US military contractor moves to buy Israeli spy-tech company NSO Group
Biden blacklist a stumbling block for any possible deal
US security technology provider L3Harris has courted controversial Israeli spyware firm NSO with an aim to buy it, according to reports.
The New York Times claims L3Harris in recent months sent a team to Israel to try to smooth passage of the deal, which was made challenging by US president Joe Biden's decision to blacklist NSO following the use of its Pegasus software to crack phones of politicians and campaigners.
The L3Harris executives delivered a message that the US government offers tacit support of its acquisition bid, although public statements were unlikely, according to five separate sources.
The claims run counter to statements from US officials who were said to be outraged to learn about the negotiations for an American company to purchase a blacklisted spy-tech vendor.
Later, L3Harris told officials it planned to end its attempt to buy the company while conflicting accounts said it hoped to restart them.
The Times says that the US military contractor hired lawyer Daniel Reisner, who once worked for Israeli Military Prosecutor's Office to advise on the deal.
News website Intelligence Online has also reported L3Harris efforts to buy NSO, although it quoted White House officials as saying the deal could create "serious counterintelligence and security concerns" for the US.
- NSO claims 'more than 5' EU states use Pegasus spyware
- UK Prime Minister, Catalan groups 'targeted by NSO Pegasus spyware'
- European officials reportedly targeted by NSO spyware
- Whistleblower claims NSO offered 'bags of cash' for access to US phone networks
The Register has offered L3Harris and NSO the opportunity to comment on claims made by the New York Times and Intelligence Online. L3Harris declined the opportunity.
In April, reports emerged that NSO's tech was used to spy on European Commission officials in 2021. European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and at least four commission staffers were said to be targeted.
Later that month, other reports suggested that the same tools were used to target the UK Prime Minister's Office and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with at least 65 individuals linked with Catalan civil society groups in Spain.
Spain's prime minister and defense minister are among elected officials to detect Pegasus spyware on their mobile phones, according to reports.
In June, NSO told European lawmakers that "under 50" customers use its notorious Pegasus spyware, though it admitted these customers include "more than five" European Union member states. ®