FBI reportedly considered using Pegasus spyware in criminal investigations

As lately as early final year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was contemplating using NSO Group’s notorious Pegasus spyware in criminal investigations, . Between late 2020 and early 2021, company officers had been in the “advanced” phases of growing plans to temporary FBI management on the software, in accordance with inner bureau paperwork and court docket data seen by The Times. Those paperwork additionally reveal the bureau had developed pointers for federal prosecutors detailing how the FBI’s use of Pegasus would have to be disclosed throughout court docket instances.

Based on the paperwork, it’s unclear if the FBI had considered using the spyware towards American residents. Earlier this year, The Times discovered that the company had examined Phantom, a model of Pegasus that may goal telephones with .

By July 2021, the FBI ultimately determined to not use Pegasus in criminal investigations. That’s the identical month that  printed an investigation that claimed the software had been used to compromise the telephones of two girls near murdered Saudi journalist . A couple of months later, the US positioned Pegasus creator NSO Group on the Commerce Department’s entity checklist, a designation that forestalls US firms from conducting business with the agency. Despite the choice to not use Pegasus, the FBI indicated it stays open to using spyware in the longer term.

“Just because the FBI ultimately decided not to deploy the tool in support of criminal investigations does not mean it would not test, evaluate and potentially deploy other similar tools for gaining access to encrypted communications used by criminals,” states a filed by the FBI final month.

The paperwork seem to current a special image of the company’s curiosity in Pegasus than the one FBI Director Chris Wray shared with Congress throughout a closed-doors listening to this previous December. “If you mean have we used it in any of our investigations to collect or target somebody, the answer is – as I’m assured – no,” he . “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.”

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