The Washington Post has joined Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, in the Pegasus Project, an investigation into the use of military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals. Forensic analysis showed that this spyware was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and the two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to a list of more than 50,000 numbers and shared it with the 16 partner news organizations, which did further research and analysis. The project will roll out over a span of four days, from July 18-21, 2021.

More information from Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee:

Today The Washington Post is joining news organizations across the globe to bring you an important story. Digital surveillance pervades our society, and new technologies offer more power than ever to track every aspect of our daily lives. The danger of abuse has never been greater. In most countries, there are no effective rules or standards limiting private companies that sell surveillance technology to governments or others.

That is why we have devoted extraordinary resources to joining the Pegasus Project.

NSO says the list of more than 50,000 numbers probably shows nothing more than the innocent gathering of data for business purposes, not surveillance. It says the Pegasus Project’s findings are flawed and baseless. It cites confidentiality obligations in not identifying its clients and says it does not know the specifics of their intelligence gathering.

One of the experts we quote in our report states the problem plainly: “Humanity is not in a place where we can have that much power just accessible to anybody.”

The Post is proud to take part in reporting that brings such information to light.

Read the full letter here.