Rahul Gandhi, Prashant Kishor, 2 Ministers Among Alleged Pegasus Targets

New Delhi:
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw are the big names revealed as potential targets of Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’ in explosive revelations involving the alleged surveillance of phones.

Here is your 10-point cheat sheet to this big story:

  1. IT Minister Vaishnaw had, earlier today, said in parliament that there was “no substance” behind the sensational claims. It was no coincidence that the news broke a day before the start of the monsoon session of parliament, he said. “A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations (were) made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before (the) monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” said IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, adding that there was “no substance” behind the sensational claims.

  2. The Wire said among the names was Prashant Kishor, who played a big role in the BJP’s 2014 campaign that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi come to power for the first time with a spectacular mandate, has since had a galaxy of political clients, mostly opposed to the BJP. Recently, he was credited with a role in the victories of Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu.

  3. Ashok Lavasa, a former Election Commissioner, famously recorded a dissenting opinion on the election body’s ruling on complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah during the 2019 national election campaign. He even stopped attending meetings saying “minority decisions” were being “suppressed in a manner contrary to well-established conventions observed by multi-member statutory bodies”.

  4. A surprise name is that of Ashwini Vaishnaw, who was counted among the big winners of PM Modi’s recent cabinet reshuffle. He replaced Ravi Shankar Prasad as Union Minister for Electronics and IT.

  5. A database of over 300 verified Indian mobile telephone numbers, includes over 40 journalists, three major opposition figures, one constitutional authority, two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organisations and scores of businesspersons, The Wire has reported.

  6. The Wire’s analysis of the data shows that most of the names were targeted between 2018 and 2019, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections but there was not enough evidence to suggest all phones had been hacked.

  7. The Israeli company, NSO Group, which sells Pegasus, has denied the snooping allegations, claimed that it only offers its spyware to “vetted governments” and said it was “considering a defamation lawsuit”.

  8. According to The Wire, forensic tests conducted on some phones associated with the target numbers revealed clear signs of targeting by Pegasus spyware – a job made easier if the device was an Apple iPhone.

  9. The report into the spying scandal is based on a leaked database accessed by Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International that was shared with a host of publications around the world for a collaborative investigation.

  10. Most of the numbers identified in the list were geographically concentrated in 10 country clusters: India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, The Wire reported.

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