February 5, 2023

nyt: Pegasus row reignites; opposition accuses govt of snooping: Key points | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: A new controversy has erupted after a report in The New York Times claimed that India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as part of a $2 billion defence deal in 2017.
Following the report, the Centre came under heavy criticism from opposition parties, who accused it of “deceiving” Parliament.
Last year, a row erupted over Israeli spyware Pegasus allegedly being used to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in a number of countries, including India.
What does the report say?
The NYT, in a report titled ‘The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon’, said that the Israeli firm NSO Group had for nearly a decade been “selling its surveillance software on a subscription basis to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, promising that it could do what no one else — not a private company, not even a state intelligence service — could do: consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone.”
The report also referred to Narendra Modi‘s visit to Israel in July 2017, when he become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country.
“For decades, India had maintained a policy of what it called “commitment to the Palestinian cause,” and relations with Israel were frosty. The Modi visit, however, was notably cordial, complete with a carefully staged moment of him and (then Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu walking together barefoot on a local beach,” it said.
Opposition targets Modi government
The opposition alleged that the government indulged in illegal snooping that amounted to “treason”.
The Congress lashed out at the government over the report and accused it of duping the Supreme Court and hijacking democracy.
“The 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 these phone tappings. This is treason,” former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
In a tweet, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “The (Narendra) Modi government must explain on affidavit why it bought this cyber weapon, who gave the permission for its usage, how were the targets selected and who got these reports?”
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged the spyware was used not for defence purposes but to snoop on opposition and journalists.
Government slams NYT report
Union minister Gen V K Singh called the NYT “Supari Media” over its report about a deal between India and Israel.
Reacting to NYT’s report, Singh, minister of state for road transport and highways and civil aviation, said on Twitter: “Can you trust NYT?? They are known “Supari Media”.”
A government source told news agency PTI that the matter related to Pegasus software is being monitored by a committee under the Supreme Court and its report is awaited.
The source said that the inquiry committee – set up under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge R V Raveendran — has also published a newspaper advertisement on January 2 calling for submission of phones by people who claim their devices were infected by Pegasus.
India’s former permanent representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin dismissed as “utter rubbish” the “insinuation” in the NYT report which cited India’s 2019 vote in support of Israel at the UN’s Economic and Social Council to highlight deepening of ties after a deal that included sale of Pegasus.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video message on the completion of 30 years of full-fledged diplomatic relations between India and Israel, said people of India and Israel have always shared a special relationship.
Last October, the Supreme Court set up a three-member independent expert panel to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance in India, observing the state cannot get a “free pass” every time the spectre of national security is raised and that its mere invocation cannot render the judiciary a “mute spectator” and be the bugbear it shies away from.
(With agency inputs)

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