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King Abdullah II. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO negotiated with the Jordanian government in recent months on a deal to sell new spying technology, two sources briefed on the matter tell me.

Why it matters: The Jordanian intelligence services surveil terrorist groups, but they also monitor opposition activists and crack down on domestic criticism of King Abdullah II.

Driving the news: The sources say the negotiations between NSO and the Jordanian government started late last year, and a delegation of the company’s senior executives and technology experts traveled to Amman.

  • They gave a presentation to Jordanian officials, including from the General Intelligence Directorate, and demonstrated the capabilities of the new technology.
  • According to one source, the technology related to new spyware for collecting intelligence and other technology to monitor messaging services.
  • One source said a contract was signed, but a second said it was unclear if the deal was finalized.
  • An NSO spokesperson told me: "As a long-standing matter of policy, we do not comment on our contacts with states. The above is not being deemed as a confirmation of the alleged facts.”

The big picture: The negotiations took place in the months leading up to the latest domestic crisis in the kingdom, during which former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein was put under house arrest over an alleged coup attempt.

  • Jordanian security services monitored his communications for months and allegedly spied on his meetings with tribal leaders.

Flashback: According to press reports, NSO has done business with the Jordanian government in the past. Haaretz reported last year that NSO uses the code name “Jaguar” for Jordan in internal documents.

Worth noting: NSO came under harsh criticism in recent years over the use of its Pegasus spyware by several clients around the world to surveil human rights activists, opposition figures, reporters and political rivals.

  • In October 2019, Facebook sued NSO over the alleged use of Pegasus to hack 1,400 WhatsApp accounts, including those of 100 human rights activists and journalists. NSO rejects the allegations.
  • The Guardian reported last month that the Department of Justice had renewed a probe involving NSO.

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

16 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

17 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."