A report by Amnesty International claims that Pegasus spyware was used to unlawfully snoop on over 50,000 people around the world. India’s opposition parties and media organisations have demanded an independent probe into “snoop gate”, while the Indian government has denied allegations.
Indian Army officials, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) were potential targets for surveillance, a report revealed on Monday.
The phone numbers of former BSF head K.K. Sharma, BSF Inspector General of Police Jagdish Maithani, retired senior RAW official Jitendra Kumar Ojha and his wife were allegedly targeted by the military-grade Israeli spyware system Pegasus. The Indian Army’s Colonel Mukul Dev and Colonel Amit Kumar also feature in the ‘Project Pegasus’ database.
According to reports published by a media consortium, the ‘Pegasus’ spyware was used by a client of Israeli firm NSO to snoop on 300 Indian phone numbers, including journalists, politicians, government officials, activists and bureaucrats.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest rival Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker Abhishek Banerjee, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, federal Information and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Jal Shakti Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, and former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa were some of the prominent names that featured in the list.
The Israeli-based cyber company NSO Group, which developed ‘Pegasus’ and sold it to foreign governments, has denied the involvement of the spyware in the alleged snooping. The Indian government has denied any role in the spygate, saying “attempts were being made to malign democracy”.
Meanwhile, West Bengal state chief Mamata Banerjee has announced the creation of a two-member commission to probe the alleged snooping. Former Indian Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur would head the commission and former Calcutta High Court Justice Jyotirymay Bhattacharya is another member.