The Janata Dal Secular-Congress government in Karnataka was the possible target for surveillance in 2019, according to a media report. It was at this time the state was facing a major political churn, with the ruling coalition falling apart and the BJP all set to take over, which it did, finally.
In the latest revelations connected to Israeli spyware "Pegasus", The Wire reported that the phone numbers of the then deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and the personal secretaries of chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister Siddaramaiah were the possible targets for surveillance.
The report said these numbers showed up in its review of the list of numbers "of interest" to an Indian client of Israel's NSO Group, which sells its Pegasus spyware only to governments.
The numbers are part of a leaked database accessed by the French media non-profit Forbidden Stories. The information was further shared with an international media as part of what is called the Pegasus Project.
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Pegasus and a possible link to India
Pegasus, spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, can be covertly installed on mobile phones. Its use involves the crime of hacking into a smartphone under Indian law – the data, however, can be shared with governments. Neither NSO nor the Indian government has denied that India is a customer of the Israeli firm.
This period of alleged snooping also coincides with the time when Rahul Gandhi began to use a new number after discarding an earlier one, and which had been on the list of potential spyware targets since 2018, the report said.
The Congress was quick to take on the PM Narendra Modi-led government, quoting the report.
“The Modi govt used Pegasus spyware to snoop on & dismantle the Congress-JDS govt in Karnataka. This is murder of democracy. A thorough investigation must be ordered at the earliest. HM Amit Shah must resign immediately,” the Congress said in a tweet.
Taking a dig at the Modi government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also tweeted:
Attacked by the opposition over the report on the use of Israeli Pegasus spyware allegedly to target politicians, journalists, and others, Home Amit Shah hit back, calling it "a report by disrupters for the obstructers".
"Aap chronology samjhiye (understand the chronology),” the Home Minister said, alleging that the report was timed to cause disruptions in parliament.
Among the names on the list of potential targets of snooping are Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee and election strategist Prashant Kishor, and around 40 journalists. The report says over 300 numbers are from India, though there is no proof that all were hacked.