NSO Group: Investigative Reporters Are Investigating

July 27, 2021

What happens when one puts a family of beavers (the furry animals once prized for hats) in what remains of the Chrysler Building in Midtown? Well, those beavers will try to build a dam. What do investigative reporters do from more than a dozen newspapers enthralled by the NSO Group intelware story? The answer, gentle reader, is investigate.

What’s been made public in the last few days?

There were a handful of data nuggets I found mildly interesting; for example:

  • The very wonderful UK Daily Mail reported that NSO Group “spent millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists, consultants, and lawyers, as it tried to sell its Pegasus spyware to the US government.” One name disclosed in the article was Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security. The estimable Daily Mail notes that the Washington Post knew this factoid too. The Daily Mail added, that NSO Group retained “The Who’s Who of government figures runs through at least three administrations.” The money flowed from OSY Technologies and Francisco Partners, which once owned NSO Group.
  • Mashable published “QAnon Believers Don’t Know How to Handle Michael Flynn’s Ties to Spyware Firm Behind Pegasus.” In addition to the QAnon trigger word, the Mashable story noted, “Edward Snowden is call it [Pegasus] the story of the year.” Mashable reported: “Many QAnon followers still don’t exactly know what to make of the news. Some seemed to accept the idea that this “doesn’t look good” for Flynn.”
  • Axios (via Yahoo News) reported that Francisco Partners “…The firm finally exited NSO in early 2019, selling it back to the [NSO Group] company’s founders and London-based private equity firm Novalpina, which pledged “a new model for public transparency. Since then, NSO has become the pulsing heart of a dispute between the partners of Novalpina. And, in an ironic twist, it involves leaked WhatsApp messages and a lawsuit against one of the newspapers that later became part of the Pegasus consortium.”

My hunch is that the investigative reporters will continue just like the hypothetical beavers. Beavers were skinned by intrepid traders. Will the investigative reporters find themselves in a similar business process? Flipping stones with the NSO Group logo stenciled on them may reveal some surprises.

Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2021

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