The Wire Reported that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Prahlad Singh Patel, and virologist Gagandeep Kang were among the potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware software.
The revelation comes after a leaked list featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in nations known to engage in citizens surveillance” was accessed by a French media nonprofit named Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, which shared it with 17 news media organizations as part of the Pegasus project. The Pegasus spyware has the potential to access data on a target’s device. The list also contained numbers of former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, and an ex-Supreme Court staffer who had made allegations against former Chief Justice of India Gagoi.
The Wire Reported that a minimum of two mobile phone numbers used by the Congress Leader was selected as a potential surveillance target. The Report stated that Rahul’s phones are not among those examined as he no longer has the handsets he used when his numbers appear to have been selected for targeting between mid-2018 and mid-2019. Without the help from forensics, it would not be easy to establish if Pegasus was deployed against Rahul Gandhi conclusively. Five of Gandhi’s friends who have no role in politics were also in the database.
According to The Wire, the new IT minister Vaishnaw appears to have been targeted for potential surveillance in 2017 when he was not even a part of the BJP. Eighteen phone numbers within the close circle of the Minister of State for Food Processing Industries and Jal Shakti Prahlad Singh Patel are also part of the leaked database as potential surveillance targets.
With the Pegasus spyware controversy heating up, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala blamed Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the invasive surveillance. He told reporters that their first demand is the immediate resignation of Minister of Home and Internal Security Amit Shah and a further probe into the role of the prime minister in this issue. He also referred BJP as “Bharathiya Jasoos Party.” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed the Congress. He said that it is shameful that the Congress party, which has a long history of phone tapping, is making baseless allegations.