New Delhi: Reports on Israeli Pegasus spyware allegedly being used to spy on opposition leaders, two union ministers and 40 journalists among others should be investigated by a sitting or former judge, senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar have said in a petition to the Supreme Court.
The petition says the global investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 persons in India were identified as potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO's Pegasus spyware.
The petition says the Supreme Court should direct the government to disclose whether it has obtained a license for the spyware or used it - directly or indirectly - to conduct surveillance of any kind.
According to the petitioners, the forensic analysis of several mobile phones belonging to people listed as potential targets by the Security Lab of Amnesty International have confirmed security breaches.
Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers, businessman Anil Ambani, a former CBI chief, a virologist and 40 journalists are on the list of 300 phones from India revealed to be on the list of potential targets on the leaked database of NSO. It is not established, however, that all the phones were hacked.
On Sunday (June 18), The Wire reported that the phone numbers of over 40 Indian journalists were on a hacking list of an unidentified agency using Israeli spyware Pegasus. The report said forensic tests have confirmed the presence of the military-grade spyware on some devices. Those on the list of potential targets included journalists at Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Wire, The Indian Express, News18, India Today, etc, the report added.
The Wire's analysis of the data showed that most of the journalists were targetted between 2018 and 2019, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The report further added that the NSO Group, which sells Pegasus, has claimed that it only offers its spyware to only "vetted governments". "The company refuses to make its list of customers public but the presence of Pegasus infections in India, and the range of persons that may have been selected for targetting, strongly indicate that the agency operating the spyware on Indian numbers is an official Indian one," the report said.
The report was published by The Wire in collaboration with 16 other international publications including the Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde, as media partners to an investigation conducted by Paris-based media non-profit organisation Forbidden Stories and rights group Amnesty International.
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