New Delhi: The matter of snooping of thousands of phones using the Pegasus software has rocked the entire world. Now, with the monsoon session in progress, the issue is expected to snowball. On Monday, AAP MP Sanjay Azad raised the issue and gave an adjournment notice, calling for discussion on the report.
Israeli surveillance company NSO may claim that its Pegasus software is intended for use only against terrorists and criminals, but investigation has revealed that the software’s penetration is deeper and wider than believed.
The investigation into the data, obtained by Amnesty International and Paris-based Forbidden Stories, is a collaborative one involving 17 media organizations, including The Wire in India.
The first part of the investigation was released late on Sunday, according to which
38 Indian journalists, three top Opposition leaders, one Constitutional authority, an SC judge, many businessmen and two of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s own Cabinet ministers have been spied upon.
NSO has clarified that it sells Pegasus only to “vetted” governments. This has raised several questions on the Modi-led central government.
The latter has called the investigation a ‘fishing expedition’ with no concrete basis or truth in the claim that there was government surveillance on certain people.
Congress MP in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Roy said he would raise the issue in the House.
According to a report by Guardian, one of the 17 investigating agencies, data leaked from the company contain a list of over 50,000 phone numbers of people supposedly of interest to NSO’s clients, collected since 2016.
This software allows the company to intercept all communication from the target’s phone, including stored files and messages, location logs, microphone, camera, etc.
The numbers could either have already been under surveillance or could be potential targets.
The list has numbers of over 180 journalists worldwide. Upon forensic examination of 67 of these phones, Amnesty International had found 23 of them hacked and 14 showing signs of attempted hacking.
Govt under scanner
Calling for an independent probe, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “GoI has denied resorting to unauthorised surveillance. The question this raises is, if #Pegasus is only sold to governments, which other govts (China/Pak?) are using it to snoop on prominent Indian citizens? Shouldn’t the authorities call for an independent investigation?”
The Press Club of India condemned the spying incident. “This is the first time in the history of this country that all pillars of our democracy — judiciary, Parliamentarians, media, executives & ministers — have been spied upon. This is unprecedented and the PCI condemns unequivocally. The snooping has been done for ulterior motives,” it said in a tweet.
“What is disturbing is that a foreign agency, which has nothing to do with national interest of the country, was engaged to spy on its citizens. This breeds distrust and will invite anarchy. The Govt should come out clean on this front and clarify,” it added.
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