Pegasus Spyware: The government has said it has not made any transaction with the Israeli firm NSO
Opposition Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi ripped into the BJP-led centre today after an investigative piece by a US newspaper said India bought Israeli spyware in a $2 billion deal in 2017.
The spyware, Pegasus, made by Israeli firm NSO has been in the centre of a big controversy over its alleged used against the public, military and civil officers, politicians, activists, judges and journalists for illegal surveillance.
"Modi government bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public. Government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by phone tapping. This is treason. Modi government has committed treason," Mr Gandhi tweeted today.
The report by The New York Times said the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the "centrepieces" of the $2 billion deal in 2017 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel - the first by any Indian Prime Minister.
The Defence Ministry has said in parliament that it has not made any transaction with the Israeli firm NSO. A technical committee appointed by the Supreme Court earlier this month sought information from people who suspect their phones were targeted.
The government has, however, never said in an affidavit or in parliament that it has not bought Pegasus.
"The Modi government bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians, the public, government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary, all were targeted with phone tapping. This is treason," Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters today.
"The Modi government lied to the Supreme Court when it was directly questioned about the purchase and deployment of Pegasus. In a sworn affidavit, the government said 'unequivocally we deny any and all of the allegations made against the government'," Mr Surjewala said.
Home Minister Amit Shah tried to divert attention from the Pegasus matter by calling the concerns on the spyware a "report by disruptors for obstructors", Mr Surjewala said, adding independent investigative reports have proven what Congress has been saying for long, that the Modi government used illegal spyware bought from Israel with taxpayers' money to spy on citizens. "This is anti-national," Mr Surjewala said.
The Congress has alleged the Pegasus spyware can hack into mobile phones, activate microphones and cameras and take photos. "Data from SMS to family photos to WhatsApp chats is stolen in illegal ways and sent to Modi's agencies. All these can be used against you," Mr Surjewala said.
He alleged the spyware was used against Rahul Gandhi and five of his staff, HD Deve Gowda, Siddaramaiah, HD Kumaraswamy, Vasundhara Raje, Praveen Togadia, Smiriti Irani's officer on special duty, Supreme Court judges, Alok Verma, KK Sharma, Jitendra Kumar Ojha, lawyers, activists and journalists.