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The NSO Group logo on a building in Herzliya, Israel. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Spyware from the Israeli intelligence company NSO Group was found on the cellphones of six Palestinian human rights activists, Front Line Defenders, an Ireland-based rights groups, said in a report Monday.

Why it matters: It's the first reported instance of Palestinian activists being targeted by the military-grade Pegasus spyware, AP notes.

  • The report comes a week after the U.S. government added NSO and Candiru, another Israeli cyber intelligence company, to a black list of companies engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security interests.
  • The Commerce Department said its decision was based on evidence that both companies developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that in turn used it "to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers."

The big picture: It is unclear how the spyware got on the Palestinian activists' phones. According to Front Line Defenders, some of the activists targeted work for three of the six Palestinian human rights groups that Israel declared "terrorist" organizations last month in a move that prompted international criticism.

  • The Palestinian groups called on the United Nations to investigate the Front Line Defender report's findings, which were independently confirmed by researchers at Amnesty International and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
  • "We don't have evidence. We can't accuse a certain party since we don't have yet enough information about who carried out that action," Sahar Francis, director of prisoner rights group Addameer, said at a news conference on Monday, per Reuters.
  • "The United Nations is responsible for human rights and for protecting human rights and they have a responsibility to launch such an investigation to make sure that countries don't exploit these software to repress human rights advocates," Francis added.

The NSO Group said in an emailed statement it cannot "confirm or deny the identity of our government customers" due to "contractual and national security considerations."

  • "As we stated in the past, NSO Group does not operate the products itself; the company license approved government agencies to do so, and we are not privy to the details of individuals monitored," it added.

Go deeper: U.S. blacklists Israeli firm NSO after Pegasus spyware scandal

Go deeper

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Cuban authorities crush protest plans in crackdown on dissidents

Police officers walking along a street in Havana on Monday. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration denounced Cuban authorities' "intimidation tactics" during a clamp-down on activists who planned to hold a civil rights protest on the Caribbean island Monday.

Why it matters: Protesters were hoping to build on July's massive anti-government demonstrations in Havana and other Cuban cities with the nationwide "Civic March for Change." But police and security forces poured into the streets, arresting and even "trapping" activists in their homes, per the Washington Post.

32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

CPI: The new jobs number

Grocery shoppers in Washington, D.C., last month. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Consumer Price Index has replaced the jobs report as the most anticipated data drop by the U.S. government.

Why it matters: Rising prices tend to lower political fortunes. Washington and Wall Street are now waiting for the CPI number to flash at 8:30am ET around the 10th day of each month. This month's report — due Friday morning — will give a reading of how hot inflation ran in November.

COVID cases and deaths are on the rise

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising all across the U.S. even before the Omicron variant takes hold.

Why it matters: The holidays — and the inevitable spread of Omicron — will only heighten the risks that unvaccinated Americans face from COVID, in all its forms.