Pegasus Project || French Head Of State “Emmanuel Macron” Was Also The Target Of Pegasus Espionage
Morocco infiltrated one of the personal mobiles of the President of the Republic France, Emmanuel Macron, through the Pegasus program of the Israeli company NSO. Elíseo sources have reacted immediately: “If confirmed, it is obviously very serious . “All the light will be made on these press disclosures” add the same sources in reference to the information revealed by Radio France and a consortium made up of 16 media.
The target phone of the infiltration is one of the personal mobiles of the French head of state . You use it for private communications but sometimes also for business calls. Although it is his personal mobile, it is periodically checked by the French spy services and all his messages are encrypted. According to the Parisian evening newsman, Macron used that phone from 2017 until recent times and it is in fact one of the two iPhones that appear in his official photo.
Telephone numbers that belonged to then-Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, his wife and up to 14 cabinet ministers are also listed by a Moroccan state security service to be potentially hacked after being infiltrated with the Pegasus system.
The program, manufactured by the Israeli company NSO, allows you to suck up all the content of a mobile phone, from messages, emails, photos, to addresses and even listen to their conversations without its owner noticing . The Israeli firm maintains, however, that “Emmanuel Macron has not been and is not a target of NSO clients.”
Read also: Pegasus spy program & Jamal Khashoggi
The Moroccan kingdom has been a client of the Israeli company for several years and uses the espionage system intensively, which is only sold to states and in theory should be used to fight crime. According to Le Monde , the country of Mohamed VI had among its lists more than 10,000 numbers, of which 10% correspond to French users.
They don’t just belong to members of the executive. They are also among the targets to spy on the mobiles of leaders and deputies of the extreme right, the center, the government party, the socialists or the extreme left. In addition to being politicians, Moroccan espionage targets would include the rector of the Paris mosque and even the former head of the central directorate for internal security . The Moroccan government on Monday called the journalistic consortium relations “liars.”
The denial of the Alawite government, however, runs up against reality . For example, the then Minister of Ecological Transition, François de Rugy, has lent his mobile for a check. On July 16, 2019, at 8:40 a.m., you received a message associated with the Gmail account “berger.o79”. Behind her are the Moroccan espionage services that the day before had tried, without success, to infect the minister’s cell phone twice. Analyzed by the Security Lab of Amnesty International, the infiltration is verified. Former Minister Rugy, who resigned that same day haunted by revelations of lavish dinners at his ministry, has requested an audience with the Moroccan ambassador to France and has asked the Office of the Public Prosecutor to investigate the case.
It will be difficult for Rabat to evade the action of the French Justice. Mediapart, an informational website, has filed a lawsuit after two of its journalists were among the 180 spied on. Le Canard Enchainé and one of his former collaborators, who today holds the position of inspector general of prisons, will also present lawsuits.
The same system has been employed by governments around the world such as Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, and even an EU state such as Hungary to snoop into conversations and other exchanges of journalists , dissidents and disaffected. The wave of outrage is worldwide.
Indeed, this is Emmanuel Macron’s cell phone number. The French President still uses them today. It is found in the midst of thousands of other phone numbers, all from the same data leak. A leak that suggests who the secret services and police forces of several states wanted to eavesdrop and monitor.
The numbers were apparently collected from customers of the Israeli cyber company NSO around the world. They have all acquired a license from NSO to use the powerful Pegasus spy tool, which after a successful attack turns its owner’s cell phone into a surveillance device: sound, images, text, user behavior, movement, location, time, connections to other cell phones, everything is picked up, stored and passed on. An international journalist consortium, coordinated by the Forbidden Stories association and technically supported by Amnesty International’s Security Lab, could evaluate the lists with the numbers. Lo and behold: someone apparently wanted to spy on the French president.
Shortly before we went to press, we received a statement from NSO: The company explicitly denies that any of its customers had ever targeted Macron. But from the data it can be concluded that his cell phone number was selected for possible surveillance in March 2019. By whom? The analysis of the data also provides information on this: there is a high probability that someone is in the Moroccan security apparatus. Will the French accept that? That — and a lot more?
The journalist consortium counted over 10,000 phone numbers that were apparently selected as potential targets for a spying attack in Morocco. A good 100 of the numbers start with +33, which is the area code for France . Several owners of such connections allowed the journalists’ consortium to carry out a technical examination of their cell phones. Some of the devices had peculiarities that strongly suggest an attack using NSO software called Pegasus.
When asked by the consortium, the Moroccan government simply replied that it had “categorically rejected” similar allegations in the past. In a public statement, she threatened with “appropriate measures against the lying allegations”.
But is it even conceivable that a nuclear power like France, whose security apparatus is highly professional, could be attacked in this way? It’s not just a technical question. Emmanuel Macron , highly networked, tech-savvy, is a passionate communicator. His official portrait shows two iPhones that he had placed in the background by hand before the recording, as can be seen on a PR video from the Elysée. The iPhones are not intended for the communication of state secrets, but there are other devices that are bulky and not as elegant to use as a chic Apple device.
And so everyone in the Paris Presidential Palace uses normal smartphones. “They know they’re dangerous,” says a former security expert at Elysée Le Monde , “but they do it anyway, either out of negligence or because they tell themselves that no one would dare to hack into the French President’s phones . “ There is also a lot of politics going on about Macron’s iPhones. If the Moroccans managed to sneak into a smartphone of the president with the help of Pegasus, then they should have heard pretty much everything that was going on around Macron. Finally, the microphone of mobile phones can also be activated with Pegasus.
Other numbers with the area code +33 also revealed surprises. Macron’s former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe was selected as a possible target of a Pegasus attack during his tenure, and his wife Édith Chabre as well. The same thing happened to the majority of ministers in the French cabinet, high-ranking French diplomats, members of the National Assembly and the President’s Africa adviser.
But why Morocco of all places, and why France? The noticeable accumulation of Moroccan entries during a few weeks in early spring 2019 provides an indication. At that time the Elysée was preparing a meeting of the G5 Sahel; this is a coordination of states in the Sahel region, the main purpose of which is the fight against terrorism. There was also an African Union summit. Macron traveled to their headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to meet African heads of state. Cell phone numbers of some of these Macron interlocutors are also found in the data leak.
A good 60 years after the end of the French colonial regime, Paris is still pursuing an intensive policy on Africa. The motive is security interests and the appetite for strategic resources of the continent. Around 1,100 French companies are present there. Among the foreign investments in Morocco, the French take first place. And in no country in Africa does France invest more than there. Morocco, in turn, has the right to become the gateway to the countries of the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions. The kingdom is the second largest investor on the continent after South Africa.
The Alawid dynasty has ruled the country for 350 years, even if Morocco was under French and Spanish protectorate for a few decades; this period ended in 1956. The country is considered politically stable, which is all the more remarkable given that its environment is notoriously restless: Algeria, wavering from crisis to crisis, ruled authoritarian and having a bloody civil war behind it; the young and unstable Tunisian democracy and finally the Sahel, which is being eaten away by jihadism and gangsterism. The entire region, including Morocco, is a hotbed of terrorism, which has also struck Europe, particularly in France.
All of this means that a Paris-Rabat alliance is almost imposing. France and Morocco maintain close relations, are allies in the fight against terrorism and in the defense against illegal migration to Europe.
The NSO Group insists on a letter to the journalists’ consortium that their softwareserve to fight gangsterism and terrorism. The company also stated that it does not have “access to the data of its customers’ target persons”. That is all well and good, but Morocco is a monarchical despotism, not a constitutional state. It is not law and order that control the activities of the secret services, but King Mohammed VI. and his security chief Abdellatif Hammouchi. In such hands, software that can turn cell phones into multi-sensors is an all-purpose weapon. It can even turn against its owner: among the numbers that appear to have been entered in Morocco, there are also connections of members of the royal family, the cell phone numbers of the king’s closest friends — and even his own number. Now there is wild speculation about palace intrigues.
The politically more explosive question, however, is: Why should Rabat want to use Pegasus to spy on the cell phones of French politicians? In the secret area of his most important European ally?
The motive is likely to be the one very big conflict that Rabat pursues obsessively: the Western Sahara . The region was once a Spanish colony. Today Morocco occupies most of the area on the Atlantic Ocean. Huge phosphate deposits can be found here. The United Nations has so far insisted in vain that the local population should decide in a referendum on the status of Western Sahara and its eventual independence. That is also the position of the European Union.
The Saharan independence movement Front Polisario ended the almost 30-year truce with Morocco in November last year. Rabat reacted all the more annoyed that Spain allowed the Polisario leader Brahim Gali to enter the country for a hospital stay. Moroccan police then allowed thousands of migrants to swim through the sea to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.
Refugees are a means of exerting pressure on the royal family that regularly crosses over with the EU, currently mainly with Spain and Germany. With France too? Not at all. France officially supports the EU’s position. But in the background a large number of French politicians from left to right keep shaking it, including those from the government camp. France, with Germany the first power in Europe, is the key to the kingdom’s foreign policy. What goes on behind the scenes in Paris wants, no: Rabat has to know.
This is where Pegasus comes in handy. And while you’re at it, you can also use the spyware in the EU to ask around, which explains Rabat’s interest in another person: Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister until 2019 and President of the European Council since last December. His number was also entered. Michel told the journalists’ consortium: “We were aware of this threat and had taken measures to limit the risks.”
Western Sahara is Morocco’s foreign policy fetish. A symbol of national prestige. The obsession of the Moroccan services apparently goes so far that the cell phones of outspoken friends of the royal family are also selected for possible surveillance. For example, François de Rugy’s iPhone showed traces of an attack preparation from Morocco. The traces come from his time as Environment Minister Macron. De Rugy was visibly disappointed when Le Monde editors told him about it. Hadn’t he met the king personally years ago and always praised him over the green clover afterwards? Didn’t he have Donald Trump’s decision to make Western Sahara Moroccan in January 2021 to recognize, celebrated in the Assemblée nationale as “good news for all partners of Morocco”, “including France”?
In any case, in early spring 2019, the Pegasus fever seems to have broken out in Morocco’s security apparatus. A number of Algerian phone numbers were also selected as potential targets. Algeria is the eternal opponent of Morocco and supports the Polisario in particular. In those weeks Algeria’s power apparatus was shaken vigorously, there was a smell of coup and the masses demonstrated against the repressive system. The news circulated that the former UN envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian, would be tasked with mediating the transfer of power from President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika to his successor. It didn’t come to that, but Brahimi’s phone number was found before. Also two numbers from Ramtame Lamamra, once and now again foreign minister of Algeria and someone.
Journalists and lawyers were also apparently targeted from Morocco. They work in Morocco, France and elsewhere, uncovering human rights violations by the regime or defending their victims, criticizing corruption and autocracy and not shy away from the most sensitive issue, Western Sahara. In ten French cases, their iPhones contained traces of Pegasus, as the consortium was able to research. Some of those affected have filed a complaint, the Paris prosecutor is investigating.
There is evidence that Dominique Simmonot’s cell phone was attacked at a time when she was still working as a journalist. In an interview, she expressed her indignation: “I don’t know what exactly they took. That’s what drives me crazy. That drives me crazy. How did these people manage to access mine to get whole life? “ The case shows, says Simonnot, “that there are governments who believe that journalists are dangerous and that they have to be spied on”.
This is especially the case in Morocco. In particular, anyone who publicly doubts Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara must expect to be sentenced to heavy sentences. That was already under the draconian regime of Mohammed VI’s father. so, King Hassan II. After his death in 1999, his son let the reins a little looser, the press got a little bolder, but not for long. When the dictator Ben Ali was chased away in neighboring Tunisia in 2011, the ruler in Rabat was already keeping the media on a short leash again.
But something has changed, as a Moroccan human rights activist says, who has to remain anonymous: “In the past, you were persecuted for disrespect to the king, for example. It boiled down to this: We punish you for what you write. That was clear , it went against free speech. “ But then other types of allegations arose: endangering the security of the state, espionage. “And finally you came up with sexual violence. The government had learned its lesson. Morocco wants to be a moderate, open country that does not attack its journalists head-on.” In order to support such accusations, however, points of contact are needed in reality. Affair or willing witness, visiting porn websites, for example. And this is where telephone surveillance comes in, says the human rights activist. An infected cell phone reveals pretty much everything its owner does.
Joseph Breham, a human rights lawyer in Paris, is one of the victims of a Pegasus attack. He too would file a complaint, he said after a request from the journalists’ consortium, “and then the ball is in the field of French justice and politics. So far the government has tended to cover the activities of Morocco, and one has the feeling that the border between Moroccan and French authorities are very porous. But there is no justification for wiretapping a French lawyer. Now the judiciary must investigate seriously and persistently and must not hesitate to impose sanctions, such as an arrest warrant against Abdellatif Hammouchi “- that is, against the king’s security chief.
Is it even possible that the French domestic intelligence service was unaware of these activities? Over the past few years, it has expanded to around 5,000 employees, including translators and IT specialists, in order to monitor communications from terrorists. For example, they evaluated the Telegram messages from terror suspects and worked closely with secret services from the USA and Israel, Germany and Morocco. You know each other. The kingdom also wants to play an ambitious role in the fight against terrorism that France is waging in the Sahel. But that French telephones were accessed from Morocco, was it not noticed? After all, a former Macron security advisor replied to the journalists’ consortium, that experts discovered suspicious traces on his cell phone after a visit to Morocco. However, this information could not be checked.
In any case, there are no orphans in the French security apparatus. Last year, together with Dutch investigators, they infiltrated a server in northern France for crypto cell phones that were widely used in criminal circles. No, there is no lack of relevant knowledge. Especially since the existence of Pegasus is well known in French intelligence circles.
In an interview, a long-time security expert, whose advice is eagerly sought, said: “Where do the Saudis turn when they want to hijack cell phones? To private companies in Israel!” At this point in time, the man did not yet know anything about the research carried out by the journalists’ association. And that publicly expressed friendship precludes spying is a fairy tale for him anyway. He recalls how French President Nicolas Sarkozy courted the Libyan dictator Gaddafi: “At the same time, recordings of telephone conversations by French politicians were collected in Tripoli. These were discovered after Gaddafi was overthrown.”
The dictator could no longer be held accountable. But what about the king? How will Paris react to cell phones hijacking its services in France? Or will the strategic interests weigh more heavily?
It is not a pure matter of reason. France has an emotional bond with Morocco. It has something to do with decolonization. One has almost come to terms with the anti-colonial revolution of Algeria, but what has remained is the post-colonial crush on the Maghreb, i.e. the regions of North Africa. France’s literature is full of it. In the Maghreb, however, only Morocco comes into question as a place of longing. Algeria, Libya and also crisis-ridden Tunisia are far less suitable for this than the centuries-old kingdom. The royal family knows how to use this, tourists from France are one of the country’s most important sources of income.
France’s politicians, media princes and television intellectuals in particular often visit the country, and many of them own villas and palaces there. The royal court is happy to invite you, and generously. Nicolas Sarkozy spent his holidays in the palaces of Mohammed VI, as did the socialist cultural politician Jack Lang. Festivals and so-called symposia are also popular among the Parisian elite from right to left, and their royal program is the real magnet. There is enough money, the king is a multi-billionaire. At court, absolute domination and unimaginable wealth come together with their side effects: corruption and favoritism, which are everyday talk in Morocco. In particular, the royal family owns an economic empire called Al Mada, which controls pretty much all of the country’s industries.
Of course you also get something. Praise to the king, home stories with photo series in the Paris Match photo sheet , the tireless lobbying work of the two French-Moroccan friendship societies in Parliament and Senate, as well as the steadfast, patient activity of French diplomats who secretly recognize Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara.
Cuddling with the king has long been an embarrassment for the republic, which celebrated the storming of the Bastille just a few days ago. There is now strong evidence that Morocco’s security guards have targeted France’s president. And not just him. The next few days will show how much self-respect France has. Until it was published, the French government refused to comment. Then, on Tuesday evening, the Elysée wrote: “If the facts are true, they are obviously.
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Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.