U.S. condemns ‘extrajudicial surveillance’ of journalists, activists, regime critics

U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

The Biden administration has condemned the harassment and ‘extrajudicial surveillance’ of journalists and others in reaction to reports published by a consortium of news websites that Israeli company NSO Group’s spyware , Pegasus, was used for illegal hacking and surveillance of individuals, including in India .

“The United States condemns the harassment or extrajudicial surveillance of journalists, human rights activists, or other perceived regime critics,” a White House spokesperson said via email to The Hindu in response to a question on what U.S. President Joe Biden’s position on the issue was.

Only on Monday U.S. President Joe Biden had said that China and Russia were “protecting” and “even accommodating” cyber hackers and their hacking.

The news reports on Pegasus say that in addition to actually or potentially targeting journalists, leaders of the opposition in India, and others, a database of phone numbers that allegedly belonged to the NSO Group contained the numbers of two U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials in New Delhi and employees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tuesday’s statement from the White House spokesperson stopped short of naming Israel — where NSO Group is based.

“Just as states have the duty to protect human rights, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including by ensuring that their products or services are not being used by end-users to abuse fundamental freedoms,” the spokesperson said.

A State Department spokesperson, on Wednesday,  in addition to reiterating the White House message, referred to American companies – saying they should not inadvertently fuel authoritarian practices.

“President Biden has affirmed that ‘American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism.’ This commitment includes ensuring that U.S. companies are not inadvertently fueling authoritarian practices, stemming the proliferation and use of new technological tools for repression, and giving citizens tools to improve their digital security,” the spokesperson told The Hindu via email.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 3:27:26 am |