Big names had been revealed as the potential targets of the Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’ in the second set of explosives revelations by the Wire on Monday, the names revealed were of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, and the new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
In the most recent installment of the Pegasus report, it had been alleged that at least two mobile phone accounts that were used by Rahul Gandhi were amongst the other 300 other verified Indian numbers which were listed as the potential targets by the NSO Group, an Indian client of the Israeli surveillance technology vendor.
During the National elections of mid-2018 to mid-2019, the numbers of Mr. Rahul Gandhi were selected for the targeting, and in reaction, the Congress had accused the government of listening to their bedroom conversations.
The target included Prahlad Patel, and Ashwini Vaishnaw, the two Union Ministers. Mr. Vaishnaw had joined as the IT Minister for the PM Modi’s cabinet recently, whereas he had appeared to be a target for surveillance since 2017 when he was neither a minister nor an MP.
Earlier today, the government was defended by Mr. Vaishnaw by saying that there had been no substance behind the sensational claims and it was of no coincidence that the news came just a day prior to the start of the monsoon session of the parliament. He added saying that many allegations were made over a sensational story published on a web portal the previous night and the press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of the Parliament and it could not be of any coincidence and there was no substance to the claims made in the story.
Mr. Prashant Kishore had worked with political clients opposed to the BJP ever since the party first came into power in 2014. He was credited with the role in the victories of Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and also for MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu.
Dissenting opinions were made by Ashok Lavasa, a former Election Commissioner, in regards to the election body’s ruling on the complaints against PM Modi and Amit Shah during the 2019 national election campaign, however, he never took a stop to attend the meetings saying that the minority decisions had been suppressed in a manner contrary to the well-established conventions observed by the multi membered statutory body.
On the NSO database, 40 other Indian Journalists and constitutional authorities were available on it as people of interest ever since 2016, aside from the many key politicians already connected to the database.
The data from the Wire analysis showed most of the names were targeted between 2018 and 2019, but there has not been enough proof to suggest that all the phones were hacked during the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections.
The NSO Group, the Israeli company, the seller of Pegasus, had denied the allegations and claimed that it only offered spyware to the vetted governments and it had considered getting a defamation lawsuit. Forensic tests were conducted on some of the phones associated with the target numbers which revealed the clear signs of targeting by the Pegasus spyware.
The report of the scandal was based on a leaked database accessed by the Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International that was shared with the host of the publications around the world for a collaborative investigation.
According to the reports of the Wire, the numbers on the list were identified of India, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Rwanda, and the US.