Top US court seeks Biden input on lawsuit against Israel’s NSO | Cybersecurity News
The US Supreme Court wants the administration of President Joe Biden to review whether the NSO Group has sovereign immunity from civil lawsuits in US courts to assess whether a WhatsApp lawsuit against whether the Israeli spyware company can proceed or not.
Lawyers for NSO Group have 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, a United States Court of Appeals rejected the NSO Corporation’s attempt to assert legal immunity, but on Monday the top US court asked the US Department of Justice to “submit a summary in this case expressing its position of the United States”.
WhatsApp – owned by Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) – is suing NSO Group for allegedly targeting their servers in California with malware to gain unauthorized access to approximately 1,400 mobile devices. violate U.S. federal and state laws.
The Israeli company sparked outrage from human rights groups after an investigation in 2021 by international media revealed its Pegasus spyware has been used by security forces and authoritarian governments in several countries.
Last year, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the lower court’s decision to allow WhatsApp’s case to proceed, noting that NSO group do not qualify for sovereign immunity even if their clients are foreign government agencies.
“NSO states that it should enjoy extended immunity to sovereign states because it provides technology to be used for law enforcement purposes, and law enforcement is a sovereign function.” inherent,” Judge Danielle Forrest, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in the ruling.
“Anything that NSO’s government customers do with its technology and services does not make NSO an ‘agency or instrument of a foreign state,’ as Congress has defined the term. Therefore, the NSO is not protected from foreign sovereign immunity”.
NSO Group has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. In a submission to the highest court in May, the company’s lawyers called the appeals judges’ decision “dangerously wrong”.
“Prohibiting private entities from seeking immunity based on common practice will not only prevent foreign governments from contracting with private entities,” the NSO Group attorney wrote.
“It would also hamper the ability of the United States to protect national security, as the government relies heavily on private contractors to provide the technology and expertise needed to defend the nation against threats.” from abroad and at home”.
In its initial legal complaint, WhatsApp accused the Israeli company of violating its terms of service and undermining the messaging platform’s “reputation, public trust and goodwill” with hacking activity.
Last year, the Biden administration punished NSO Group – added it to the “Entity List” of companies deemed to be engaged in activities contrary to US foreign policy and national security – after accusing it of allowing “the transnational pressure” with its spyware.
WhatsApp’s lawyers cited the sanctions in a Supreme Court filing earlier this year, urging the judges to ignore the Israeli company’s request to review the court’s decision. lower judgment.
“The United States has determined that NSO spyware activities – the type of activity for which NSO seeks immunity – are contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States, and therefore added NSO on Entity List restricts export, re-export, and transfer of items by covered entities,” wrote WhatsApp attorneys.
“Even if private legal entities are eligible for common law foreign sovereign immunity (which they do not), a company on the List of Legal Entities will have no legitimate claim to that immunity.”
NSO Group regularly denies 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 refuted the findings of investigation into Pegasus, based on a major data leak, is considered an “untested theory”.
But rights groups, including Amnesty Internationalaccused the group of negating its “human rights responsibilities”, calling on the Israeli government to revoke the company’s license.