Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) remains silent on its use of Pegasus spyware, citing potential risks to its criminal prosecution capabilities. This stance follows revelations of the spyware infecting Meduza publisher Galina Timchenko’s phone. The BKA had previously admitted to purchasing the controversial tool, which has been criticized for targeting journalists and activists.
Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has declined to discuss its use of Pegasus spyware, citing concerns over diminishing its capabilities for criminal prosecution. Developed by Israeli company NSO Group, Pegasus is a surveillance tool purportedly licensed only to state clients. The BKA’s refusal to answer questions from Meduza (a Russian- and English-language independent news website, headquartered in Riga, Latvia, founded in 2014) follows the revelation of Meduza publisher Galina Timchenko’s phone being infected with Pegasus while she was in Berlin.
In September 2021, the BKA acknowledged purchasing NSO’s surveillance spyware. Pegasus has sparked controversy due to its use against journalists and activists. The German Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that spyware can only be used in special cases, typically against terrorists and dangerous criminals. The BKA’s silence has raised questions about the transparency and accountability of surveillance tools usage by governments.
The BKA, Bundeskriminalamt, established in 1951, has evolved in response to changing forms of crime and technological advancements. It has focused on international cooperation, battling terrorism, and addressing the growth of international drug trafficking and organized crime. The reunification of Germany and the rise of information and communications technology have posed new challenges for the agency, necessitating adjustments in its working methods and organizational structures.
The news of Timchenko being surveilled has intensified media criticism regarding the lack of transparency and accountability in governmental use of surveillance tools like Pegasus. Researchers from Access Now and Citizen Lab confirmed the spyware’s installation on Timchenko’s phone, highlighting the risks journalists face. The incident underscores the ongoing debate about balancing national security needs with individual privacy rights.