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French Media Report President Macron's Cellphone Was A Spyware Target

NOEL KING, HOST:

France's president, Emmanuel Macron, is holding an emergency meeting of his defense council today about the Pegasus spyware. He's ordering multiple investigations after reports that he and at least 15 of his ministers are among the thousands of people who may have been spied on through cellphone malware made by an Israeli company. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Emmanuel Macron.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMERA SHUTTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Non-English language spoken).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Was Emmanuel Macron spied on by the Moroccan Secret Service through his cellphone? - asks this report on French television. What is known is that Macron's number appeared on a targeted list of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers that may have been sold to clients of Israeli technology company the NSO Group, maker of spyware Pegasus. The leaked list was obtained by Amnesty International and Paris-based journalism organization Forbidden Stories. Laurent Richard is its founder.

LAURENT RICHARD: (Through interpreter) We can see that Emmanuel Macron's phone number was entered by an operator that used the NSO. And the operator is Morocco.

BEARDSLEY: Katia Roux, a lawyer with Amnesty International, explains how effective the spyware is.

KATIA ROUX: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "It gives access to the entire contents of the phone," she says, "SMS, email and Internet navigation history." And it can activate the camera and the microphone without the user knowing. The French president's office says the allegations are very grave, if true. But some are criticizing Macron for being careless. The compromised number is from an unencrypted iPhone he's been using since 2017. The Israeli company called the reports untrue. And the Moroccan government says it never spied on the French president or anybody else.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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