Pegasus spyware: Congress says buck stops at PM Modi’s door

NEW DELHI: The Congress party on Saturday pounced on a New York Times report, which has claimed that India bought Pegasus spyware from Israel as part of a defence deal worth $2 billion in 2017.

The NYT report seems to reinforce a claim made in a report carried by a news portal ‘The Wire’ in July 2021. The portal had claimed that names of several Opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, and over 40 Indian journalists figure on a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware.

The Congress party asserted on Saturday that “the Modi Government was the deployer and executor of the illegal and unconstitutional snooping and spying racket and Prime Minister Modi himself was involved.”

“This is a brazen hijack of democracy and an act of treason,” Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge and AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala told a press conference here.

They asserted that there were five damning truths.

1. The Modi Government allegedly purchased Pegasus Spyware in 2017 and other military technology as the “centrepieces” of a package, including “weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion” from Israel during PM Modi’s visit.

2. Pegasus spyware not only breaches the Whats App as also the phone but is able to turn over the cell phone camera and microphone to capture all activities in the vicinity of the phone, besides hacking all the security features of the phone, including listening to, and sending passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages; and it can also plant fake material into the cell phone to falsely incriminate people.

3. The Modi Government also allegedly duped and deceived Parliament. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav had attacked the reports of India’s Pegasus use as “baseless” and “highly sensational.” Also, the Home Ministry had allegedly deceived people by denying the purchase of Pegasus in response to an RTI query and even Defence Minister and his ministry are on record misleading Parliament by denying purchase of Pegasus spyware from NSO.

4. The Modi government allegedly misled the Supreme Court which directly questioned it on the purchase and use of the questionable software in its sworn affidavit.

5. The BJP machinery had allegedly engaged in a massive and coordinated strategy to dupe and betray the Indian public. Home Minister Amit Shah went a step further and deployed the usual strategy of false propaganda claiming the report on Pegasus was a “report by the disrupters for the obstructers.”

Several journalists, who were allegedly on the potential list of snoop targets, approached the Supreme Court along with The Editors Guild of India (EGI). The Supreme Court, had in October last year, formed a technical committee to probe the Pegasus spyware case.