Sunday, February 11, 2024

  • Sunday, February 11, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon
Axios reported last week:
The State Department will start restricting visas Monday for people who are believed to be linked to misuses of commercial spyware.

The State Department plans to decide who would fall under this category on a case-by-case basis, a senior administration official told reporters.

The visa restrictions would prevent those who have profited from or facilitated the misuse of commercial spyware from traveling to the U.S., the official added.

The timing of this announcement sure seems to indicate that this is another US salvo against Israel.

As Haaretz reports:

 The new U.S. policy may also expose Israelis active in the field to new sanctions, even if they have been acting with the approval of Israeli authorities.

Sources in the Israeli cybersecurity technology ...claimed that the American decision is an attempt by the Biden administration to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in connection with the current war in Gaza.

Though the decision is a continuation of an existing policy that began with the placing of Israeli spyware manufacturers like NSO and later Intelexa on a Biden administration blacklist, the timing of the new decision – during the war in Gaza – is "disturbing," senior industry sources say.

A number of leading figures in Israeli cyber intelligence firms all agreed that the announcement had less to do with spyware and more with sending a message to Netanyahu: "Precisely like the reports on [United States] withholding ammunition, like sanctions on [extremist Jewish] settlers, this is another case of the U.S. trying to create leverage on Israel and pressure the Netanyahu government to agree to American terms," a senior Israeli cybertechnology executive told Haaretz.

We've seen since the spyware stories started coming out in 2021 that the overwhelming amount of attention was paid to Israeli spyware companies and the fact that that they are linked to Israel, even though there are similar companies throughout Europe

The Biden administration has not banned all uses of spyware within the U.S. government — the ban only covers use cases involving companies the administration deems a threat to national security, such as Cytrox, NSO Group and others.
When the decision as to who will be sanctioned is made on a "case by case basis" that means there are no rules and no consistency in applying them. This makes this policy ripe for abuse for political purposes. In fact, politics seems to be the entire reason for this policy change right now.

This isn't a national security policy, and not a policy against all spyware as a potential vector for human rights abuses. Just like the recent anti-"settler" executive order, it is a policy to send messages of displeasure to Israel, and uses spyware as a convenient  excuse.

The messages are getting louder and clearer.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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