Fifteen journalists from the digital newspaper El Faro, from El Salvador, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Pegasus spyware in a United States federal court for the espionage suffered in the years 2020 and 2021.
The complaint was filed on November 30, against NSO Group, whom they accuse of violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which prohibits unauthorized access to computers. Formally, it was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University and asks the Court to establish that the group violated US laws, that the manufacturer identify the client who ordered the espionage and that it destroy the information extracted from the devices of the personnel of El Faro.
“We are looking for a court in another country because there is no possibility in El Salvador of obtaining justice,” said the director of El Faro, Carlos Dada. “NSO Group violated the law when they tapped the plaintiffs' phones,” said Carrie DeCell, a senior attorney at The Knight Institute.
Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyber firm NSO, in 2016. In July 2021, it made world headlines for Project Pegasus, a collaborative investigation that revealed its use to facilitate human rights violations against journalists, activists, and politicians around the world including Panama during the Martinelli administration.
Between June 2020 and November 2021, the phones of 22 members of El Faro were compromised with the program. In January 2022, the outlet published the findings of an expert opinion carried out over three months with the leadership of Citizen Lab, a specialized cybersecurity laboratory at the University of Toronto. The technical conclusion, validated by Amnesty International, was forceful: the devices of the editorial headquarters, journalists, members of the board of directors, and administrative staff of the Salvadoran newspaper was intervened with Pegasus . In total, 226 interventions occurred.