Editorial

Another snoopgate

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/21/2021 2:02:13 PM IST

 Not only the opposition parties but also media and prominent personalities in India were outraged after a conglomerate of news organisations across the world published reports claiming that the Israeli spyware, Pegasus, was used to spy on journalists, politicians and other prominent citizens. Pegasus software is developed by the Israeli company-NSO (Niv,Shalev and Omri-names of the firm’s founders). The software Pegasus is a spyware that enables the remote surveillance of smartphones. The Pegasus spyware is classified as a weapon by Israel and any export of the technology must be approved by the Israeli government. A report published on Sunday, ahead of the ongoing Monsoon Session of parliament , stated that Pegasus was used to hack the phones of around 300 Indians, including journalists, politicians, Opposition leaders and even a few ministers of the Centre. The report has further claimed that most of these prominent individuals were targeted between 2018 and 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. As soon as the report came out, the Opposition attacked the Centre as the Israeli firm behind Pegasus has always maintained that the software is only sold to governments and not to private players. The opposition demanded immediate discussion in the lower and upper houses but the government refused. This led to disruption as Parliament on the second consecutive day Tuesday. The Trinamool Congress vowed that it will continue to disrupt Parliament till the government comes clean on the charges of snooping and surveillance. Trinamul MPs also protested near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament courtyard after the name of its Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee and of poll strategist Prashant Kishor came up. According to media reports on Tuesday, Pegasus spyware was used to bring down the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka in 2019. Reports suggest that the phone numbers of opposition leaders such as then chief minister Kumaraswamy Gowda, Siddaramaiah and deputy chief minister G.Parameshwara and their assistants were tapped through use of Pegasus. The portal scroll.in, indicated that India was indeed a client and user of the spyware, since the NSO Group has stated several times that it only sells its spyware to “vetted governments.” It also said researchers at Citizen Lab, the University of Toronto’s cyber-security group that has previously studied the use of Pegasus, have concluded that India is one of the company’s clients. Moreover, according to the Guardian, “the selection of Indian numbers largely commenced around the time of Modi’s 2017 trip to Israel, the first visit to the country by an Indian prime minister and a marker of the burgeoning relationship between the two states, including billions of dollars in deals between Delhi and Israeli defence industries”. This is significant because Pegasus is classified as a cyber weapon and any export must be approved by the Israeli Defence Ministry. Interestingly, sacked former union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who was minister of communication(2019-2021), electronics & information technology(2016-2021),law and justice(2016-2021) and who should have known something about it, has come out strongly in defence of the government. The only defence that is credible will be if it is probed by a joint parliamentary committee or a committee headed by a sitting judge of the apex court. 

 

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