Pegasus hacking program seems to please world leaders

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Here is today’s Foreign policy short: Pegasus spyware Revelations splash around the world, deadly floods in China kill at least 12 people, and the United States will drop its opposition to Germany Nordstream 2 Pipeline.

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Here is today’s Foreign policy short: Pegasus spyware Revelations splash around the world, deadly floods in China kill at least 12 people, and the United States will drop its opposition to Germany Nordstream 2 Pipeline.

If you would like to receive the Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please register here.


Pegasus highlights the new world of espionage

The French authorities have vowed to investigate after it became known that President Emmanuel Macron’s phone was included on a list of possible targets for government-run phone hacking using software licensed by a private Israeli spyware company called Pegasus.

According to research by a global media consortium to which the Washington Post, Le Monde, and the Guardian, ten prime ministers, three presidents and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

Spyware for everyone. It is not the first time that heads of state and government have been targeted by espionage agencies – the attacks by the US National Security Agency on German Chancellor Angela Merkel are a high-profile example – but the Pegasus revelations underscore how sophisticated espionage programs are no longer are limited to wealthy states and can be bought on the open market. On Sunday, it emerged that governments in at least ten countries had used the spyware tool to monitor journalists and dissidents.

The responsible software company NSO rejects the allegations of the investigative consortium and describes them as “so outrageous and unrealistic” that the company is considering suing for defamation. The company said it screened government customers for human rights concerns before selling its Pegasus software and that it would be used as a counter-terrorism tool.

Netanyahu’s role. Israel is also criticized, especially the previous government under Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz– one of the members of the consortium – recorded Netanyahu’s trips to countries that would become NSO customers and how the software may have been used as “diplomatic currency” to further Israel’s strategic goals.

Modi’s problems. The investigation has sparked a political scandal in India. The Indian National Congress – the largest opposition party – has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of spying on its leader, Rahul Gandhi, after his number appeared on the NSO’s list. Congress has called for Interior Minister Amit Shah to resign on the matter, while government spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad countered that there was “no trace of evidence” linking Modi’s government to the Pegasus story. It wouldn’t be the Modi’s government’s first alleged crime: it was accused of hacking 1,400 phones using NSO software ahead of the 2019 India elections.


What we are following today

Deadly floods in China. Central China faces severe flooding, with the evacuation of more than 100,000 people in Henan Province and at least 12 dead in Zhengzhou City, which has seen more rainfall in the past three days than normal in a year. In every city in the region, subway passengers were trapped, streets were flooded and flights and trains were canceled. Record rainfall, which began on July 17 and could last through Thursday, has also raised fears that a dam in Henan could collapse and damage the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Brexit problems. Britain’s Brexit Minister David Frost will today announce a proposal to amend aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol – part of the Brexit deal aimed at preventing the construction of a border on the island of Ireland. The proposal will reportedly include a plan to leave most UK-made goods into Northern Ireland without controls, which has upset some local communities and has given UK businesses a headache. Frost’s proposal is also expected to call for an end to the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing disputes related to the Protocol.

Pipeline policy. The US and Germany are about to settle a dispute over Russia’s Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline, which Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, paving the way for the project to be completed. Under the US-German deal, which is expected to be announced today, the Biden government will give up its opposition to the pipeline in exchange for Germany’s pledge to help Ukraine develop its energy projects, including investing in green technology in the amount of $ 50 million. White House officials said Biden, despite the changed approach, was still against the pipeline as a potential instrument of Russian influence, but preferred to drop the issue in the name of cohesion between the allies.


The green transition. The next two years are likely to see the highest greenhouse gas emissions ever measured, the International Energy Agency warned Tuesday when it called on governments to allocate more resources to coronavirus recovery for a green energy transition. Only 2 percent of pandemic-related fiscal support worldwide – about $ 380 billion – has been pledged for clean energy, the IEA said, adding that those funds will have to almost triple if the world is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 .

Could COVID cancel the Olympics? Tokyo Olympics CEO Toshiro Muto didn’t rule out the Olympics being canceled as new cases of COVID-19 emerge among athletes. When asked at a press conference whether the Games could be canceled, Muto said he would “look into the matter due to the spread of infection” and that the issue would be discussed in upcoming talks between organizers and government officials ahead of the start on Friday. Muto’s comments contrast with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, who said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes transmitting the coronavirus to one another or to Tokyo residents.


A London jewelry store was the victim of a daring robbery, a British court heard on Tuesday when a woman allegedly bought $ 5.7 million in diamonds in exchange for “garden pebbles”. Prosecutors say the theft occurred in 2016 after Lulu Lakatos, the defendant, organized a tour of seven high-quality diamonds in a London showroom that claimed to be working on behalf of wealthy Russians.

When one of the two jewelry store employees left the inspection room, Lakatos – who denies wrongdoing – is said to have quickly put a bag with the diamonds in his pocket and replaced it with an identical bait bag with pebbles “by sleight of hand”, according to the public prosecutor’s office Philipp Stott. After leaving the showroom, Lakatos allegedly dumped the stolen bag in an accomplice’s purse on the street, changed into a public toilet and fled to France, where she was arrested last September before being extradited to the UK


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