French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone was on a list of potential targets for potential surveillance on behalf of Morocco in the Pegasus spyware case, the French daily Le Monde reported on Tuesday.
The French presidency said that if the revelations about Macron’s phone were true, they would be very serious. Authorities will investigate them in order to shed all the necessary light on the reports, the statement said.
Said Mond that according to sources, one of Macron’s phone numbers, which he has used regularly since 2017, is on the list of numbers selected by Morocco’s intelligence service for potential cyber espionage.
On Monday, Morocco issued a statement denying any involvement in the use Pegasus and rejecting what he called “unsubstantiated and false allegations.” Moroccan authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on the Macron report on Tuesday.
Former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and 14 ministers were also attacked in 2019, Le Monde said.
Investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organizations led by the Paris-based non-profit journal group Forbidden Stories, said the spyware, created and licensed by an Israeli company NSO, has been used in trials and successful hacks on smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists worldwide.
The NSO issued a statement on Sunday, rejecting reports from media partners, saying it was “full of misconceptions and unconfirmed theories”. Its product is intended only for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism and crime, the statement said.
A spokesman for the NSO did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment Tuesday on reports in Le Monde and other French media about Macron.
Le Monde stressed that he did not have access to Macron’s phone and therefore could not verify whether he was indeed spied on, but could check other phones, including that of former Environment Minister Francois de Rougier, and was able to confirm that the latter was spied on.
Also Tuesday, the Paris prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into allegations by the investigative news website Mediapart and two of its journalists that they had been spied on by Morocco using Pegasus spyware.
“The only way to get to the bottom of this is for the judiciary to conduct an independent investigation into widespread espionage organized in France by Morocco,” Mediapart tweeted.
The Paris prosecutor’s statement did not mention Morocco and said only that it had decided to open the investigation after receiving the complaint from Mediapart and its reporters.
The Guardian, one of the media involved in the investigation, said the investigation involved “widespread and ongoing abuse” of NSO hacking software. He described it as malware that infects smartphones to allow retrieval of messages, photos and emails, recording conversations and secretly activating microphones.
NSO Group founder Shalev Julio said earlier Tuesday on 103 FM radio in Tel Aviv that the published list of Pegasus’ alleged targets “is not related to the NSO.”
“The platform we produce prevents terrorist attacks and saves lives,” he said in an interview.
Julio said that in its 11 years of existence, the NSO has worked with 45 countries and refused almost 90 countries. He declined to name any of them.
“I think that in the end it will be in the courts, with a legal decision in our favor, after we file defamation cases, because we will have no other choice,” he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021