The secret contract was finalized Nov. 8, 2021, a deal between a company that has acted as a front for the United States government and the American affiliate of a notorious Israeli hacking firm.

Under the arrangement, the Israeli firm, NSO Group, gave the U.S. government access to one of its most powerful weapons — a geolocation tool that can covertly track mobile phones around the world without the phone users’ knowledge or consent.

If the veiled nature of the deal was unusual — it was signed for the front company by a businessperson using a fake name — the timing was extraordinary.