This software reveals true color of ‘Summit for Democracy’: Global Times editorial
Published: Apr 04, 2023 01:13 AM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

In the just concluded so-called Summit for Democracy, US President Joe Biden, as the host, declared that a coalition will be formed to combat governments "who misuse surveillance technologies for repression." He also used an executive order that prohibits the US government's use of commercial spyware as a prominent example of the US' leadership in strengthening "democracy," portraying the US as the "defender" of global cyberspace.

However, when Washington's facade is still fresh and new, the New York Times on Sunday published an article about the US government's secret use of spyware from the Israeli firm NSO Group, which once again completely exposes the US' true nature as a fake defender of global cyberspace.

NSO, mentioned in the New York Times, is the same company that created the spyware Pegasus, known as "perhaps the most powerful spyware ever created." The Pegasus scandal once caused a global sensation. The spyware has a daunting ability to collect information about location, photos and passwords without the users' permission. It has spied on at least 50,000 phone numbers from 50 countries, including those of hundreds of politicians and government officials. This triggered a chain reaction and even a political storm. The incident was called "one of the biggest spy scandals of our time" by some media.

Early last year, a New York Times investigation revealed that the FBI had purchased Pegasus, after which FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted that the FBI had indeed purchased the spyware, but only for "research and development." In the latest investigation by the New York Times on Sunday, the White House, after placing NSO on a Commerce Department blacklist in 2021, used a front company to sign a contract to purchase Landmark, another software from NSO. "Under this contract, according to two people, there have been thousands of queries in at least one country, Mexico," wrote the report.

In fact, specific spying behaviors from the US as a veritable "empire of mass surveillance" are no longer considered "news." As early as 2013, the PRISM scandal revealed that Mexico's then-president was under US surveillance. Perhaps Mexicans can only sigh that they are "so far from God, so close to the US." On the contrary, regarding Pegasus and its company NSO, the US government has once again shown the double face of raising standards for others high while abandoning its bottom line easily. The world needs to be more alert to this.

After the Pegasus scandal was exposed by multiple media outlets and widely condemned in July 2021, the US government blacklisted NSO in November of that year, claiming that it engaged in activities that are "contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the US."

However, according to a New York Times report, the US government had secretly deployed the hacking tool domestically for many years and given it to other countries before the ban. Even after the ban was issued, the US government continued to sign contracts with the company despite the scandal, and the contract remains valid to this day.

Washington's hypocritical and sinister side is also reflected in the fact that after NSO was targeted by the US and fell into difficulties, other partners were "scared away," and then the US defense contractor giant L3Harris Technologies Inc "coincidentally" appeared and began acquisition negotiations. According to reports, L3Harris Technologies has had close communication with US intelligence agencies and the US Department of Commerce and has made some progress. Perhaps at this point, the real reason why the US Department of Commerce sanctioned NSO has become apparent. Even the Israeli side couldn't help but feel angry at the US' hypocrisy.

Many media outlets, including the New York Times, have reported that the "Five Eyes Alliance" is considered by NSO as its largest potential market, and it is highly likely that they have already cooperated. As China has become the main target of the "Five Eyes Alliance" in recent years, we have reason to suspect that it will use Pegasus to spy on China. Given the US' consistent style, we can only speculate on the worst-case scenario regarding its bottom line.

Of course, this does not prevent the US from putting on an enthusiastic performance at the "Summit for Democracy," nor does it prevent many Americans from constantly hyping the so-called Chinese hackers issue and shifting attention by slandering other countries. However, from the PRISM scandal to Bvp47 and Dirty COW to Irritant Horn and MUSCULAR project, the "moral" banner raised by Washington is riddled with holes. The image that Washington has left in the eyes of the world is already that of a "false preacher" who shouts slogans louder and pulls the bottom line lower.