Pegasus was developed by Israel's NSO Group and is designed to breach mobile phones and extract vast amounts of information from them, including text messages, passwords, locations and microphone and camera recordings. The company markets the technology as a tool to target criminals but many cases have been discovered worldwide of governments using it against dissidents, journalists and political opponents.
In Europe, cybersleuths have found traces of Pegasus or other spyware in Poland, Hungary, Spain and Greece.
Sophie in ’t Veld, the raporteur of the inquiry, said the committee has learned that the NSO group has sold spyware to 14 EU governments, using export licenses issued by the Israeli government. It learned that NSO stopped selling to two of those, but won't say which ones. They are widely believed to be Poland and Hungary due to their democratic backsliding.
“Why can we not say with certainty that Poland was one of the two countries of which the contract has been terminated?" she said. "Why is it that NSO is allowed to operate in the European Union, conduct its finances through Luxembourg, sell its products to now 12 member states, products that have been used to violate the rights of European citizens and to attack democracy of the European Union?”
Israel, an ally, should “cooperate with us in the protection of our citizens,” she said.
In 't Veld also she would expect most EU to use spyware in rare cases, and with oversight, but that others including Poland have used it "against citizens,” making it “a tool for an authoritarian political agenda.”
Greece has been rocked by revelations that Nikos Androulakis, a European Parliament member and head of Greece's third-largest political party, was put under surveillance last year with Predator spyware when he was running for his PASOK party's leadership. A financial journalist also was under surveillance.
That follows revelations of spyware use against government critics in Poland and Hungary and against Catalan separatists in Spain.
During their visit, which began Monday, the 10-member delegation met with Poles targeted by the spyware who included lawmakers, judges and other officials, including members of a committee in the opposition-controlled Senate investigating Pegasus use.
They will publish a report on their findings and recommendations on Nov. 8.