A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to develop a strategy for ensuring surveillance capabilities are not exported to foreign governments with records of human rights abuse or arbitrary detentions.
In a letter Monday coordinated by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), the lawmakers expressed “deep concern” about recent media reports indicating U.S. and foreign companies may be providing powerful capabilities to foreign governments that in turn are using them to surveil journalists, political dissidents and U.S. citizens.
They cited one Reuters account in which a U.S. company, CyberPoint International, allegedly used the expertise of former National Security Agency personnel to develop hacking and surveillance tools for the United Arab Emirates.
Other reports described how the Israel-based company NSO Group sold its Pegasus software to governments, including Mexico, which have then allegedly used the tool to target journalists, activists and their family members.
CyberPoint has said it was not involved in any improper actions. NSO Group says it subjects its clients to an internal ethics review and does not tolerate misuse of its products.
Legislation probably will be needed, the lawmakers said. They included Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Intelligence Committee chairman, and panel members Will Hurd (R-Tex.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and André Carson (D-Ind.); Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and panel member Colin Allred (D-Tex.); and Armed Services Committee members Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.).