An Iranian Plot Grew in Brooklyn, and the Revelations about Pegasus

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Manage episode 298399551 series 94072
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The indictment reads like a not-so-great spy novel: the operatives would kidnap the dissident from her home in Brooklyn, deliver her to the waterfront to meet a speedboat, bring her by sea to Venezuela, and then move her on to Tehran—where she would, presumably, face a show trial, and perhaps execution. But this was no potboiler. The Iranian nationals charged in the indictment were allegedly researching an audacious plot to capture a naturalized American citizen, on U.S. soil. The target of the scheme was Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist who has been critical of the Iranian theocracy and particularly vocal in speaking out against the compulsory wearing of hijab; she has a large following on social media and a show on Voice of America. Her brother has been jailed in Iran, and her sister was forced to renounce her on television. The F.B.I. took the threat to Alinejad seriously enough to sequester her and her husband, Kambiz Foroohar, in a series of safe houses, where they stayed for months. Alinejad and Foroohar spoke about their ordeal with David Remnick, and explained why the regime regards her as such a threat. “For Iran, hijab is like the Berlin Wall was to the Soviet system,” Foroohar points out. “The narrative of the Islamic Republic was that women are choosing to wear hijab, and Masih is challenging that narrative.” Plus, the revelations about Pegasus. Marketed as a tool against terrorism, the spyware was also deployed by governments against journalists and activists. Isaac Chotiner interviews one of the targets, the Indian journalist and scholar Siddharth Varadarajan.

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