A US Supreme Court seeks Biden's intervention in a lawsuit against the Israeli company NSO

A US Supreme Court seeks Biden’s intervention in a lawsuit against the Israeli company NSO

The US Supreme Court wants the administration of President Joe Biden to examine whether the NSO group has sovereign immunity from civil litigation in US courts to assess whether a lawsuit can be pursued by WhatsApp against the Israeli spyware company.

NSO Group’s lawyers argued that because the company’s products are used by foreign governments and law enforcement agencies, the company is protected from civil lawsuits on US soil.

Last November, the US Court of Appeals rejected NSO Group’s bid to assert legal immunity, but on Monday the US Supreme Court asked the US Department of Justice to “present a summary in this case that expresses the views of the United States.”

WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) is suing the NSO Group for allegedly targeting its California servers with malware to gain unauthorized access to nearly 1,400 mobile devices in violation of US and federal law.

The Israeli company drew the ire of rights groups after a 2021 investigation by international media revealed the use of Pegasus spyware by security forces and authoritarian governments in several countries.

Last year, the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court’s decision to allow WhatsApp’s lawsuit to continue, asserting that NSO Group was not eligible for sovereign immunity even if its clients were foreign government agencies.

Justice Daniel Forrest, appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in the ruling: “NSO claims that it should have the immunity afforded to sovereign rulers because it provides technology used for law enforcement purposes and that law enforcement is an inherently sovereign function.” .

“Whatever NSO government clients do with its technology and services does not make NSO a ‘foreign state agency or vehicle,’ as Congress has defined the term. Thus, the NSO has no right to protect foreign sovereign immunity.”

NSO Group appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. In a lawsuit in May to the Supreme Court, the company’s lawyers called the appellate judges’ decision “seriously wrong.”

“Preventing private entities from pursuing common law immunity will not only hinder foreign governments from contracting with private entities,” NSO Group lawyers wrote.

“It would also impede the ability of the United States to protect its national security, because the government relies heavily on private contractors to provide the technology and expertise needed to defend the nation against external and domestic threats.”

In the original legal complaint, WhatsApp accused the Israeli company of breaching its terms of service and undermining the messaging platform’s “reputation, public trust and goodwill” with its hacking activities.

Last year, the Biden administration sanctioned the NSO Group — adding it to an “entity list” of companies deemed to engage in activities contrary to US foreign policy and national security — after it was accused of enabling “transnational suppression” with its spyware.

WhatsApp’s lawyers cited the penalties in a Supreme Court memorandum earlier this year, urging the judges to ignore the Israeli company’s request to review the lower court’s decision.

“The United States has determined that NSO’s spyware activities – the very kind of activities for which NSO seeks immunity – are inconsistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, and therefore added NSO to its list of entities that restrict export and re-export,” lawyers wrote. WhatsApp.

“Even if private entities were eligible for foreign sovereign immunity under common law (they are not), a listed entity would have no reasonable claim to such immunity.”

NSO Group has regularly denied allegations of enabling human rights abuses, saying its spyware, licensed by the Israeli government, is intended to track criminals and “terrorists”.

Last year, it also dismissed the findings of the Pegasus investigation, which was based on a massive data leak, as “unconfirmed theories”.

But rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the group of flouting its “human rights responsibilities” and have called on the Israeli government to revoke the company’s permits.

2022-06-06 17:04:16

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