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New Delhi: After exposing the use of Pegasus spyware to target the mobile phones of journalists and human rights defenders in India on day one, The Wire, in the second-part of its revelations from the international collaborative investigation called the Pegasus Project, can confirm that the deadly spyware was found in the smartphone key opposition strategist Prashant Kishor. [Read more: Prashant Kishor Hacked by Pegasus, Mamata’s Nephew Also Selected as Potential Snoop Target]
Pegasus is sold by the Israeli company NSO Group to “vetted governments” around the world.
In addition, the project’s investigations into the leaked database of numbers believed to be selected by clients of NSO Group as potential targets for surveillance include Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and at least two ministers in the Narendra Modi government: Ashwini Vaishnaw, recently inducted as a minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics, and Information Technology, and minister of state Prahlad Singh Patel. Some 18 phones within the close circle of Patel appear in the leaked list. [Read more: BJP Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Prahlad Patel Find Place in List of Potential Pegasus Targets]
The list reveals that several people associated with the functioning of elections were also selected for potential surveillance. This includes Ashok Lavasa, who was the only election commissioner to fault Modi for violations of the model code of conduct in the lead up to the 2019 elections. [Read more: Ashok Lavasa Placed on Snoop List as EC After Flagging Modi’s 2019 Poll Code Violations]
The records also include a founder of key election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Jagdeep Chhokhar, who was entered on to the list at around the same time as Lavasa.
The leaked data has also revealed that over 11 phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer and her close relatives who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019 were selected as targets for surveillance. [Read more: Days After Accusing CJI Gogoi of Sexual Harassment, Staffer Put on List of Potential Snoop Targets]
The list also includes someone who has been a key part of India’s battle against COVID-19, the virologist Gagandeep Kang. She was selected for potential surveillance in 2018, when she was helping with the fight against the Nipah virus.
The leaked data also includes Hari Menon, the India head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and at least one other foundation employee, who were selected in mid-2019. A health-sector non-profit and an official of the US Centre for Disease Control posted to India at the time were also potential targets of surveillance, reflecting a keen interest in people working in the health sector.