Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The White House National Security Council on Wednesday announced that it plans to review any attempted takeover of foreign commercial surveillance software by an American company, on suspicion that the deal might pose a “counterintelligence threat” to US security. The announcement followed a Guardian’s revelation that Hollywood film producer Robert Simonds was interested in buying NSO Group, the Israeli maker of the most sophisticated cyber-weapons in the world.

According to the Guardian, Simonds was recently made head of a Luxembourg-based holding company that controls NSO and is planning a takeover of some NSO assets, such as the spyware Pegasus, and gain exclusive rights to sell it in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Hollywood film producer Robert Simonds. / Alex Berliner

Back in 2021, NSO was placed on a US blacklist by the Biden administration, which claimed it had evidence that the Israeli company was enabling “foreign governments to conduct transnational repression,” with the malicious targeting of government officials, journalists, activists, business executives, and anyone else on the planet who owns a smartphone.

Should Simonds attempt to procure NSO’s assets, he would be met with stiff resistance from Israel’s security apparatus. Also, the use of Pegasus by Israel Police has been suspended pending a review of its illegal use against law-abiding citizens through the intentional misleading of the courts.

An NSC spokesperson told the Guardian that the Biden administration is concerned that NSO Group’s espionage tools posed a “serious counterintelligence and security risk to US personnel and systems.”

He added: “Any US company should be aware that a transaction with a foreign entity on the entity list will not automatically remove the designated entity from the entity list. It may also prompt a review of whether the acquisition gives rise to a counterintelligence threat to the US government and its systems and information, whether other US equities may be at risk, and to what extent a foreign entity or government retains a degree of access or control.”

According to Deadline Hollywood, in 2014, Simonds, 59, founded and became the chairman of STX Entertainment, which creates, produces, distributes, finances, and markets film, television, digital media, virtual reality, and live events.

According to the Wall Street Journal, STX bridges the gap between China and the US, with additional partnerships around the globe, and in its first four years, Simonds more than tripled STX’s valuation to an estimated $3.5 billion.

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