Snooping By Pegasus Spyware A Threat To National Security, Illegal: Kapil Sibal

New Delhi:

Snooping on the phones of Chief Ministers, politicians, judges and people violates multiple laws of the country and is a threat to national security, Congress's Kapil Sibal said today as news broke that leaders of the Karnataka Congress and Janata Dal Secular could have been snooped upon in 2019, when the state's alliance government collapsed.

"Our constitution says the government should protect national security, but what if our government jeopardised national security?" Mr Sibal told reporters this evening.

"If this data reaches other nations, if it is accessed by NSO technologists, then it becomes a threat to national security. For now, only these lists have come. It is possible that in the coming days, it will be revealed that they have intercepted other people too," he added.

The former Union minister and eminent lawyer also said such snooping is illegal at multiple levels. It can violate multiple cyber laws, the Official Secrets Act, the fundamental right to privacy, and depending on the situation, can even be counted as stalking, he said.

"If you have put malware in the phone a minister and intercepted it, that is violative of the Official Secrets Act... It is a violation of the Information Technology Act. And if you are doing this to a woman, it is a violation of Section 354D of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). That would be called stalking. It is also a violation of the right to privacy," he said.

The opposition has been on the warpath over the last two days, since news broke that  a number of journalists, political leaders, activists and others were on an alleged target list of surveillance through the Israeli military-grade spyware.

The assertion of vendor NSO -- that it only supplies to "vetted governments" and their agencies -- has brought the focus on the Central government. The government has maintained its earlier position that no unauthorised surveillance was done.

With parliament in session, the matter has blown up into a huge political storm.

The controversy snowballed today as news portal "The Wire" reported today that in July 2019, phone numbers of Karnataka's then deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and the personal secretaries of then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister Siddaramaiah, were selected as possible targets for surveillance.