'It Is State Surveillance': Opposition Leaders Say Govt Must Properly Address Pegasus Revelations

The monsoon session of parliament begins on Monday, and several leaders said they planned to raise the issue there.

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New Delhi: Several leaders of the opposition came out strongly against the government after reportage by The Wire and 16 other global organisations on a leaked database of thousands of telephone numbers believed to have been listed by multiple government clients of an Israeli surveillance technology firm.

Pegasus is a spyware developed by the NSO Group, which says only “vetted governments” are its clients. In India, the numbers of ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, rights activists and others were found on the leaked database.

The monsoon session of parliament begins on Monday, and several leaders said they planned to raise the issue there. But even before that, many had made their opinions clear on social media.

“This matter has to be raised. It’s state surveillance. It is a very, very serious issue. It compromises the very system of constitutional democracy and the privacy of the citizens. The government cannot get away by saying that they have to verify and all. These are serious issues. Which are the agencies that got the malware? Which are the agencies which bought Pegasus? This is not something that the government can run away from,” Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told the Indian Express.

“The phones of leaders in opposition, journalists, editors, Supreme Court judges, prominent business leaders are being tapped. What is coming out is a confirmation of the apprehensions expressed on the floor of Parliament in the past… it is not a question of a discussion or debate. It needs an open probe. Not a government probe. And it also needs accountability to be fixed under the law and the Constitution… that’s what we will fight for,” he continued.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too said an independent probe must be conducted. If the Indian government was truthful in saying that it wasn’t using Pegasus, Tharoor said, this means a foreign government may be spying on Indian citizens.

Rahul Gandhi too referred to the investigation when he tweeted that the government had been reading everyone’s phones.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi too said that the government must reveal if it had used the NSO Group’s spyware, as this was not authorised surveillance but a hacking.

The Pegasus Project reveals how this spyware is being used not just in India, but globally. Several transparency rights activists, including American whistleblower Edward Snowden, tweeted about the far-reaching impacts of this surveillance.

David Kaye, the former UN special rapporteur on the freedom of expression, called for a global moratorium on the sale and purchase of spyware in light of the revelations – something he had also recommended during his time at the UN.

The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read all our coverage here.