Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Democrats 66) claims that EU governments monitor and map communications between journalists “without action and without oversight”.
The MEP was responding to allegations that a number of EU states planted malware and spy code on the phones of several Russian journalists.
It was during an interview with the British liberal newspaper The Guardian that Sophie in ‘t Veld made these allegations against some EU Member States.
EU member state may have used #Pegasus spyware against a journalist who fled Russia. It is deeply problematic that Europeans will never know the truth, while #NSOGroup and Israel know all about the perpetrator and the target. This must be investigated in Europe @EP_PegaInquiry https://t.co/gZ7TySAFXs
— Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) September 25, 2023
Galina Timchenko, former editor and co-founder of the opposition Russian news site Meduza, confirmed to The Guardian that her phone was tapped using Israeli-developed “Pegasus” malware.
This allegedly occurred during a meeting with other Russian journalists in Berlin earlier this year. An investigation by the University of Toronto and Access Now concluded that at least one EU state was behind the hacking of Timchenko’s phone.
European security services identified
Timchenko currently lives and works in Latvia, where the government has denied any involvement and German authorities have so far refused to comment on the case. However, both countries are said to have access to the Pegasus software. This software was developed by the Israeli company NSO – a company blacklisted by the US and others.
– It is likely that the hack was operated by some European security service. We don’t know if it was Latvia or some other country, but we have more (presence) in Latvia, said Ivan Kolpakov, editor-in-chief of Meduza.
After Galina Timchenko, head of independent #Russia news website @meduza_en, found out that her phone was infected by #PegasusSpyware while she was in Germany in early 2023, she spoke with CPJ about her reaction to the revelation.https://t.co/CXdn8j2AMJpic.twitter.com/BwNq7uSVK2
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) September 27, 2023
Compared to Stasi’s methods
According to a report compiled by Sophie in ‘t Veld, the governments of Poland, Hungary, Greece and Spain have all used Pegasus to identify political opponents.
– People have often said this whole spyware story compares to the European version of Watergate. It’s not. It’s more like The Lives of Others, she said, referring to a German film depicting the East German Stasi’s extensive surveillance of its citizens.
– I’m not saying Europe is already descending into totalitarianism, but these are totalitarian methods. If it is true that the Latvian government or other European states did this, then there is no way to find out. There is no remedy, and no oversight.
At least 50 000 have been monitored
The Pegasus spyware can be installed on a mobile phone with or without the user clicking on a fake link. Once installed, Pegasus allows the hacker to read messages, look through photos, track the person’s location and even turn on the camera and microphone without the phone’s owner knowing.
According to an NSO customer list leaked in 2021, more than 50,000 politicians, journalists, activists and business representatives have been monitored using the Israeli malware.
– EU governments are using it for political purposes, just like undemocratic ones do. In some very exceptional cases the use of spyware might be legitimate…the point is that we have no way of knowing if the use is proportionate and legitimate, Sophie in ‘t Veld concluded.
Sophia Helena "Sophie" in 't Veld
Dutch politician and, since the 2004 European elections, Member of the European Parliament for the D66 party. When she was elected in 2004, she was D66's only representative in the European Parliament, but in the 2014 elections she became head of delegation for the party's four MEPs.
Sophie in 't Veld is Vice-President of the ALDE Group and a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). She is also a substitute member of the Economic Affairs Committee (ECON) and the Gender Equality Committee (FEMM), and vice-chair of the European Parliament's LGBTQ group.