operation.

“Has the FBI used Pegasus or any other commercial hacking tool sold by the NSO Group?” asked Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) at the hearing.

“If you mean have we used it in any of our [criminal] investigations to collect or target somebody, the answer is — as I’m assured — no,” responded Wray. “The reason why I hedge, and I want to be transparent, that we have acquired some of their tools for research and development.”

“In other words, to be able to figure out how bad guys could use it, for example,” Wray concluded.

Now, just under a year later, the FBI stands by the comments made by Wray at that closed-door hearing, telling the New York Times, “The director’s testimony was accurate when given and remains true today — there has been no operational use of the NSO product to support any FBI investigation.”

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Pap
Pap
12 days ago

So our government has turned into a spy organization. What happened to needing a warrant? And if they’re mistaken, they’re spying on an innocent person. Face it, the dems want to spy on everyone. They’re intentionally causing chaos in this country, while playing innocent, then using spyware and other tactics telling us it’s for our own good. The serpent is among us.

William Danielson
William Danielson
Reply to  Pap
12 days ago

For Christ sake, let’s go after the January 6 Traitors with all possible vigor, including Benedict Donald. They are domestic terrorists that at the very least need to be rounded up and sent to Camp G W Bush in Gitmo. Waterboard them while they are at it. USA USA USA USA USA!

Pap
Pap
Reply to  William Danielson
12 days ago

Sure there’s always going to be a few nutcases, but most of those people were peaceful protesters. Trump asked them to protest, not riot. There is a difference. You know, like the MLK March on Washington in 1963? So you’re saying protests on Washington are no longer allowed? That’s a dangerous precedent to set.

And what about all the rioting, murders and destruction after Floyd? Just going to ignore that? Yeah, thought so. So citizens like you and I don’t matter (certainly not to the dems).

Janet
Janet
Reply to  Pap
1 day ago

If Trump was so innocent, why did it take him so long to call off the riots? Don’t know what channel you were watching (I can guess) but there were more than just “a few” nut cases. MLK did’t invite marchers to Washington saying “it will be wild” , and they never stormed the capitol, or assaulted police officers. None of the speakers said “let’s have trial by combat!” And as a Democrat, I don’t condone riots or violence of any kind as a form of protest, whether for George Floyd, Or refusal to accept election results. Two wrongs don’t make it right.

Janet
Janet
Reply to  Pap
1 day ago

The Serpent among us resides at MAR-A-LAGO! Oh I forgot, warrants don’t matter to him. And the chaos in America started the day he was elected President in 2016!

DFW Citizen
DFW Citizen
12 days ago

FBI – not very credible